No more holidays for you in Fiji, Mr Soper

Barry Soper goes nuts over Fiji...again

Barry Soper goes nuts over Fiji…again

Barry Soper is clearly manstruating. He has had a mad flick at Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama in today’s NZ Herald, calling into question the PMs legitimacy and that of his government.

It is dripping with sarcasm and petulance.

If you got close enough to him you have seen the crocodile tears freely flowing, although if you are a member of the New Zealand media there was no fear of that.

Fiji’s former military dictator, and now elected Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama has left the country after a three day “official” visit which in reality was a well lubed trip here to watch the All Blacks thrash the Wallabies at Eden Park on Saturday night.

When we re-established links with Fiji at Prime Ministerial level last June, Bainimarama let rip saying there appeared to be a substantial body of opinion in New Zealand, led by our generally hostile media, that what was happening in Fiji somehow lacked legitimacy, that he lacked legitimacy and that his Government lacked legitimacy.

As the tears flowed, he continued, saying it wasn’t borne out by the facts. Fiji’s moved on, he declared, but it appears the New Zealand media has not.

It’s a great pity that the Fijian leader didn’t take the opportunity to better understand the media here. He had ample opportunities during his relatively light schedule which was distributed on the eve of his arrival. The itinerary’s most repeated phrase contained three words: No media opportunities.

So this whole article is because the PM didn’t want to speak to jumped up little creeps from the NZ Media? Why should the PM seek to understand petulant little cry-babies like Barry Soper and Barbara?Dreaver? He already knows where they stand…in opposition to everything he says or does.

His only standup in front of the media before heading off to lunch on Saturday and then on to the test was after his grip and greet with our Prime Minister. We were forewarned in the run sheet that he’d be making remarks to the media but there’d be “no opportunities for questions,” and then low and behold he broke his own rule when yours truly broke the ice.

Bainimarama generally sees the media in this country the same way he sees the media in his own country – they’re to be seen but not heard!

How would Barry Soper know? I’ve been to Fiji, several times, and have had free and easy access to many media outlets. Contrary to NZ media reports there are no goons in the newsrooms checking every utterance of the media.

But it was nice to be allowed to ask him about the legitimacy of his Government and indeed the legitimacy of his leadership. Before becoming Prime Minister two years ago he changed the electoral laws there requiring political parties to have a membership of five thousand before they can register, which immediately wiped out most of the parties that could scramble together enough numbers to run against him.

And trade unionists were banned from political parties which wiped out the Labour Party that once ruled the country.

In this country, with a population almost six times that of Fiji, a political party needs just 500 members.

His answer to the question though hardly made it worth asking. He told me I knew little about the political situation in Fiji and advised me to go back and study a lot more.

There’s little wonder why his election was so decisive but was it legitimate? Clearly he thinks it was, but then he would, wouldn’t he?

Well, where to even start with that little rant.

I went to Fiji for the 2014 election. I was given access to the Fiji Elections Office, interviewed the man in charge, observed all the preparations for the election and attended several polling stations to watch people voting. I interviewed cab drivers, shopkeepers and people on the street about the elections. Which is more than I can say for any NZ media in Fiji at the time. They were more concerned about getting in the way of the PM on his walkabouts or trying to get access to election night parties. Some were so desperate they even rang me to ask where?one of the parties was.

But, I tell you what. I reckon Fiji conducts its elections now with far greater confidence and transparency than our own elections. For a start, every voter has a voter registration card with a photo id and thumbprint on it. None of the easy vote rubbish we have here.

The laws about the involvement of unions aren’t just targeted at unions. The donations rules stop?anyone other than a natural person from donating or belonging to a political party. That means companies, unions and churches can’t become involved in the process.

I think the rules around membership are sensible too. 5000 members shouldn’t be a big ask. It also weeds out useless single interest type parties. There is nothing stopping key individuals standing as independents though.

But where Fiji really beats the pants off NZ is the method of voting. Every voter is given a polling place to cast their vote at. There are no more than 500 voters at each polling place and those 500 votes go into a clear plastic and sealed ballot box. This is to preclude vote stacking. If you are the first voter into a booth then the box will be empty. A maximum of 500 votes will be in the ballot box. That makes counting easier and identification of voter fraud even easier.

Most importantly, though, any incidence of breaches of the electoral act are actually prosecuted. Here in New Zealand the Electoral Commission has referred hundreds of cases over the past six elections to Police to prosecute. not a single case has been prosecuted, much less investigated. If our Police don’t wish to uphold the electoral law of this country then how can journalists like Barry Soper have the temerity to question the legitimacy of Fiji’s government?

Barry Soper continues to show how wilfully blinkered NZ media are towards Frank Bainimarama and Fiji. With petulant outbursts like that it’s a wonder that Barry Soper will enjoy any holidays in Fiji anytime soon.