By Patrick Craddock 

SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 23, 2000 - USP Journalism Programme/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---While the army, police and the President of Fiji work around the clock to manage the coup ringleader, George Speight, the people of the city are doing what all people have to do -- feed and look after their families. 

Getting food is a new crisis on the horizon.  It is now nearly impossible to buy either rice or flour in a shop. 

There are queues outside the few shops that are open.  Some are rationing their sales of basic items. 

Ask for salt, butter and even onion and you get a shrug from the tired shopkeeper.  They are all sold out.  And guess what, you can pay more for what is available.  Yes, prices are rising!! 

This morning I visited an Indian family living in a Suva squatter area where nearly 400 poor Fijian and Indian families live cheek to cheek in tin huts with rusting roofs held together by rusty nails and plastic sheeting. 

To get there is the first hurdle.  There are checkpoints being manned by tired looking police officers who have been on duty for just too many hours. 

On arrival I found the family distressed.  Local thugs had taken advantage of the tension in the city.

All night the house had been hit with stones and sticks and the windows broken.  Voices in the darkness threatened rape, killing. 

But come the morning, the sun began to shine and life seemed normal.  Then I heard the rest of the story. 

Daniel is a baker in central Suva.  He said he has no job.  The shop where he works is in fragments. 

Glass windows smashed.  Counters destroyed.  The freezer is smashed. 

The till with the money has been ripped from the wall.  Both the till and money are gone.  Even shop shelving has been stolen.  Only the huge bread oven remains.  Friday is payday.  But when the riots were over Daniel left the ruins of the shop and forgot about his pay. 

He felt lucky to be able to walk home to his wife and two young children.  But that took two hours.  Buses and taxis had stopped running. 

At the time of the looting, the baker’s mother was in town.  Her handbag was stolen and she was pushed around. 

“They are dacoits, daku daku,” she said, meaning thugs and bandits.  I gave the family money to buy food and left feeling deeply embarrassed. 

At least I have money to give; these people have nothing.  I have a safe house and they will spend the next night worrying in case the stones and sticks come again. 

The police should protect them, but there are not enough to be on every street corner. 

From that scene it is a short journey to the university where I work.  At the security gate, I met a former student crying.  Her brother, an Indo-Fijian, was going on a hunger strike. 

I talked with him and her, but got nowhere and returned to my computer.  On the way, I met the office cleaner, a Fijian woman.  She is cleaning windows.  We smiled and said our greetings. 

What an irony.  I thought of Suva city.  Broken glass everywhere.  I turn on the radio.  Radio commercials are still trying to persuade me to buy this and that bargain from the city that was looted last Friday. 

I phoned the father of the young Indo-Fijian student and told him what I knew.  I played down the tension I had seen in the face of his son. 

It was now time to type this story.  I found myself thinking that the tourist bureau talks of Fiji and Paradise in the same breath.  Should I begin my story with a sentence using the word Paradise? 

This document is for educational and research use only.  Recipients should seek permission from the copyright source before reprinting. 

PASIFIK NIUS service is provided by the niusedita via the Journalism Program, University of the South Pacific. 


By Alison Ofotalau USP Journalism Programme

SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 24, 2000 – USP Journalism Programme/Pacific Media Watch/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Fiji Television has lodged a complaint with President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara calling on fairness to both local and foreign journalists entering the Parliament complex -- where the elected Fiji government is being held hostage -- to report on the current political crisis.

Richard Broadbridge, head of news and current affairs of Fiji Television Ltd., told Pacific Journalism Online that on Sunday Ratu Mara issued a directive barring the Fiji TV news team from entering Parliament with their cameras.

"We are not comfortable with the President issuing a directive specifically against Fiji TV while overseas television crews continued to enter Parliament with their cameras," he said.

Broadbridge said it was an individual ban and he could not understand the reason behind the President's directive.

Fiji Television has scored several exclusive interviews with key personalities during the crisis, including Great Council of Chiefs Chairman and mediator Sitiveni Rabuka on an early morning jog.

Government House officials were not immediately available for comment.

Journalists from other Fiji news organizations have expressed satisfaction over their coverage of the five-day-old crisis.

FM96 reporter Kavai Damu said his team has put out good coverage so far.

He said the ban yesterday by the President on local journalists entering Parliament did not really affect the day's coverage.

Damu said they were disappointed though on not being able to cover the Great Council of Chiefs meeting. But he added that he could understand this because it was a meeting everybody hoped would have a direct result on the hostage crisis.

Fiji Daily Post associate editor Mesake Koroi said his team had been focusing coverage on the economic complications that were going to affect the country in the near future.

He said his team was not so interested in the events happening at Parliament and the empty media conferences that were being called by rebel leader George Speight.

"We don't worry about George Speight because he is history now," he said.

"We mainly talk to business people on how they're trying to recover what they lost, how the economy is going to be affected, and how it will be recovered."

Koroi said the local indigenous people would be affected most by the crisis, including F$ 30 million (US$ 14.1 million) damage to shops and looting last Friday.

He said most business people he had talked to expected to be able to rebuild their damage and burned shops within three weeks.

"These business people have the money and they can rebuild their lives together again in no time at all," he said.

"But it is the very people who have been gathering support for Speight at Parliament and the local population who will suffer the most for a long time."

The Fiji Daily Post was not able to publish for three days after the civil takeover of government because reporters and staff had been having problems with transport to get to work.

The paper resumed publication yesterday.

Radio Fiji reporter Sanjesh Narayan said the state-owned network's coverage had generally gone well despite reporters being hassled at Parliament gate.

He spoke of an incident that occurred Sunday evening when a couple of shots were fired while reporters were cueing into the gate, and they were told to lie on the ground.

"I was scared because anything can happen. It must be understood that these people are terrorists," he said.

But he said the Radio Fiji news team was able to freely cover news events as they developed.

A Fiji Times reporter, who asked not to be named, said, the paper had provided exclusive coverage on the crisis since it started, and reporters were able to report on the stories they have been following.

* Fiji Web Sites for information on the insurrection:  - Pacific Journalism Online: Reporting, pictures from University of the South Pacific's student journalists - and analysis from USP staff - Fiji Live: Breaking news from 'The Review' journalists - SOMETIMES OUT OF ACTION. - ALTERNATE SITE FOR FIJILIVE! - ANOTHER ALTERNATE FOR FIJILIVE! - Web site linked to FM96 and 'Fiji Times' - PACNEWS Pacific News Agency Service - Pacific Island News Association's PINA Nius Online.

Other good non-Fiji sites:  - Pacific Islands Report at East-West Center, Hawai‘i

Title -- 2737 FIJI: Fiji Television protests to President about 'fairness' Date -- 24 May 2000 Byline -- Alison Ofotalau Origin -- Pacific Media Watch Source -- USP Journalism Programme, 24/5/00 Copyright -- USP Journalism Programme Status – Unabridged

(c)1996-99 Copyright - All rights reserved.

PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organization comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region.

Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media, the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, and Pactok Communications, in Sydney and Port Moresby.

Items are provided solely for review purposes as a non-profit educational service. Copyright remains the property of the original producers as indicated. Recipients should seek permission from the copyright owner for any publishing. Copyright owners not wishing their materials to be posted by PMW please contact us. The views expressed in material listed by PMW are not necessarily the views of PMW or its members.

Recipients should rely on their own inquiries before making decisions based on material listed in PMW. Please copy appeals to PMW and acknowledge source.

For further information, inquiries about joining the Pacific Media Watch listserve, articles for publication, and giving feedback contact Pacific Media Watch at: E-mail:  or:  Fax: (+679) 30 5779 or (+612) 9660 1804 Mail: PO Box 9, Annandale, NSW 2038, Australia or, c/o Journalism, PO Box 1168, Suva, Fiji Website: 

This document is for educational and research use only. Recipients should seek permission from the copyright source before reprinting.

PASIFIK NIUS service is provided by the niusedita via the Journalism Program, University of the South Pacific.

Please acknowledge Pasifik Nius:



By Johnety Jerette USP Journalism Programme 

SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 23, 2000 - USP Journalism Programme/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Rebel leader George Speight warned the Great Council of Chiefs would need to explain to the indigenous people of Fiji -- not him --if its decision goes against his illegal takeover of Parliament. 

“The council meeting is not a chance for me to succeed.  I have to have you understand that this is not about me,” he said. 

“I am just used as an instrument.  This is about the people you see around me.  It is not a major consequence for me if I succeed or not, but it is a major consequence to me that what they want will have to take place,” said the rebel leader. 

“If I have to die for these people, then I have to.” 

Speight told reporters this outside the Parliament complex this afternoon. 

The attempted coup leader said he did not have to lobby for the support from the Great Council of Chiefs and the decision has to be a collective decision. 

If the Great Council of Chiefs did not back Speight’s demands, it “will have to explain to the people, not me.” 

“The [council] has to explain to the people why they believe their future shouldn’t go the way these people want it, should go.  I’ve done my job; I have executed the truth and have stopped the world’s attention.  I have the government as I speak and now I leave it all up to the [council] to make a decision,” said Speight. 

The coup leader said he and his men would continue to hold the elected Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and his cabinet captive until the people got what they wanted. 

About 600 people were drinking grog [kava] and singing inside the Parliament complex this afternoon and Speight claimed that those were his “soldiers.” 

The coup leader who looked relaxed said he is not afraid of anyone. 

“I have the people with me, just look around you and see how many people are here now.  These are my soldiers,” added Speight.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment