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By GRAHAM DAVIS
(Fiji-born Graham Davis is an award-winning Australian journalist who has reported from around the world. He blogs at http://www.grubsheet.com.au)
Most countries have laws that prevent religious and racial vilification. Most responsible media outlets – including those on the internet – excise comments designed to inflame religious and racial hatred.
But sadly not the most prominent of the websites set up to oppose the government of Fiji’s prime minister, Frank Bainimarama.
That site calls itself Coup Four and a Half – otherwise known as 4.5 – and is supposedly run by journalists.
Its name denotes the four coups in Fiji’s post independence history -the two Rabuka coups in 1987, the Speight coup in 2000, the Bainimarama takeover in 2006 plus what 4.5 regards as the half coup when Bainimarama’s takeover was declared illegal by judges in 2009 and he abrogated the constitution and continued to govern by decree.
Now, Coup 4.5 is entitled to oppose the Bainimarama Government, though many Fijians prefer it to the nationalist government Bainimarama overthrew.
It’s also entitled to campaign for the restoration of democracy, though many Fijians are happy to accept the Government’s promise to hold elections in 2014.
But there’s plenty wrong with 4.5 – unforgivably so – when it publishes the most vile attacks on people based on race and religious affiliation.
Grubsheet has taken the site to task before for publishing comments describing Indo-Fijians as “mongoose” or “mynahs” – the clear implication being that Fijians of Indian descent are imported pests.
It regularly refers to the prime minister as “the Baini”, a disparaging play on words on the popular Hindi description of a person of low breeding or class.
But now comes something far more grave, an all out attack on Fiji’s Muslims on one of the holiest days of the Islamic calendar – the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.
This wasn’t in the comments section of the site but in the main editorial column. It underscores why the Bainimarama Government is so determined to stamp out this kind of racial and religious intolerance in Fiji once and for all.
This grubby little offering isn’t just inflamatory but utterly false.
Muslims constitute just seven per cent of the population of Fiji – some 54,000 in a country of 860,000. They are hardly “colonising Fiji”, as the anonymous author of this rubbish asserts.
There is one Muslim cabinet minister – Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed Kaiyum – and one Muslim officer – Brigadier-General Mohammed Aziz – in the RFMF, the Republic of Fiji Military Forces. These are hardly “Muslims riding hard to power”.
In fact, they’re total exceptions in their fields in a population utterly dominated by Christians and Hindus. So the notion that they pose any “threat” is risible.
There’s also a puzzling reference to the “recruitment of non-Fijians, especially kaivalagis, to weaken Fijian’s capabilities”. Kaivalagi is the indigenous term for a white man or European.
On the latest figures available, a mere 0.4 per cent of Fiji’s population describes itself as European, under 3000 people in a population of 860,000.
Perhaps the author was referring to the recruitment of American PR people or the odd expatriate lawyer. But this is clearly even more of a furphy than the claim about Muslims.