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The vibrant colors of a Hindu temple gleam in the Fiji sun.

The vibrant colors of a Hindu temple gleam in the Fiji sun.

Revolution, Rain and Rugby

University of La Verne professor Don Pollock finds plenty of activity keeping things stirred up in the tiny island nation of Fiji.

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  • April 4, 2012

University of La Verne Professor of Communications Don Pollock is on sabbatical in the South Pacific. This is one in a series of reports he filed recently:

Just back from the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) conference in Pacific Harbor, about 40 minutes outside Suva, the capital, where I live.

Journalists from all over the Pacific showed up-from Papua New Guinea with a population of nearly six million to Niue with a population of 1,500. The Niue Star newspaper has a circulation of about 200 in Niue and the editor/owner/publisher, Michael Jackson, knows them all.

La Verne professor Don Pollock, center, with conference attendees Marc Edge, left, and Elia Vesikula.

We got a small grant to make a video on media freedom in the Pacific for World Press Freedom Day on May 3. I volunteered to help with the video and I’ve sort of inherited the project, which means I got to interview the journalists. Made some good contacts and got quite an education.

In 2006, Fiji had its fourth military coup since its independence, won in 1970. In 2009, the military dictatorship implemented media censorship and placed censors in the new rooms of radio, TV and print outlets. The censorship was lifted earlier this year and replaced by a media decree with a complicated set of rules.

Fijian media are still trying to sort things out.

A number of blogs have sprung up to react to and comment on the censorship and the regime.

The regime has said there will be free elections in 2014.

A boy on a horse traverses one of Fiji's agricultural fields, kept verdant and lush by tropical levels of rainfall.

In the meantime, Prime Minister Commodore Bainamara is pushing for equality for all Fiji residents. Indians have been here since the late 1800s (coming as indentured servants to work in sugar) and the constitution denies them full citizenship. The prime minister has said that all Fiji residents are Fijian. This is a revolutionary notion.

The prime minister also abolished the Great Council of Chiefs, which the British instituted more than 100 years ago so they could have a body they could deal with on a national level. Over the years the GCC has become increasingly politicized, even telling their constituents how to vote in elections.

The prime minister has also fought against corruption and other perks for political and military officers. Outside of the media, he is quite popular.

It started raining Thursday night and kept going 24 hours straight. There was flooding in the west with roads closed and flights cancelled. This after the devastating floods in January. Many people from the conference couldn’t fly home.

Back in Suva, it continued to rain.

A local vendor with a simple business plan provides a way for folks to beat the heat.

I went to the movies and saw an Indian film, “Agent Vinod”, in Hindi with English subtitles. Incredible action, super-saturated colors. They shot all over the world — Russia, Latvia, Morocco, Pakistan, London and India. They even managed to sneak in a few Indian dance numbers. The dance numbers are quite erotic, but otherwise, although the movie contains romance, it is incredible chaste, without even a kiss.

The movie was incredibly long — more than two-and-a-half hours, with an intermission.

It’s rugby season here and a series of rugby sevens competitions (as opposed to rugby 15’s — only seven players on a side, as opposed to the regular 15.

Fiji, with a population of only 850,000 is a world rugby powerhouse. Its team won the Hong Kong 7’s last week, beating New Zealand in a thrilling final. This week is the Japan 7’s. They show edited versions of the games back-to-back-to-back on Fiji TV. Fiji vs. France. Fiji vs. Japan. Fiji vs. England.

And it’s a game of attrition. Playing one or more matches per day, week after week, whoever can stay healthy has the best chance of winning.

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