Newsroom journalists detained by police in Fiji

Newsroom journalists detained in Fiji

Three Newsroom journalists were detained by police in Suva, Fiji, last night after trying to interview a controversial Chinese resort developer accused of environmental desecration of an island in the tourist jewel of the Mamanucas.

Newsroom co-editor Mark Jennings, investigations editor Melanie Reid and cameraman Hayden Aull were held overnight at the main Suva police station after developer Freesoul Real Estate accused them of criminal trespass.

The journalists had visited Freesoul’s Suva offices seeking an interview but been told to leave. Hours later, while they interviewed a lawyer acting for villagers of the damaged Malolo Island, Fijian police located their rental car and arrived and escorted them to the police station for questioning.

Reid said: “We walked into the Freesoul office in Suva with a camera and asked why they had been operating at Malolo with no permits. We asked to talk to Freesoul director Dickson Peng. We were told to leave and we did.”

Later, after Freesoul staff had been interviewed at the police station, officers told Reid, Jennings and Aull they would be held overnight.

“This is trumped up and ridiculous,” said Reid, a veteran current affairs journalist named reporter of the year at the national media awards last year.

“I’ve worked all over the world and never been taken into custody for asking questions in a public office – questions, I might add, that desperately needed to be asked.”

Without being sure of knowing the full story it’s difficult to judge the actions of the journalists, but taking them into custody for two days with charges pending does seem quite unusual, and potentially chilling.

The lawyer for the villagers, Ken Chambers, who was talking to the Newsroomteam when police located them, said last night the journalists could be held for up to 48 hours before being charged.

“They walked into a public office and could be charged with criminal trespass. It is sort of like a sledgehammer to crack a nut to put them through a 48-hour holding pattern and use the letter of the law to give the Chinese some payback.”

Chambers said the Malolo Island issue “has been really a focus on how the Chinese are interfacing in Fiji”.

There has been more focus on Chinese are interfacing in New Zealand after Jacinda Ardern’s trip to China.

Reuters: Don’t discriminate against our firms, China’s Xi tells New Zealand

President Xi Jinping called upon New Zealand on Monday not to discriminate against Chinese companies during a meeting with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose country has rejected a bid by Chinese telecom giant Huawei to build a 5G mobile network.

Ties with China have been tense under Ardern’s government which has openly raised concerns about Beijing’s growing influence in the South Pacific.

Meeting in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Xi told Ardern that China has always regarded New Zealand as “a sincere friend and partner”.

Both countries must deepen mutual trust and understanding, seek common ground while putting aside differences, and respect each other’s major concerns, Xi said, according to a statement from China’s Foreign Ministry.

“China is willing to continue to support strong companies to invest in New Zealand, and New Zealand should provide a fair, just, non-discriminatory operating environment for Chinese companies,” it paraphrased Xi as saying.

The detaining of New Zealand journalists in Fiji over the actions of a Chinese company investing in a Fijian resort may add to the tensions.

New Zealand lose to Fiji in League World Cup

Last week New Zealand lost to Tonga in the league World Cup.

Tonight they lost to Fiji in the quarter final. They couldn’t score a try – the final score was 4-2 to Fiji. Good for them, woeful for the Kiwis.

That’s a terrible outcome, but the whole tournament has not been riveting. I guess the only plus so far is there are more than two or three teams that are capable of getting into the final.



The lead story on Australia's

NZH: Reaction is swift and savage to Kiwis’ shock loss to Fiji

Rugby league fans and world media are reacting to the Kiwis’ shock loss to Fiji, calling it disappointing and embarrassing.


5% Muslim myth?

I often hear claims that when the proportion of a country’s population reaches 5% (sometimes 3%) then all heel will break loose, Sharia Law will take over, praying to Mecca will become compulsory and the secular sky and Christian heaven will fall in.

I haven’t seen any substantial support of this ‘theory’. Some just state it as if it were fact, while sometimes a country with Muslim problems is cited as an example.

Muslim immigration is very contentious, and fear of terrorism is real, albeit out of proportion to the relative real threat.

There are people and groups who obsess about spreading fear of all Muslims, predicting dire consequences for any country that let’s it’s Muslim population reach 5%.

The 2013 census in New Zealand counted 46,149 Muslims, just over 1% of the population. About 7,000 of them are Maori, Pacific Island or European. The others come from a diverse range of countries including Lebanon, Turkey, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Fiji, with growing numbers of students from Malaysia.

Australia has about twice the proportion of Muslims, 2.2%.

The closest country to New Zealand with a Muslim population over 5% is Fiji (6-7%). Like ours their legal system is based on the British system. No Sharia. No major Muslim issues.

Just north of Australia is Indonesia, the country with the most Muslims in the world, about 87% of their total 263 million population.

While religious freedom is stipulated in the Indonesian constitution, the government officially recognises only six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.

A large proportion of Indonesians—such as the Javanese abangan, Balinese Hindus, and Dayak Christians—practice a less orthodox, syncretic form of their religion, which draws on local customs and beliefs.

There are also a number of indigenous religions. These seem to coexist with Muslims.

One part of Indonesia, Aceh, applies sharia law in criminal matters. In other parts of the country it just applies to civil law (marriage, inheritance, gifts) to varying degrees, parallel with their Roman Dutch based legal system.

Other countries with large Muslim populations have varying degrees of Sharia law and varied application. Sharia law applies in 12 of Nigeria’s 36 states. About 41% of the Nigerian population is Muslim.

In a number of countries with large Muslim populations sharia law plays no part in their judicial system


The only European country with a majority Muslim population is Bosnia and Herzegovina at 51% (Christian 46%). They have a civil (not sharia) law system.

Germany (1.9% Muslim) has Sharia as part of their private law but it is limited and only applies to people with nationalities from countries using Sharia.

The United Kingdom (about 4.3%) has a voluntary dispute resolution system, the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal. The tribunals have the power to rule in civil cases. They operate under Section 1 of the Arbitration Act which states that: “the parties should be free to agree how their disputes are resolved, subject only to such safeguards as are necessary in the public interest”. This operates within the English law framework and is not a separate legal system.

I am not aware of any pressure to have similar tribunals operating in New Zealand. Muslims can try to resolve civil matters through the Disputes Tribunal of New Zealand like everyone else.

An estimated 8-10%of the French population is Muslim, many of whom emigrated from French colonies in northern Africa. They have significant issues – but these may be more to do with the percentage of Muslims who live in deprivation and with high unemployment rates rather than their percentage of the population.

Each country deals with the ethnicities and religions of it’s inhabitants as they see fit.

New Zealand has long had cultural diversity, including religious diversity. We have a history of religious tolerance. Nearly half of New Zealanders identify with no religion, and many others barely practice their religion.

From Islam in New Zealand:

The first Muslims in New Zealand were an Indian family who settled in Cashmere, Christchurch, in the 1850s. The 1874 government census reported 15 Chinese gold diggers working in the Dunstan gold fields of Otago in the 1870s.

Small numbers of Muslim immigrants from South Asia and eastern Europe settled from the early 1900s until the 1960s. Large-scale Muslim immigration began in the 1970s with the arrival of Fiji Indians, followed in the 1990s by refugees from various war-torn countries.

The first Islamic centre was started in 1959 and there are now several mosques and two Islamic schools.

The majority of the Muslims are Sunni, with a large minority Shia and some Ahmadi Muslims, who run the largest mosque in the country.

Contemporary Islam:

The number of Muslims in New Zealand according to the 2013 census is 46,149, up 28% from 36,072 in the 2006 census.

That’s quite a surge but on quite small numbers. Immigration numbers from countries tend to vary a lot so it is difficult to predict trends.

The community is noted for its harmonious relations with the wider New Zealand community, with various interfaith efforts from all sides contributing to this situation. FIANZ established the Harmony Awards as part of Islam Awareness Week in 2008 to recognise the contributions of New Zealanders to improving understanding and relationships between Muslims and the wider community.

We currently don’t have any appreciable problem with Muslims in New Zealand. They tend to blend in like the many other religions, and they have diverse ethnicities like the rest of the population.

There is no way of predicting with any accuracy whether the proportion of Muslims will ever reach 3% or 5% in New Zealand, and I’m not aware of any credible evidence that those thresholds on their own would have any particular risk anywhere in the world, and especially not in New Zealand.

Note: this post is a genuine attempt to explore and understand Muslim demographics and their potential effect on New Zealand. Feel free to discuss anything related to the content.

But please do not launch into general sermons about ‘them versus us’ or general mass dissing. If you think that Muslims are an issue in New Zealand then the topic deserves decent debate, and not screes of hobby horse rehashing.

Go Fiji!

Fiji have never won an Olympic medal – yet. They are currently playing in the semi-final of the men’s sevens, against Japan, and it looks like they are on track to win this and guarantee a gold or silver.

Fiji would be a very popular winner, and it will good enough to see them get any sort of medal in a sport they are passionate about.

Japan have done extremely well to make the semis, beating New Zealand in their first game, but they are struggling against Fiji. Final score 20-5.

Go Fiji!

Versus Great Britain in the final, who have just beaten South Africa.


Bainimarama v Key – strong words

On his first visit to Fiji John Key has been on the receiving end of some strong words from Frank Bainimarama, who said that since New Zealand’s response to the 2006 coup (before Key was Prime Minister) the relationship between the two countries will never be the same again.

NZ Herald: Bainimarama sends defiant message to NZ at banquet

Speaking at a banquet held in honour of Mr Key’s first official visit to Fiji, Mr Bainimarama kicked off with warm words of welcome and a joke of sorts. “You are among friends. As long as you choose your words carefully when it comes to rugby.”

Mr Key laughed, but it quickly became clear Mr Bainimarama meant he should choose his words carefully on other topics as well.

He made it clear Key should not bother to lecture him about human rights or democracy in Fiji.

He rejected upfront one request Mr Key intended to make of him to reconsider the ban Fiji placed on some New Zealand and Australian journalists after that coup, including TVNZ’s Barbara Dreaver.

He also indicated Mr Key’s attempt to get Bainimarama back to the Pacific Islands Forum was doomed, saying New Zealand should show more understanding of Fiji’s attempt to reform the regional architecture to give Pacific Islands a bigger voice. Mr Bainimarama wants New Zealand and Australia removed from the Forum.

In an often defiant speech, Mr Bainimarama took a swipe at those who questioned whether his own Government was legitimate, saying his Fiji First Party was supported by 60 per cent of Fijians in the 2014 election which international observers said was free and fair.

“It is on that basis I stand before you tonight. Not as a coup maker or dictator, as some in your country would still have it, but as a properly elected freely chosen leader of Fiji.”

It will be a tricky visit for Key. But it wasn’t all a Bainimarama bollocking.

Mr Bainimarama thanked New Zealand fulsomely for its response to Cyclone Winston, something he said had forged stronger people-to-people ties between the two countries.

He said he was keen to meet with Mr Key “in the genuine spirit of engagement, and letting bygones be bygones”. He welcomed Mr Key’s sentiment that the past should be left behind. “Because Fiji and New Zealand have had far too long a friendship and we are far too close geographically to allow this opportunity to pass.”

He wanted to forge a new relationship with New Zealand, but expected it to be “more equal” and “more rooted in individual respect”.

“The strains and irritants that have marked our political relationship in recent years are a textbook example of how not to conduct friendly relations between neighbouring countries. They must be replaced by genuine cooperation and understanding.”

Perhaps getting past gripes off his chest and making it clear where he stood Bainimarama would now work constructively with Key.

In his response, Mr Key noted Mr Bainimarama’s wish for a relationship more of equals.

“In coming to Fiji, I wanted to demonstrate exactly that.”

Stuff coverage: Fiji PM’s slapdown over blacklist

John Key and Frank Bainimarama were only expected to exchange pleasantries at the State banquet. But the Fijian PM let rip.

Being blunt in public might be unusual in international diplomacy but it is not necessarily a bad thing if it is not acrimonious.

We won’t know how that will work in private, but parting comments may give us some idea.


Cyclone Winston versus Fiji

Fiji could be in for a rough time as Cyclone Winston tracks west between the two main islands.

It has already created havoc inn Tonga before turning back on itself and heading towards Fiji.

Metservice say that when measuring wind speeds over 1 minute, Winston is now the strongest cyclone ever recorded in southern hemisphere.

Category 5 Severe Tropical Cyclone (TC) Winston is now the strongest tropical cyclone and the first Category 5 TC on record to hit Fiji. TC Winston is also the 11th Category 5 storm east of Australia since 1970.


Fijivillage reports Very destructive winds as TC Winston continues to intensify

Tropical Cyclone Winston continues to strengthen as the eye of the cyclone makes its way between Viti Levu and Vanua Levu.

The eye of the cyclone which is still a category 5 system was located 175 kilometres North East of Suva earlier this afternoon.

Winds have intensified in a number of areas in Viti Levu and Vanua Levu.

Close to the centre, the cyclone is estimated to have average winds of 230 kilometres per hour to 325 kilometres per hour.

Very destructive winds will begin several hours before the cyclone centre passes overhead or nearby.

It has already caused damage in Fiji:

Tropical Cyclone Winston hit Vanuabalavu early this morning.

A resident in Vanuabalavu spoke to Fijivillage via a satellite phone from Nabavatu and said that some houses were badly damaged early this morning and people rushed to other houses to seek shelter.

She said that her house which was one of the most substantial structures on the island was destroyed.

She has termed Tropical Cyclone Winston as a terrible monster.

Vanuabalavu is a smaller island lying to the east of the two biggest islands, which are due to bear the brunt of the cyclone over the next few hours.


#BREAKING Fiji is imposing a “total public curfew” across the whole country #TCWinston#CycloneWinston

Breaking: Fiji’s government has declared a 30 day nationwide state of emergency with reports of #CycloneWinston causing extensive damage

Weatherwatch: Landfall – Category 5 Cyclone Winston directly hits Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island

The storm veered further south than expected in the past two hours, bringing it further in to Fiji’s main island.

The Fiji Met Service says the storm remains at 917hPa with winds sustained at 230km/h gusting 325km/h.  Global models out of the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (US Govt) says winds are even higher, but say it should now start weakening.

Waves around the eyewall are 12 metres high at sea, and may be higher as they move in. Coastal flooding is expected.

Very destructive winds will now be moving in says – north of Suva. “The centre of the storm is now tracking directly towards Nadi – but the mountains of Fiji may help weaken the system now that the eye is no longer feeding off the warm sea” says head weather analyst Philip Duncan.

“The centre of Cyclone Winston is likely to track very near, or possibly even over, Nadi around dawn, which is concerning to the many people there”.

This is an extremely serious situation – this is Fiji’s strongest storm in recorded history.

Sunday diary

1.00 Argentina v Georgia
2.00 NSW cup final
3.30 ABs v Canada
4.00 Toyota Cup final
6.00 Wales v Fiji
7.30 NRL final
8.30 Ireland v Italy
10.30 mow the lawn

What election?