Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Mike Hosking: When media ethics get assaulted from within


Thakur Ranjit Singh

Unquestionably, a casualty of 2017 election in New Zealand has been its media ethics.

FIJI PUNDIT has previously written about an issue that no mainstream media or their journalists wished to raise.

This unfortunately, is largely due to professional courtesy where those in the same profession do not wish to taint their fellow journalists. And it is also largely because of the duopoly of media in NZ, with only two major players.

However, the advent of Social Media has brought a big change. Now, some celebrated journalists in powerful media organisations, with Halo-Effect, cannot dream of being Little Gods, while assaulting the ethics of a profession that provides their bread and butter. It appears that in New Zealand such ethics and code of conducts are only confined to lecture halls of Media Schools.

However, an insignificant David took courage to challenge an award-winning Goliath on an issue about which the mass –media has adopted a stance of deafening silence.

FIJI PUNDIT wishes to raise this issue, hoping it will prick conscience of some media professors and media commentators who can gain nerve to point a rot in their own profession.

Please read on……..


Indeed, this is a David versus Goliath story. This David had earlier shot his sling at some Goliath mainstream journalists who have been shaming the Fourth Estate in the aftermath of 2017 election, unable to digest the results of MMP.


David versus Goliath: When an insignificant journalist, FIJI PUNDIT takes on the Award-Winner celebrated journalist of NZME, the great Mike Hosking, who can never be wrong.
My scepticism with media ethics was further heightened by actions of one particular award-winning journalist of New Zealand Media and Entertainment. NZME is huge media duopoly, owning NZ Herald, Newstalk ZB, among others.

NZME was launched in 2014 as the formal merger of the New Zealand division of APN News & Media and The Radio Network, part of the Australian Radio Network. It operates 32 newspapers, 8 radio networks and several websites in twenty-five markets across the country, and reaches over 3 million people. They are huge and behaviour of some of their celebrated journalists is contrary to what I learnt in media school at Auckland University of Technology (AUT).

The only confidence I get is from Commerce Commission, which is opposing a merger of NZME with Fairfax (Stuff) as this would produce a virtual monopoly in news, and cut quality. We already seem to be experiencing this deterioration from NZME. And that brings me to NZME’s hero, Mike Hosking.


The great Mike Hosking, who circulated a video (see link in article, below), where some of his erroneous claims are challenged. And I accuse him of tarnishing the image of journalists by being a spin-doctor.
He has been circulating a video under the banner of Newstalk ZB titled: “Does Labour want to sink the housing market?” It goes with his comments: “This so called ban on foreign ownership is xenophobic bollocks. It's the work of inexperienced amateurs.”

Is this an advertisement from National Party?

Or is it supposed to be a critique of an award-winning journalist who is expected to apply media ethics when publicly talking about a government which has been in power for merely a week.

He has gone on a tangent, blaming Labour for doing what National has not done in the last nine years. Therefore what has been untested should be allowed time. As a celebrated journalist of almost monopolistic media organisation, he owes a duty of care to be probing, balanced and telling the truth - and the whole truth. It appears he did not allow truth to spoil a good story.

I will only pick two issues from his very partisan video. The first was his undying reliance on government statistics which showed only 3% of buyers were from overseas. We know that National government had failed to keep any credible records, and only did so half-heartedly when forced to do so.


Phil Twyford, now Minister for Housing had warned about the 3% figures from government record as being  useless. Despite this warning and caution from Government officials, Hoskings completely relied on this questionable figure to discredit Labour and its policies. He was miser with facts, which he did not allow to spoil a good spin.
There was a warning from Officials that there were some limitations to the data and it was not an authoritative guide to the level of foreign investment in New Zealand's residential property. (NZ Herald, 10 May, 2016). The then Labour spokesman on Housing (and current Housing Minister) Phil Twyford stressed that these figures were effectively useless because of its limitations.


It also excludes trusts and businesses. A further 45 per cent of the Auckland sales were also excluded because of exemptions for those buying family homes and those who signed contracts before the law came in.

Hence the 3% was a window-dressing and nothing to rely upon. One would have expected greater degree of journalistic acumen from Hosking. In a recent Radio talkback, a director of a leading real estate cited a case where an Asian resident student owned 41 houses. So, you can guess what methods are employed to hide the true picture of foreign ownership.

The other issue in his video was about breach of free trade agreements. If Hosking had cared to read comments of a more credible journalist from NZME’s sister organisation, Fran O’Sullivan of NZ Herald, (02.11.17), he would have been enlightened:


Labour now says it was incorrect to claim the house ban could not be done without breaching other free trade agreements.
Ardern has announced the Government's chosen mechanism is to introduce an amendment to the Overseas Investment Act to classify residential housing as "sensitive".

While the previous government has been sleeping on the job, Labour has found an escape clause within 5 days of coming to power, to bring necessary changes without breaching overseas trade agreements.

Perhaps if that was not understandable to Hosking, he needs to read article by another colleague from sister organisation at NZ Herald (05.11.17). Heather du Plessis-Allan, under the heading “Labour's new broom lightweight, but sweeping clean”, had relevant revelation for Hosking:


The first to go was the notion New Zealand should be for sale to the world. National refused to ban foreign house buyers, claiming it would breach our free trade deals.
        Except, it turns out it won't, which is why Labour did it              within five days of taking office.
 Foreign buyers should have been banned years ago. Ignore the data that suggests it wasn't a problem. It was.
      The data goes nowhere near capturing what was really               happening in the housing market, especially Auckland's,            where some foreign buyers were snapping up houses sight         unseen.  
       The fact is, if we put this country on sale to the world, our          citizens will end up being outbid by foreigners every time          because we don't have their kind of cash.

What is evident to other journalist is missed by Hosking. He was very emphatic on questioning government’s objective on banning foreign buyers. You do not need to be a rocket scientist to know the reason why.



The new prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern achieved in halting house-sales to foreign speculators in 5 days in government which National could not achieve in 9 years. Where there is a will, there is way.
Whose interest is he safeguarding? The foreign buyers?

Or is he more worried about National's rich cronies being able to sell their overpriced properties at extremely high prices and untaxed profits to foreign buyers? Like Sir John selling his Parnell mansion for $20m to a Chinese buyer?
.
As a responsible, credible and conscientious journalist, it is one thing to be ignorant about issues.

It is quite another to use your position in an influential media to degenerate journalism to spin-doctoring.

[Thakur Ranjit Singh is a Political Observer, Indian Newslink columnist and Media Commentator and runs his Blog, ‘Fiji Pundit.’ He lives in Auckland. Email: thakurji@xtra.co.nz]
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Friday, November 10, 2017

Labour Government:The first week of a Government with a heart


Thakur Ranjit Singh

Numerous histories were made when Jacinda Ardern’s Coalition Labour/Greens/NZ First coalition government was sworn in in Wellington, New Zealand on Thursday 26 October, 2017.

She was the first millennial PM– which is children of Baby Boomers, generally born between 1980 and 2000. A very young one at 37. The other was the carnival atmosphere at the beehive that was unprecedented for a swearing-in ceremony.

And most important history of all - a very formidable, strong and, heavy opposition in form of the National Party, which have more members than Labour. The past government was rejoicing its economic performance, its surplus and bestowing benefits to its elite supporters. However, many of their policies were bereft of compassion, generosity and heart for the vulnerable. 

The new Labour -led coalition, comprising Labour/Greens and NZ First. The government made heart-felt ripples and compassionate decisions within a week of coming to power.
No sooner had the Labour coalition government come on board, than they made ripples which reached the suffering and vulnerable public within the first week. They heralded a big culture-change in government - listening to people, being sensitive to their feeling and being a caring government. 

Among others, these are some actions of the government with a heart within a week of taking office:

Sagar Narayan- temporary stay of deportation

Sagar Narayan is an intellectually disabled son of a New Zealand citizen, who has no relatives to take care of him in Fiji. He was supposed be deported a day after the new government was sworn in. However, newly-sworn Associate Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi confirmed he will complete an in-depth review of Narayan's case. Until then, the 20-year-old will not be deported.

Sanil Kumar, a Fijian who was "sentenced to death' by a heartless National Government which deported him to Fiji, where he died because of inadequate facilities. In contrast, Sagar Narayan's "death sentence" was averted by a Government with a heart.
This case is in contrast to Sanil Kumar tragedy in 2014 under a National Government which lacked compassion. This issue has already been covered by FIJI PUNDIT. National’s Associate Minister for Immigration, Nikki Kaye refused to budge. Sanil’s plea to NZ authorities that Fiji did not have proper facilities, and he was being sent to certain death, fell on deaf years. His prediction came true and he passed away in Fiji. National has blood on its hand.

Fortunately, we now have a government with a heart, that will not sentence sick people to death.

Teina Pora

Teina was wrongfully jailed for murder and rape of Susan Burdett in 1992. He had been behind bars for 22 years of his life. His conviction was quashed by Privy Council in March, 2015. National government approved a compensation of $2.52 million dollars. This was challenged by his team which rightfully sought the interest element for the gross injustice. This was denied by National Government.

Teina Pora, an innocent person who was wrongly convicted, and served some 20 years behind bars. National Government denied him inflation-adjusted compensation. Andrew Little, as the new Justice Minister, approved some $1m dollars for inflation.
New Justice Minister Andrew Little has revealed in his first day on the job that Teina Pora's $2.5m compensation for wrongful imprisonment will be increased to match inflation.

A government with a heart.

Pike River

The Pike River Mine disaster happened on the afternoon of 19 November 2010, in the Pike River Mine, 46 kilometres northeast of Greymouth, in the West Coast  of South Island of New Zealand. This disaster killed 29 men. Their bodies have not been recovered, and remain in the mine. The past National government refused re-entry and would have poured cold concrete at mine entrance to permanently seal it. It was saved through gallants actions of some concerned people.

Most of those who perished in Pike River disaster (27 out of 29). Their remains are still in the mine. The entry, announced and approved by Andrew Little, to be made in April will attempt to retrieve their remains and present closure to the family.
The new Government has announced entry, which among others will collect evidence as to what went wrong and retrieve any bodily remains of the miners that may be up there. The family wants closure, truth and accountability, and able to perform the last rites with the remains that would be retrieved.

The minister responsible for re-entry into Pike River, Andrew Little, hopes to get people in to the mine by April next year.

Pike River mine entrance which the past Government wanted permanently sealed

A government with a heart.

Ban of House sale to overseas buyers

What National government could not do in 9 years, Labour Coalition achieved in 5 days in government by seeking to amend laws that would stop overseas buyers speculating on our housing market without breaching trade agreements?

Where there is a will, there is a way.

Living wage

Minimum wages to gradually go up for the lowest paid workers to meet the living wage rate.

New Dunedin Hospital, Ignored Christchurch and mental health

Labour has announced new Dunedin hospital where Government will take full control and costs, and thrown out National’s public private partnership (PPP). It has announced construction in its first term.
In the aftermath of Christchurch earthquake, the city felt ignored and mental health issue was also ignored. The new Government has taken immediate new initiates to address the ignored issues. 

Satellite towns

The new Minister for Housing Phil Twyford immediately went into action and announced three satellite towns in outskirts of Auckland to decentralise the and spread out Auckland’s population. 

There was not much talk-just actions
.
Phil Twyford, new Minister for Housing and Transport - a minister with very heavy portfolios. The Action-man from Te Atatu (like yours truly), has immediately gone into action to tackle housing crisis which the past government denied even existed.
Finance with a heart and conscience

The new Minister of Finance Grant Robertson emphatically mapped out finance and economic policies of the new government by announcing that it will not be about statistics that put feather in government’s caps, but action on the ground that affects the life of common citizens. 

Economic cake shared by all.

Other events after a week

- A very rewarding and successful whirlwind visit to Australia.

- Paid parental leave to gradually increase from its 18 weeks to 26 weeks by the term of this parliament.

- Teina Pora’s interest element determined to be near a million dollars additional.

Rock star Economy?

Subsequent to some of the actions above, especially extension of paid parental leave, a Newstalk ZB talkback host quipped that Labour was moving towards a socialist regime.

Whatever you call it - benefits to common people and ruling with a heart is miles better than a rock star economy which means little to poor suffering down the economic ladder.

Star of this economy had been overseas housing speculators, multi-house owners and the elite -while the rock burdened and stifled the cries of vulnerable poorer people, suffering from a government showing surplus, but under-funding basic needs like education, health and housing, among others.

The flanker and Queen-maker, Andrew Little (left) who gave the Hail Mary Pass to Jacinda Ardern who did a winning touchdown. A selfless leader, Andrew passed the baton to the lass from Morrinsville, who has done miracles in just a week of coming to power. Jacinda has established her position as Leader of a Government with heart and compassion.
This government will not take pride in economic statistics but social responsibility statistics that has been shaming our country as a developed nation.

Indeed, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity delivered to us on Diwali Night will shine light and give economic equality and social justice to all its citizens.

If the first week is a guide, then this nation is blessed with a government with a heart.

[Thakur Ranjit Singh is a Political Observer, Indian Newslink columnist and Media Commentator and runs his Blog, ‘Fiji Pundit.’ He lives in Auckland. Email: thakurji@xtra.co.nz]

Friday, October 27, 2017

Casualties of 2017 NZ Election:- Ethics and Credibility of Some Mainstream Media and their Journalists


Thakur Ranjit Singh

A free, independent, impartial and neutral media is the last bastion of democracy – it is the fourth pillar, joining Legislature, Judiciary and Executive in building a robust democracy.

That is why media is called the FOURTH ESTATE.

A big danger to this fourth estate is NOT from outside but from WITHIN, by slanted and skewed opinionated reporting.

A similar thing happened in Fiji after 1999 election, resulting in destabilisation of a democratically elected government.

Such signs are appearing within sections of New Zealand media after Labour and its coalition came to power after 2017 election.

People know who the journalist are, which the media organisations are – but as in case of revelations by “Dirty Politics” in 2014 election, there appears to be a deafening silence. Nobody seems to notice signs of early corrosion in the Fourth pillar.

Perhaps, among others, that is one reason why the Commerce Commission is opposing a merger of NZME (owners of NZ Herald and Newstalk ZB) with Fairfax (Stuff) as this would produce a virtual monopoly in news and cut quality…..We already seem to be experiencing this degeneration…Please read on..


Sensational,, partisan and irresponsible media agitation and reporting against People's Coalition Government in Fiji, in part, led to its demise. Ironically media is supposed be the Fourth Pillar of democracy -it should support it, and not lead to its fall. Sections of New Zealand media has already started this sort of partisan, biased and sensational reporting against the new coalition government led by Labour. Hope common sense prevails and media of a First World Country stops stooping to what we experienced in Fiji.
I had a feeling of Déjà vu when I saw some New Zealand mainstream journalists crying into their pillows that the National Party failed to get back in. This was after Winston Peters decided to go with the Labour Party.

When National got into power in 2014 and previous terms under the MMP system, this system then was perceived and considered as a robust and suitable system for our country.

No sooner had Labour come into power in 2017 with their coalition partners, than the same MMP became a defective monster for some National supporters and sections of supposedly neutral and impartial New Zealand media.

A similar thing occurred in Fiji in 1987. Under 1970 Constitution, Fiji’s first Prime Minister, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara’s Alliance Party won successive elections for seventeen years from 1970 to 1987. As soon as they lost power to Dr Timoci Bavadra in 1987, (which resulted in Rabuka's coup) the hitherto suitable Constitution all a sudden became defective, and they claimed it failed to safeguard interests of indigenous Fijians or democracy, which it appeared to have done under Mara’s rule. This was acceptable as long the as Ratu Mara’s Alliance won the election.

Same has happened here in New Zealand, and I feel I have been in this situation before, hence the feeling of Déjà vu I spoke about earlier.

A free, neutral, impartial and respectable media is supposed to be a Watchdog of a robust democracy. Once it degenerates into a Lapdog, democracy is threatened. Hope this is not allowed to happen here.
Certain mainstream journalists (Radio, Print, TV, and Social Media) have been using (read abusing) the platform of national mainstream media for their septic, jaundiced, personal and blatant partisan weeping for the National Party. They seem to regard themselves as Little Gods in media. They need to come down to earth, and decide whether they are impartial and neutral journalist to occupy influential media positions. Or should we regard them as public relations arm of the National Party, masquerading as journalists on the mainstream media. 

They have tarnished the status of a respectable Fourth Estate. Their employers need to decide whether they suit their position of responsibility, trust and neutrality. This is because they abuse their positions in media with their partisan diatribe criticising and blatantly running down the new government even before it has been sworn-in. 

It appears, apart from the right wing political parties, the biggest casualty of this election is the mainstream media's ethics of impartiality and neutrality. The blatant media wailing, show of naked partisan and animosity towards the new government is a matter of concern for those who respect freedom of speech, decorum, demeanour, the ethics and good practices associated with the Fourth Estate. This refers to the 4th pillar of democracy - a free respectable media. This comes after Legislature, Judiciary and Executive. A free, neutral and impartial media is essential for a flourishing democracy.

A free impartial media is referred to as the Fourth Estate - the fourth pillar supporting democracy, in addition to Legislature, Judiciary and Executive. A country with such unbiased and neutral media is a blessing to democracy. The question we need to ask in New Zealand is whether all our journalists in influential positions in the mainstream media can honestly pass a test of impartiality , neutrality and credibility?
What is a grave matter of concern is not that this blatant abuse has occurred. What concerns me is the deafening silence from those who should care. Where are the analytical, responsible and conscientious journalist who need to stand up to corruption and humiliation of their proud profession?

Where are the guardians of a free and responsible media? Where are the scholars and professors from media schools who need to oversee what they teach in media schools as gospels are really followed by senior and influential journalists in the field? Should not they defend the fundamentals of media ethics? 

Where are those from AUT’s media school where I studied journalism? Why does it take an ethnic person from a Third World Fiji to see what New Zealand journalists and related organisations are blind to?

When Fiji imposed media controls because journalists with similar behaviour were fanning racial divisions in a fragile democracy, certain banned journalist from New Zealand were critical of Fiji, lecturing them of media responsibility. 

Now, where are they when we need their sharp judgement? Cannot they detect this scandal in their backyard where some highly paid influential journalists appear to have taken the role of pseudo opposition party, acting as mouthpiece of National Party, disguised as journalists?

I am reminded of the Irish statesman, Edmund Burke’s famous quotation: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.

So, I am calling on the good journalist to stand up to this triumph of bad journalism in New Zealand. 

A responsible, free and non-partisan media is the last bastion of democracy. I know this well. In 2010, my research thesis for Masters in Communication Studies at Auckland University of Technology’s (AUT) media school was on such a topic. My research thesis was on the role of a Fiji media in bringing instability to a new Government in Fiji. It was titled: The 2000 Speight coup in Fiji: The role of “The Fiji Times” leading to political instability. 

What we learn from history is that we do not learn anything from history. This author's Masters in Communication (MCS) research at Auckland University of Technology's (AUT) media school on Speight's coup in Fiji in 2000, showed, that in part, media's (The Fiji Times") biased and sensational reporting led to fall of a democratically -elected government. Hence, it is our duty to safeguard that in New Zealand. A deafening silence  on erosion of media ethics here is very worrying.
My findings revealed that a partisan news media, and its negative portrayal of a new government can lead to a danger to democracy, cause instability and even lead to attempted coup, as in case of Fiji.

In the 2017 election, National Party lost power.

But the bigger loss is assault on the proud New Zealand’s Fourth Estate by those who need to stand up to protect it.

Let’s do that – lets protect media credibility in New Zealand to safeguard our healthy and strong democracy.


[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a post graduate scholar in honours in journalism from AUT, is a media commentator and political observer. He runs his blog, FIJI PUNDIT, and lives in Auckland, New Zealand.]

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Diwali Night 2017 delivers Goddess of Prosperity and Hope for New Zealand.


Thakur Ranjit Singh

Jacinda Ardern was officially sworn in as New Zealand’s first Millennial Prime Minister (today),on 26 October 2017, together with her coalition Cabinet. 

In fact FIJI PUNDIT has been predicting since August this year that through Hail Mary Pass, she will be the next Prime Minister. And this prophecy became reality.

And this blessing was given to us on Diwali night. That was a great and auspicious omen, when an incarnation of Goddess of Prosperity, Wealth and Hope for vulnerable people was delivered to us. 

This was when Winston Peters chose to go with Labour/Greens/NZ First Coalition. Article below maps out the blessings on Diwali night in response to our prayers for some saviour to be delivered for poorer New Zealanders.

And Jacinda Ardern is the answer to those prayers…………read further


Diwali day on 19 October, 2017, dawned as a clear, bright and very pleasant one. This was unique after having weeks of lousy weather. There was no sign of clouds anywhere. It developed into a bright, warm and clear crisp day. It was forerunner to good things to come - a good omen. There were two important events. 

The first was the celebration of light over darkness, of life over death, of victory over evil and of compassion and love over greed and self-interest. Yes, in a rounded way, that is the theme of Diwali - and it was Diwali Day.

The second was Karma. This refers to cause and effect. Good intent and good deed contribute to good karma and future happiness, while bad intent and bad deed contribute to bad karma and future suffering. And that is exactly what happened.


Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern. It was very symbolic for her to have taken entry as future Prime Minster at the moment many Hindus were praying on Diwali to Goddess of Wealth, Prosperity and Hope, Lakshmi Mata, to shower her blessings. And that She did, giving a leader with a heart for the vulnerable people of the country.

This was the day when Winston Peters would choose the government that would run the country for the next three years. Would it be a bunch of those who ruled for the elites and took all opportunities to discredit, humiliate and ridicule him? Or would he support a new millennial leader who gave him the respect he deserves, and a compassionate lot who have a heart for the vulnerable, downtrodden and the underclass?


That was a million dollar question. But FIJI PUNDIT had already predicted that Peters entered this labyrinth, this maze of election (Chakravyuh), campaigning on change, and unless he brought change, his political future and personal credibility would be in jeopardy.

As I was getting ready for Diwali Pooja at about 6pm when Winston was expected to announce his verdict, I was called by Shalen Shandil of Radio Tarana and had Indian Newslink editor, Venkat Raman on the other line. Both of us were election commentators and observers at Radio Tarana’s Facebook live streaming and live radio broadcast on Election Day on 23 September, 2017.

While the result of the night was not decisive, Bill English, however had premature jubilation of victory before MMP was allowed the final leg of the journey to reach the finish line. On election night, I took solace from morale of Bhagavad Gita, which says, what is happening is good and what will happen will be good. And both of us, the veteran Raman on NZ politics and his disciple, yours truly Thakur predicted that Winston will choose left – the Labour.


Diwali celebrations at Hardip Singh's place, in Henderson, just down the road from Minister Phil Twyfords Electorate Office. As a Labour supporter, Hardip and his family were jubilant on Diwali night when Jacinda and Labour were chosen by Peters. Family and friends of all races shared in the joy and good news. He concurred that Diwali night 2017 heralded good news for the suffering poorer people  where a saviour has incarnated to spread the economic cake at all levels, not only favouring he elites and  the rich people, as the past Government did.

And I went to my Lakshmi Pooja at 6.30pm and was engrossed in prayers, unaware that as I had prayed to Lakshmi Mata-the mother of wealth and prosperity for better fortunes for all of us –she did listen to us, and we were delivered an incarnation of that goddess of wealth and prosperity for all the people of Fiji. It is a good omen as it happened almost as I poured offerings on the holy fire, seeking us to be rescued from the darkness of nine years. 

While the country may have done well economically, however those economic benefit failed to reach all the people as inequality, poverty, homelessness and mental sickness, among others, increased. Almighty did listed. We were delivered incarnation of hope, light, victory, compassion and prosperity for all the people of New Zealand-not just the elite. And that hope came from what may be likened to incarnation of goddess of prosperity - Jacinda Ardern.

Earlier, I had written my thoughts on my Facebook posting about the wrath of Karma and Winston’s choice. They say, Karma is a bitch.

And it showed its bitchiness in the final choice that Winston Peters made.


Another Labour supporter of West Auckland, Chandrika (and Nina) Prasad of Glendene, also decorated their house in anticipation of the good news. The "Welcome" sign was meant for the Goddess of hope and prosperity to enter and bless the house. The news of new government formation was seen as a good omen 
While his (Winston Peters') European blood in him urged him to click right to support a party working for the rich, interests of largely businesses, the affluent and white people, his Maori ancestor genes urged their son from North to click left, to right the wrongs on forgotten people of his homeland. That we call the cry of the ancestral blood-Peters had to listen to the cries of his tribe who have become an underclass in the country of their ancestors.

This was reflected in his criticism of face of Capitalism speech where the system appeared to have worked for the rich middle and upper-class under the roost of National government, and the beneficiaries of National’s neo-liberal policies that favoured the likes of those residing in Parnell, Remuera and Newmarket. 

And as FIJI PUNDIT had predicted, he clicked left, and sided with Labour. 

And there is a message to the Pundits of Doomsday, who show negativity and predict the new government would not last.

Jacinda Ardern is the age of my daughter. Any father with pride in the new generation (millennial) will hold her hand with pride to reach pinnacle of success in politics to serve her people - all people of New Zealand.

And those wishing to ridicule this coalition on Facebook with Peters and Ardern as bride and groom, no they are not wedded.


Yours truly, Thakur, FIJI PUNDIT was in prayers on Diwali night, when the decision of Winston Peters was announced. It heralded the "incarnation of Goddess of Hope and Prosperity" for people of New Zealand. Coming on Diwali night was very symbolic. Here FIJI PUNDIT is seen blessing the new Government. He had already prophesied months earlier that Winston would choose Ardern , who will be the first Prime Minister of the new generation (millennial). That has now become a reality.

Winston Peters is her mentor. As a statesman and a father-figure, he will hold her fingers and show her the path to prosperity of New Zealand – and all New Zealanders and not only the rich elite class.


And that is the blessings that Diwali Day 2017 showered and ushered on Aotearoa.

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a media commentator and political observer. He runs his blog, FIJI PUNDIT, and lives in Auckland, New Zealand.]

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Auckland Council: Why this blood-sucking Dracula needs to be staked



Thakur Ranjit Singh


Brisbane City, which is normally compared to Auckland, has a population of 2.3 Million, has a staff of some 8,000, of whom, only 149 earn more than A$100,000.
Auckland City with some 1.4 Million people has a staff of 11,893, of whom, 2322 earn more than A$100,000 (with 49 earning over $300,000.)
What did Rodney Hide promise us with this monster-SUPER CITY?
Economies of scale, staff reductions, reduced debts, efficiency, better accountability, improved service?
And Auckland literally has a case where a Town (pun intended) is trying to run a Super City. The buck stops at CEO, and my article seeks many questions. 
Prime among them is, in a Third World City, Suva, we were miles better in financial discipline, staff management and providing effective service to ratepayers. Most importantly, we respected other people’s money. In comparison, Auckland is a bottomless-pit, just increase the rates.
Many heads would have rolled if Suva was as dysfunctional as Auckland. 
But in Auckland, the elected officials are the “dogs” who are wagged by the tails, the CEO and that bulging bureaucracy of overpaid unelected officials.
Auckland Council has degenerated into a Dracula sucking our blood, where Elected Officials have abdicated their promise to ratepayers, and have become lapdogs of the staff who run the show. 
This Dracula needs to be staked…read on
Contrary to initial optimism, Auckland Super City appears to have degenerated into an uncontrollable Frankenstein Monster- and a blood-sucking Dracula. Here, the elected representatives have been forced to abdicate their powers. Shots are called by the so called Council Controlled Organisations (CCOs) and overpaid unelected bureaucrats. It is a classic case of the tail wagging the dog. 


Rodney Hide created a monster, which has become a Dracula, sucking our blood. It needs to be staked to save us. Did Super city achieve economies of scale? Did we have reduced staff? Have wages deceased? Have services improved? Has borrowing reduced? Has spending reduced? What has Super City achieved? Isn't it time we killed this creature?
We have had so many complaints going to deaf ears. People took consolation from the fact that Mayor, Phil Goff would make a difference. Disappointingly, it appears he himself is intrigued by this monster and remains uninformed. 

NZ Herald of 5 October, 2017 made shocking reading:
One in five staff at Auckland Council is earning more than $100,000 as the wages bill for the Super City blows out for the third year in a row.
………..number of executives earning more than $200,000 has increased by 25 per cent in the past year, from 155 to 194….
 The council and its six council-controlled organisations (CCOs) employ 11,893 staff, of whom 2322 earn more than $100,000.
Brisbane City Council - often compared to Auckland Council - employs about 8000 staff, of whom 149 earn more than A$100,000.
 The advice I gave to Andrew Little when he took over from David Cunliffe was to remove dead-wood and ineffective Labour management team that had led to fall of their previous leaders. Unfortunately, he ignored it at his peril.

I have a feeling of déjà vu when giving a similar advice to Mayor Goff, a former Labour leader: Please clean up the mess you have inherited - please remove (read sack) the CEO and let him sign his redundancy cheque. 


Economies of scale, staff and salaries reduction, as aimed by a Super City has not been achieved. Almost 40 staff are paid over $300,000. At the same time, a city equal to, or larger than us, BRISBANE, has much fewer staff as well as only 149 paid above $100,000 compared to 2322 of ours. What do Council staff PRODUCE to warrant such pay? They only use OUR RATEPAYER money to overpay themselves. This table shows how out of control Auckland Council's pay has become. There has to to be a rethink of our pay-structure.
CEO is ultimately responsible for the lackadaisical performance, neglect of duties and busloads of ratepayer dissatisfaction. If CEO of Fonterra creams up the company for how well it does, similarly, CEO of Auckland Council deserves the guilt and blame of ignored sewers and a growing dysfunctional monster.

As a former Director Administration and Operations at Suva City Council (second to CEO) I am bewildered by lack of accountability, dereliction of duties, shoddy communication channels, sloppy financial discipline and abdication of power by the elected Councillors to bureaucrats who have overpaid themselves.


People who voted in Mayor Phil Goff were optimistic that he will make a difference. One year on the job, he seems not to know what is happening, and seems to be informed about dysfunction in the Council via media. This author's experience at Suva City Council shows that heads would have rolled if such dereliction of duties of the CEO and Mayor were seen in a Third World Fiji. We all are disappointed. 
Auckland Council needs to learn protocols and managerial discipline from Suva City, a Third World Local government. Our CEO and Council Staff held the elected Councillors in high esteem, even feared them. The Mayor, CEO, Senior Executives and all relevant parties were in constant touch, operated on same frequency and were always well-informed. We were modestly paid, in fact lower than private sector. Our Councillors received minimal per diem, but were always in control. They held CEO (and staff) and the Mayor accountable. And the CEO kept the Mayor continuously informed. Most important, we diligently practised financial discipline – and respected ratepayer money.

Those in the ivory tower need to come down to earth to see how we ratepayers feel about an out-of control Auckland Council.  A time has to come when people will call for action from Government to make Auckland Council more accountable to its ratepayers. Perhaps time has come for Government to review operations, effectiveness and efficiency of Auckland Council.
Auckland Council need to learn from Fijians. Do we have effective Human Resources, Finance and other relevant committees? And do the Councillors in relevant Committees know what is going on? Why we have such a big mess? Why deviation from budgets and objectives? Do they have one-to -one weekly or monthly meetings with CEO and Mayor to ensure things are moving according to budget, plans, and objectives? Do we have credible and effective communication channels?

This article is not written by an over-paid Council’ communication staff or a consultant. This is done by a migrant who was rejected to add colour to Council’s Communications department. Why the Mayor learns about Council dysfunction from the media? And who advised the Mayor that the flooding in New Lynn was due to global warming? You need not be a rocket scientist to know if a month’s rain fell in one hour, no Council reticulation system can handle this Act of God. It seems I need to hold a training session for Council’s wanting Communication department!
Weekend Herald (7.10.17) tells of blatant mismanagement of senior management pay, spiralling out of control. In three years to 2017, we saw 25 % increase in Auckland Council, 21.5% in Auckland Transport and eye-watering 89% in ATEED. This was when inflation was running below 2%. Heads would have rolled if this had happened in Suva.
In contrast, the biggest saving of 20% was made by Watercare, which is headed by a migrant Fijian, Raveen Jaduram. It shows the benefits of employing people with wider international exposure from Third World Countries. They value limited resources, have tendency to be miser and possess better appreciation of other people’s money. This can only happen in an environment where cronies, people from old school-boys club, political connections and other social contacts do not access rear entry to executive, boards and other key positions. Unfortunately, migrants like me lack opportunities of such backdoor entries.


Auckland Council is still considered a white institution, The Mayor agrees that some 40% of Aucklanders are born outside of Auckland. Is this reflected in either the makeup of the Governing body of its staff make-up? Statistics speak quite the opposite. Wonder how many in this picture represent those 40%!
NZ Herald recently reported on the colour of the Council - it is still very White. And there is no ethnic or brown (read Maori) executive up to second tier of the whole organisation. Ironically Mayor Goff admitted in Q+ A (8.10.17) that 40 per cent of Aucklanders are born out of New Zealand. I wonder whether that is reflected in the makeup of the Council and its staffing.

SUGGESTED REMEDIAL ACTION:

  • Remove CEO for lack of performance. 
  • Give powers back to elected representatives.
  • Freeze pay and staff-intake
  • Undertake staffing and pay structure, in line with similar overseas comparatives. (Brisbane)
  • Terminate contract of top executives, to re-apply. 
  • Review internal reporting, communication channels and financial discipline.
  • Set up proper measurable KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), linking pay increases against stringent measures.

Failing this, the incoming government should institute Section 10 of Local Government Act 2002, and seek Ministerial invention, even to appoint Crown Review Team or Manager. 


Please new Minister for Local Government-tell your officers to brush up Section 10 of Local Government Act 2002, and put up a case to you why you should not call up Auckland Council to provide special answers from concerned ratepayers, in particular, FIJI PUNDIT. Fijians are now ridiculing this First World Local government to learn accountability and financial discipline from Suva City Council. Please stake this Dracula-Auckland Council, before it sucks more of our blood.
We ratepayers are fed up. We call the Government to put a stake through the heart of this Dracula, created by Rodney Hide. It has grown too fat, gone out of control, and is fast sucking our blood.

Please Minister, free us from this misery!

[Thakur Ranjit Singh is a political observer, a media commentator and journalist. He runs his blog, FIJI PUNDIT, and lives in Auckland]

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Garba for Girmitiya Descendants: The Changing face of Navratri Festival for Fijian Diaspora


Thakur Ranjit Singh

As a child growing up in rural Rarawai, Ba, Fiji on a cane farm, we celebrated Ram Naumi, Holi, Diwali and other religious festivals originating and associated with North India- Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. They were Ayodhya and Ram-oriented, but Krishna pooja also featured in our lives, with a mixture of South Indians as well.

Navratri (or Navratam, as some Indo-Fijians called it) for us in rural Fiji was time for Devi pooja –and that was it –just Durga pooja. We never knew about celebrating Navratri through Garba dance. This was confined to Gujarati business community of Fiji, largely settled in urban centres only. The only Garba we knew was what we saw in the movies.


The dance teacher, Sonar Chand Ngangom, with ladies elegantly dressed for Garba.
Even Girmitiya descendants residing in urban areas did not show much interest and enthusiasm in Garba/Dandia as it was considered a “Bombaiya” or Gujarati event. In fact Fiji is a tale of two Indian communities. One was descendants of Indentured labourers, mostly cane-farmers, living in rural areas, generally on the lower end of economic scale. 

The other was relatively richer free-settler Gujarati business community who came to Fiji to establish businesses from Gujarat, India. There was very limited social interactions, with Gujarati families being very highly stratified, with strong caste system, while girmitiya descendants had discarded this trait through suffering and sacrifices of their Girmitiya forebears in the cane fields. (That is story by FIJI PUNDIT for another day.)

Hence as a child or adult, I never got exposed to Garba. When my family migrated to Auckland in 2004, we were in more liberal and somewhat “westernised” Indian community where there was greater interaction with all classes and types of Indians, because of our limited population in a “foreign land”. Our festivals started being celebrated on community basis when Waitakere Indian Association (WIA) formed by Girmitiya descendants from Fiji initiated Diwali in 2000 and then Holi five years later. Today this has been emulated by others and we have huge multiple religious and social festivals. WIA also tried to expose us to Garba some years ago. However, due to lack of interest, this was discontinued.


MOTHER-DAUGHTER: Ragni Singh Chand, with mother Shashi Kala Singh.
Sunita Sharma, with her mother


Kashmin Kumar with daughter, Pooja Kumar
Then a miracle happened in West Auckland when Shri Ram Mandir, managed by Shri Ram Mandir Charitable Trust completed its very ambitious temple and community centre in Henderson in 2015. Its Managing Trustee Pravin Kumar was passionate about introducing and exposing Indo-Fijians to other Indian religious, cultural and social observations. His objective was that a Mandir should be more than just a place of worship-it should develop into a social and cultural hub where communities also socially interacted for networking and community wellbeing.



HUSBAND -WIFE TEAM-in action
Celebrating Navratri in Gujarati style was one of such initiative. Here, the Girmitiya descendants were exposed to this beautiful, and graceful dance.

Three years since its inception, Ram Mandir has been holding Navratri and associated Garba dance, and progressively escalated its celebration, and encouraged us to embrace something different. They took a very commendable step of teaching the steps of Garba to those for whom it was foreign. I, with my wife, were such people, who leant the steps of this very graceful way of worshipping Devi in this entertaining form of dances. It also was a good excuse for exercising. 

We are thankful to maestro of cultural dances and dance teacher, Sonar Chand Ngangom, who has been present over the years on hand to teach us steps, and now I am quite comfortable with what was taught. Combining those steps with Bollywood Garba-oriented songs make very enjoyable Navratri celebrations. This teaching continues till today, every day of the festival. Increasingly the descendants of Girmitiyas from Fiji have learnt the art of celebrating Navratri in Gujarati style, with Garba dance.\


The Mumbai Raas Garbha group: From left: Sandeep More (Dhol), Managing Trustee of Shri Ram Mandir, Pravin Kumar, Lead Singer, Bhavesh Mehta, female vocalist, Rini Dadheech and Milind More - (extreme right, on organ)
This year, thanks to Shri Ram Mandir in general and its Managing Trustee, Pravin Kumar who arranged artiste from India to come here and provide live music for the whole Navratri festival. We were blessed with Mumbai Raas Garbha (also called Garba) Group from India. This was led by lead vocalist Bhavesh Mehta, supported by female vocal artist, Rini Dadheech. Of course the life-blood of any Garba is the enthralling and rhythmic drum or dhol. Sandeep More, as the rhythm artist kept us right-footing with the booming dhol. And of course, no Garba is complete without the soothing religious, as well as enthralling Bollywood numbers. And for this you need an accomplished melody artist. We were lucky to have Milind Dhotre performing very skilfully. They all combined to create a religious and devotional musical atmosphere for those dance steps that many were still trying to perfect.


The Audience 

Our people are slowly coming forward to celebrate what had been foreign for us. At times yours truly, Thakur becomes the only Krishan Kanhaiya, (male) with all female Gopis dancing, as there are few men dancing. Hope in time to come, more menfolk will join us to grace the floors of the Mandir to happily and gracefully celebrate Navratri-Gujarati-style. We are thankful to Shri Ram Mandir for initiating this rich cultural and religious enlightenment to the descendants of Girmitiyas from Fiji.

[Thakur Ranjit Singh is a political observer, a media commentator and journalist. He runs his blog, FIJI PUNDIT, and lives in Auckland]