Fiji Times caught lying again

 In Education, Employee Benefits and the Civil Service

A statement from the Attorney General and FijiFirst’s General Secretary

It’s only appropriate to start by acknowledging the Fiji Times for marking its 149th anniversary. It was sad to see them celebrate the occasion by playing loose with the facts and giving voice to outright lies. It seems the storied paper has, under the Motibhai Group’s eight years of politically-driven administration, hit a new low.

In its coverage today (Tuesday 4 September), the Fiji Times falsely quoted me as saying that school heads do not need modern skills like school management and computer literacy to be effective, when in fact, my circular to Fijian teachers said the exact opposite before going on to say that free training for these essential skills would be provided by the Ministry.

My problem is not with the unions themselves – it is with the misinformation being spread by their selfish, out-of-touch, and politically-motivated bosses.

In a separate article, the paper also ran a quote from a clearly-unnerved union boss who claimed the circular “attacked” the unions, suggesting that the information in the circular was given to only one news source. The Fiji Times knows that these statements are flatly false. As I made clear in the circular, which was sent to 9,683 teachers along with all Fijian media over the weekend, my problem is not with the unions themselves –– it is with the misinformation being spread by their selfish, out-of-touch, and politically-motivated bosses. Let me again be clear: Unions, when led with thoughtful purpose, can play a useful and productive role in employer and employee relationships. But that can’t happen when they’re headed by those more interested in basking in the limelight and keeping us stuck in a system that served their own interests, rather than the interests of the teachers they are meant to serve.

The Fiji Times has proven that it’s either sloppy, driven by an agenda, or like the union bosses, willfully trying to mislead the public.

The Fiji Times has proven that it’s either sloppy, driven by an agenda, or like the union bosses, willfully trying to mislead the public. Tuesday’s coverage only scratches the surface of the type of misinformation being spread. The Fijian people, and our teachers, deserve an open and honest conversation that is based on the truth. For this to happen, the Fiji Times needs to operate as any truly responsible and independent news organisation should: by reporting the news, not reporting to a hidden political agenda. This will require them to check the facts, and not let unfounded claims and flat lies go unchallenged.

Teachers with listed email addresses have already received the circular, and this direct and transparent line of communication has already proven to be effective. That’s why we are working with Government ITC to allocate an official GOVNET email address to every Fijian teacher, widely opening their correspondence with the Ministry. We fully acknowledge that the Ministry of Education has had issues with reaching and servicing our teachers in the past, and that there are still administrative matters, in particular within the human resources department and the district education offices, that need to be addressed and dramatically improved; this is why we are instituting reforms in the first place. With these improvements, we will work more personally with our teachers, collaborating together to empower and reward them –– bringing Fijian education and the teaching profession into a new era of fairness, accountability and transparency.

For now, I encourage all teachers to read the circular for themselves. Going forward, I encourage all Fijians to look at any claims and media coverage with a critical eye, raise questions, and demand the truth.

Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum
Attorney-General and Minister Responsible for Education, Heritage & the Arts

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