Since the build-up to the 2018 election, we have all seen how the FijiFirst party brazenly dominates our skylines with skylines lined up with billboards in the run-up to previous elections.
Many of us wondered with amusement in 2018, what all those big blue words with open-ended meanings were actually supposed to mean?
Who could forget those declarations of motherhood like, “Embrace godliness. Reject racism and bigotry”? Or, “More students in schools and universities than ever before”?
Or “Youth empowerment and women’s rights”?
Or “Reject the politicians who want to divide us”?
Or “Stability and Equality”?
Or, “Fiji does better when Fijians come together”?
Or the notoriously curious one, “Honesty and Justice”?
As I asked about Mr. Sashi Singh’s Facebook ‘Talking Points’ program last weekend, these massive billboards are very expensive, but did FFP get a ‘return on investment’ through in votes with this company, which resulted in a slim 50.02 percent majority of the total votes cast in the 2018 election?
Now FFP has once again invested in an amplified billboard sweep.
Billboards: do’s and don’ts
According to the election laws, political parties are allowed to print and publish election announcements provided the legal requirements are met. Requirements for billboards in designated public areas for the placement of campaign materials are based on what the Fiji Electoral Office (FEO) approves, in “consultation” with political parties. As recently as October 26, the FEO had “consulted” with political parties about new outdoor digital billboard sites in Ratu Sukuna Park, Suva; MGM Primary School Grounds, Vatuwaqa; Junction Omkar Rd, Nasinu; Entrance to Lelean School, Nausori; and Votualevu Roundabout, Nadi. It should be pretty clear to everyone, which political party will monopolize these new digital billboard sites.
Aur koi nahi, khali FF
This is a new FFP billboard currently showing. It’s in Hindi, and means “No one else can”. The inference being that nobody else, but only FFP. Of course, it’s only been the FFP for a few years! No water in our taps? Aur koi nahi, khali FFP! Hospitals and health centers in ruins? Aur koi nahi, khali FFP! Free medicine in 2015 still undergoing “reform”? Aur koi nahi, khali FFP! Constant power cuts? Aur koi nahi, khali FFP! Fiji, non-communicable disease (NCD) capital of the world with the highest rate of diabetes? Aur koi nahi, khali FFP! Passing sensitive laws without proper stakeholder consultation like the Rotuma Lands Bill 2015 and Bill 17? Aur koi nahi, khali FFP! Refuse to Pay Fiji As I asked about Mr Sashi Singh’s Facebook “Talking Points” program last weekend, these massive billboards cost a lot of money, but did FFP get it? a “return on investment” through votes with this company… – Leba Seni Nabou dinau (debt) to the University of the South Pacific? Aur koi nahi, khali FFP! Attack media that neither broadcast nor print propaganda? Aur koi nahi, khali FFP! Unprecedented levels of debt that will reach nearly $10 billion by July 2023, to be inherited by the next generation? Aur koi nahi, khali FFP! Easily available hard drugs and sporadically breaking out youth fights? Aur koi nahi, khali FFP!
Tahila e rewasia and Lala lia leqwa e rewajia
This is another twist on the current blitz of billboards appearing in certain locations. “Tahila and Rewasiaradiates from Sigatoka in the dialect of that region, while “Lala lia leqwa e rewajiayells at Nadi. Both mean the same thing. It means: “No one else can”. And so by implication, only FFP can. It seems the intention here is for it to sync with the Hindi version: Aur koi nahi, khali FFP! Absolutely no quarrel with those beautiful words either. Potholes getting worse? Tahila and Rewasia! Lala lia leqwa e rewajia! Sugar industry in rapid decline? Tahila and rewasia! Lala lia leqwa e rewajia! Domestic violence on the rise? Tahila and rewasia! Lala lia leqwa e rewajia! Crushing the literacy and numeracy skills of our children? Tahila and rewasia! Lala lia leqwa e rewajia! No democratic municipal elections since 2014? Tahila and rewasia! Lala lia leqwa e rewajia! Slow approval process within government? Tahila and rewasia! Lala lia leqwa e rewajia! Too many ministerial vehicles idling with air conditioning waiting for ministers? Tahila and rewasia! Lala lia leqwa e rewajia! Cost of living through the roof? Tahila and rewasia! Lala lia leqwa e rewajia!
We are the change!
This is the English pitch of the FFP display blitz. Yes. This too is true. The FFP bought many changes. They have unflatteringly changed the global benchmarks and standards of parliamentary democracy in Fiji. They changed and lowered the standards of parliamentary debate. They have changed the way laws are made in Parliament while the people for whom these laws are intended have no idea what is being expedited on their behalf. They changed the way law and order is maintained in our country. They have changed the way our education system works. Everything and every facet of life in Fiji as we know it has changed since December 6, 2006.
Toso vata, cakacaka vata
This is another new flavor of the current billboard blitz appearing in certain locations. In the iTaukei language, this means: “Move together, work together”. Absolutely no quarrel with those beautiful words either. As the famous blitz of billboards dots our horizon, subtly disguising its messages against the emblems of our national flag, instead of arousing empathy and affection, the reverse may be happening. What will become evident after the vote count evening on Wednesday, December 14, 2022, is that voters have mobilized and worked together to bring new political direction to Fiji in the new year.
• SENI NABOU is the secretary general of the National Federation Party. The opinions expressed in this article are his own and are not necessarily shared by this newspaper.