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The Tebbutt Poll and Bainimarama Poll (edited version in Fiji Times, 4 July 2015 appeared as ‘A tale of two polls’)

05/07/2015

The Tebbutt Poll and Bainimarama Poll (edited version in Fiji Times, 4 July 2015 appeared as ‘A tale of two polls’)
Professor Wadan Narsey

These last few weeks, there have been two polls conducted in the country, one well known, the other less so.

The Tebbutt Poll was paid for by The Fiji Times, and published its results last Saturday (24 June 2015).

But the results of the Bainimarama Poll, paid for by taxpayers, have not been made available to the public, although one can ‘read between the lines’.

The Bainimarama Poll results probably agree with the substance of the Tebbutt Poll results, given that Bainimarama has now postponed the deadline for flag submissions to the end of December.

But despite the daily propaganda about ‘your nation, your flag, your call’, will the Bainimarama Government respect the most powerful result of the Tebbutt Poll that the vast majority of Fiji people want any decision on the flag to be made by voting and a referendum, NOT by government or even parliament?

Recollect

In February Bainimarama announced that Fiji will be flying a new flag on Independence Day, 10th of October.

This was followed by months of advertisements that Fiji, now ‘needed a new flag’.

A Flag Committee process was set up but bypassed to arrive at 23 designs which have been also advertised extensively, for the public to text in their choices (read my Fiji Times article of 25 June 2015).

But the public has been clearly divided, with even some prominent Bainimarama supporters opposing the flag change.

As a service to its readers, The Fiji Times, commissioned Tebbutt Research, to find out what the people really think.

The Tebbutt Poll

The Tebbutt Poll interviewed 1052 persons throughout Fiji, face to face and on the phone.

This  0.2% sample of the those 18 years of age and over is much lower than Fiji Bureau of Statistics household surveys, usually between 3% and 5% of all households.

But this sample may be adequate given that this poll only asked a few questions, with limited possible answers: ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘No opinion’ and ‘Refuse to answer’.

One previous weakness that this Tebbutt Poll has remedied is that it now has a rural component, given that phone coverage is now well over 90% of all households in Fiji.

While the Tebbutt Poll, given its limitation of resources, cannot identify a truly random sample (as the FBS does), the results which have been adjusted to fit Fiji’s demographic profile,  appear to be quite consistent, across the important variables: urban/rural, ethnicity, gender, and age groups,

Change or No Change?

The first important result was that, despite the months of government propaganda advocating a flag change, 53% of the respondents said ‘no’ while only 32% said ‘yes’.

If you distribute the remaining 15% in proportion, than the percentage rejecting a change, becomes at least 62%, and those wanting a change only 38%.

I say ‘at least 62%’ because the ‘fear factor’ still prevails in Fiji: given Bainimarama’s advocacy of a flag change, some saying say ‘yes’ to interviewers may really be thinking ‘no’.

Perhaps some of the ‘no change’ people said ‘no’ only because they do not like the 23 insipid designs being advertised daily.

Note that 63% want the Union Jack retained, while an even larger percentage 83% want the coat of arms (shield) retained.

Note that many symbols that people wanted were NOT on the 23 designs: coconut tree, tabua, tapa, sugar cane, religious symbols, tanoa and Fijian club.

The Bainimarama Government now faces a big headache: from now to December, and with even more money being wasted on advertisements, how many people will change their minds from ‘no’ to ‘yes’?

Keep in mind, some may also change from ‘yes’ to ‘no’.

But no amount of advertising is going to change how people want the decision to be made.

How decide?

This is probably the most important finding of the Tebbutt Poll: that the people of Fiji want the decision on the flag to be made by voting (87%) and by a referendum (66%).

These large majorities hold across all ethnic groups, age groups, gender, and rural/urban areas.

This has nothing to do with the flag designs, even if another 20 are dredged.

The majority do not want the parliament to decide (a mere 11%) or the Bainimarama Government (21%).

The Bainimarama Poll

The Bainimarama Government has also been carrying out its own ‘poll’.

Bainimarama revealed (Fiji Times, 1 July 2015) that ‘national flag feedback teams … had been fanning out all over the country’ and (Fiji Sun 1 July 2015) had ‘already returned from Kadavu and certain parts of Lau, are currently in Rotuma and Lomaiviti and will soon be visiting the Yasawas, Mamanucas, Vanua Levu and Taveuni.’.

While Bainimarama claimed that the public response has been ‘unprecedented’ and ‘very positive’,  oh dear, the ‘vakamalua’ Fijian people needed more time and more designs to consider.

Read between the lines:  the numbers must have been bad enough for Bainimarama to extend the deadline for new flag designs to the 31st of December.

Despite the fact that the Shadow Finance Minister (Professor Biman Prasad)  and Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee has called for the Government to reveal the costs of the flag change exercise, Khaiyum and Bainimarama refuse to do so.

I suspect that taxpayers are paying far more than the Tebbutt Poll cost the Fiji Times.

But then again, the Fiji taxpayers were never told how much of taxpayers’ funds was wasted on John Samy People’s Charter exercise, and the subsequent poll in which more than 400 thousand people were visited by soldiers and civil servants and allegedly sign their approval.

Neither did the Bainimarama Government ever reveal the costs to tax payers of the Yash Ghai constitution changing exercise, which was also thrown in the rubbish bin.

This is a government which spends scarce taxpayers’ money without a thought for better alternative uses.

Fiji’s younger generation (who will eventually pay for Fiji’s Public Debt) should closely examine the real reasons behind the current bankruptcy of Greece, not the least being fiscally irresponsible military governments

Flag A Red Herring?

Is the flag issue a ‘red herring’ to divert attention from a far more important issue which was barely discussed in the media this week?

The Public Accounts Committee meeting to discuss the Auditor General’s Report for 2010, could not be held because ALL THREE Bainimarama Government appointees chose to be absent, thereby denying a quorum.

The 2010 Auditor General’s Report revealed that certain government ministers’ salaries were being paid through the Prime Minister’s Office and through a private accounting company, and the PM’s Office was refusing to reveal the detailed amounts to either the Auditor General or the Ministry of Finance.

Note another possible red herring: the daily new propaganda about the need for all Fiji people to be involved in the formulation of 5 year and 20 year development plans, which were inexplicably shelved for the last eight years of the same Bainimarama Government, and the Ministry of Planning weakened and marginalized.

Perhaps PAFCO could consider a new line, canning red herrings in addition to the usual tuna.

Addendum (6 July 2015)

During the parliamentary session today, the Leader of the Opposition, Ro Temumu Kepa, asked the Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, whether, in the light of the Tebbutt Poll result that the majority of the people of Fiji  want to vote on a flag change decision, he would call a referendum to approve any flag change. The Prime Minister answered in one syllable ‘No’.

It would seem that the months of Government advertisement on TV and radio ‘Your nation, your flag, your call’, was mere propaganda, totally lacking in truth.

The Opposition might want to move a motion in Parliament, that a Referendum be used to make the flag change decision, so that the FFP supporters throughout Fiji can see the accountability and independence of the parliamentarians representing them.

And so the farce  goes on.

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