OPINION BY LEBA SENI NABOU - The brazen billboard blitz
From the lead up to the 2018 election, we have all seen how the FijiFirst party brazenly dominates our horizons with line-of sight horizons with billboards in the lead up to the previous elections.
Many of us wondered in amusement in 2018, what all those lofty flag-blue words with open-ended meanings were actually intended to mean?
Who could forget those motherhood statements 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 politicians who want to divide us”?
Or, “Stability and equality”?
Or, “Fiji does better when Fijians unite”?
Or that notoriously curious one, “Honesty and justice”?
As I questioned last weekend on Mr Sashi Singh’s “Talking Points” Facebook program, those massive billboards cost a lot of money, but did FFP get a “return on investment” by way of votes with that undertaking, that resulted in a 50.02 per cent razor-thin majority of the total votes cast in the 2018 election?
Now FFP has invested in an amped up billboard sweep, yet again.
Billboards: Dos and Don’ts
According to the electoral laws, political parties are allowed to print and publish electoral advertisements provided that the legal requirements such as are met.
The requirements for billboards in public areas designated for placement of campaign materials, is based on what the Fijian Elections Office (FEO) approves, in “consultation” with political parties.
Even as late as October 26, the FEO had “consulted” political parties about new outdoor digital billboards sites at Ratu Sukuna Park, Suva; MGM Primary School grounds, Vatuwaqa; Omkar Rd junction, Nasinu; Lelean School entrance, Nausori; and Votualevu roundabout, Nadi.
It should be fairly clear to all and sundry, which political party will be monopolising those new digital billboards sites.
Aur koi nahi, khali FF
This is a new FFP billboard currently on show. 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 the past years!
No water in our taps? Aur koi nahi, khali FFP!
Hospitals and health centres falling apart? Aur koi nahi, khali FFP!
Free medicine scheme from 2015 still being “reformed”? Aur koi nahi, khali FFP!
Constant electricity outages? Aur koi nahi, khali FFP!
Fiji as the non-communicable disease (NCD) capital of the world with the highest rate of diabetes? Aur koi nahi, khali FFP!
Bringing through sensitive laws without proper stakeholder consultation like the Rotuma Lands Bill 2015 and Bill 17? Aur koi nahi, khali FFP!
Refusing to pay the Fiji dinau (debt) to the University of the South Pacific? Aur koi nahi, khali FFP!
Attacking the media that do not air or print propaganda? Aur koi nahi, khali FFP!
Unprecedented levels of debt that will nearly reach $10 billion by July 2023, which the next generation will inherit? Aur koi nahi, khali FFP!
Hard drugs readily available and youth brawls erupting sporadically? Aur koi nahi, khali FFP!
Tahila e rewasia and Lala lia leqwa e rewajia
This is another twist of the current billboard blitz appearing at certain locations.
“Tahila e rewasia” beams out from Sigatoka in the dialect for that area, while “Lala lia leqwa e rewajia” blares in Nadi. Both mean the same thing. It means: “No one else can”. And therefore by implication, only FFP can.
It appears that the intention here is that it synchronizes with the Hindi version: Aur koi nahi, khali FFP!
Absolutely no quarrel with those fine words either.
Potholes getting worse? Tahila e rewasia! Lala lia leqwa e rewajia!
Sugar industry in rapid decline? Tahila e rewasia! Lala lia leqwa e rewajia!
Domestic violence on the rise? Tahila e rewasia! Lala lia leqwa e rewajia!
Crashing literacy and numeracy competence of our children? Tahila e rewasia! Lala lia leqwa e rewajia!
No democratic city or town council elections since 2014? Tahila e rewasia! Lala lia leqwa e rewajia!
Slow approvals process within Government machinery? Tahila e rewasia! Lala lia leqwa e rewajia!
Too many ministerial vehicles idling with air-conditioning and awaiting ministers? Tahila e rewasia! Lala lia leqwa e rewajia!
Cost of living through the roof? Tahila e rewasia! Lala lia leqwa e rewajia!
We are the change!
This is the English pitch from the FFP billboard blitz.
Yes. This too is true. Many a change has the FFP bought in.
They have changed in an uncomplimentary way, the benchmarks and global norms of Parliamentary democracy in Fiji.
They have changed and lowered the standards of Parliamentary debate.
They have changed the way laws are made in Parliament when the people who these laws are for, have no idea what is being fast-tracked in their name.
They have changed how law and order is maintained in our country. They have changed how 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 flavour of the current billboard blitz appearing at certain locations.
In the iTaukei language it means: “Move together, work together”. Absolutely no quarrel with those fine words either.
As the notorious billboard blitz dots our horizon, subtley disguising its messages against emblems of our national flag, instead of garnering empathy and endearment, the opposite may occur.
What will become evident after the vote count night of Wednesday, December 14, 2022, is that the voters have moved together and worked together to bring in new political leadership to Fiji in the New Year.
• SENI NABOU is the general secretary of the National Federation Party. The views in this article are hers and not necessarily shared by this newspaper.
As published in the Fiji Times - Saturday 5 November 2022