The doomsday headline "Fiji military given OK to shoot civilians." called out to me from UPI.com. I'm not sure what was more jarring, actually. Was it that fear-mongering, sensationalist headline or the fact that UPI.com's tag line is "100 years of journalistic excellence"? Some international media outlets use old video footage of the 2000 coup with soldiers in the streets carrying weapons. I don't believe a tiny "file footage" in the corner of the screen is fair, either.
As an expat, I don't openly comment on any of the politics in the country and for obvious reason. I see positives and negatives in everything anyway and there is also enough noise out there from other sources. However, one of challenges Fiji will continue to face when not enabling open communications with the rest of the world are stories such as the sensationalist one above. I've received well more than a handful of emails and messages from friends in other parts of the world who appear to be getting warped views of what's happening in Suva.
"Are you safe?", understandably, is the most common question I hear and I still respond with the stock answer I have always used.
"I feel safer here than on the streets of any big city in the world."
Fiji is a very safe country, even in the face of some rising "petty crime" which include home invasions and robberies. For tourists, though, this is not a risk and the news they are seeing on TV and the warnings from their governments are, frankly, blown well out of proportion. I'm not saying the situation isn't serious, though. It is serious, but things DO NOT feel unstable at all in Suva right now. Could this change? I suppose it could but I'd like to believe it won't. If I felt that there was a real danger, I would not be keeping my kids in school right now.
A laughable headline in the Fiji Sun today "There is no problem in Fiji, says tourist" did send the wrong message. Of course there's a problem in Fiji, but it's not driving and overtaking the lives of the public as far as I can tell.
Embassy warnings that scare their citizens into staying away from protests and gatherings are done more to protect those governments from being accused of not warning those citizens than anything else.
"Honey, go grab the kids and lets join that anti-government protest downtown!" is simply not the kind of phrase you'd hear an expat exclaiming anyway, even if there were such protests.
Again, I am not discounting the seriousness of what Fiji as a nation is facing right now. I'm a part of this community as is my family and I'm concerned for my friends, my colleagues, my business and everything else. It's just a real shame when the entire or partial truth can't get out there and I also recognise that it needs to run both ways too.
Fiji needs visitors now to keep the economy going. If you're planning a holiday here, please do not cancel those plans. The water, the beaches, the interior and the people haven't changed. No one visits a country for its government anyway, do they?
Let me repeat that Fiji is a safe country but it is facing a number of hurtles. When it does emerge, it will hopefully be stronger and better. That written, I would certainly like to see things move along a bit faster towards that emergence. I think most people do.