Say no to Hartals

Hartals are a common problem that is unique to Kerala.

The local name refers to a total shutdown of civic activities caused by strikes, including the halting of vehicle movements.

In past years, the state had commonly witnessed around 100 statewide hartals annually. In 2017 the number of hartals reached nearly 120 for that year.

These strikes flared up in numerous districts, taluks (an administrative division) and panchayat levels (units of local administration).

The state was in a dire position, as the monetary and other losses amounted to millions of rupees.

The fatal and non-fatal damage caused by hartals were also innumerable.

Coming to be known as the graveyard of industries, Kerala was losing crores (tens of millions) to the exchequer.

Even court interventions could not prevent the country’s biggest human rights violation caused by these hartals.

The supporters of the strikes resorted to taking the law into their own hands and many patients were reported to have lost their lives due to their late arrival to hospitals.

Though many voluntary organisations and civil right forums had campaigned against hartals for the last two decades, no change had happened because of the political patronage hartal supporters received. All most all hartals were declared by political, religious or other such organisations.

T. V. Anupama, an Indian Administrative Service officer, also spoke out against hartals. Source: Metro Vaartha Photo Library

Their substantial influence could be seen in July to August 2018, when Kerala suffered a terrible deluge.

It was the worst flood Kerala had experienced in nearly a century. Over 483 people died, and many went missing.

About a million people were evacuated. One-sixth of the total population of Kerala had been directly affected by the floods and the Union government had declared it a Level 3 Calamity.

Even though the rebuilding of the state demanded highest priority, various political parties still found a reason to paralyse reconstruction efforts by declaring Hartal based on scanty  grounds.

To counter this, Metro Vaartha, the morning Malayalam newspaper published by the Vaartha News Network Limited, decided to launch a campaign during October 2018 to fight against the Hartal menace.

The paper released a news package on hartals, comprising of stories, editorials and comments from readers and the civil society.

This led to a revolutionary turn of events.

Shop venders, industrialists and the common public jointly decided not to support the hartals from that month onward.

Even some of its supporters resisted ensuing national strikes and shared their concerns about their affected livelihoods during the days of the strike.

They demanded that leaders let them go free from the strike.

People from fields of tourism, education, transport, hotels and even auto rickshaw employees were also against the strike.

On 7th January 2019, the Kerala High Court stepped in and passed an order banning flash hartals. Source: Metro Vaartha Photo Library

However, it is still hoped that political and trade union organisations may one day display the integrity to support these people who said ‘No to Hartal’.

This is the time to recognise that, it is impossible to bear any more hartals that are totally destructive to the entire state of Kerala.

Though the authorities were silent initially, they have been forced to open their mouths. Many organisations went to court seeking a ban on hartals.

The Police Chief of the state came forth with some directives to be followed by the supporters and organisers of the hartal.

The High Court of Kerala issued a notice to the Government of Kerala asking them for reasons why it cannot be banned.

On January 2019, New Year Day, Metro Vaartha again reminded Kerala of its priorities and requested that all refrain from announcing hartals.

On 7th January 2019, the Kerala High Court stepped in and passed an order banning flash hartals.

The Court held that any group who wishes to call for a hartal should declare it seven days prior and any citizen could approach the court, challenging the hartal during this  seven-day notice period.

The order was passed by a division bench of Chief Justice Hrishikesh Roy and Justice AK Jayasankaran Nambiar on a Public Interest Litigation filed by the Kerala Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Slowly, the hartals dwindled in numbers and in March 2019, the battle against them was won as the hartals finally ceased for good.

This story is a compilation of a series of articles published by Metro Vaartha from October 20 to 26, 2018.

In 2018, Kerala faced more than a hundred hartals – strikes that put a standstill to public lives – during the last year, causing a loss of more than Rs One lakh crore (US$ 14 billion). Metro Vaartha daily successfully carried out a campaign in October 2018 to create awareness among the public about the ill-fated over flow of Hartals. A series comprising of stories, an editorial and numerous comments from readers and the civil society were published by a team of reporters from Metro Vaartha. The aim was to inform the general public and various segments of society about these unwanted strikes and their harmful and counterproductive nature. On 19 October 2018, Metro Vaartha carried a Page 1 story titled “So far 78 Hartals this Year” followed by a strong Editorial on its front page. The response from the public was overwhelming and the paper received the whole hearted support of the general public, who were initially reluctant to come forward. Apart from civic and social groups, industrialists, professionals, educational institutions, business men and local merchants came forward to speak out against the hartals. Many business organisations also declared that they would not participate in hartals and keep their establishments open during the strikes.

To politicians who only talk the talk of justice

Korean politics is one of taking sides. Let us not frame politics into simply ‘progressives and conservatives’.

We want a nation where adventurous students can grow along with model students.

Coding class is great but, instead of making it mandatory, students should be able to choose.

These days, it is widely said that people in their twenties are frustrated and angry about injustice. What do the youths think?

With the 100th anniversary of the Chosun Ilbo on March 5th 2020, six students in their twenties who participated in the Youth Future Expedition Team 100 – which sent one hundred students to countries around the world – sat down to discuss.

The Youth Future Expedition Team is now halfway through with 54 students having completed their journeys.

The six were: Hong Kyun Kim, 22, who experienced the young culture of American politics, Yoo Kyung Yang, 27, who met the Native Americans of Ecuador’s Amazon, Jung Ook Sung,27, who visited the unmanned autonomous ports in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Seung Joo Lee, 20, who explored Iceland where the government does not set minimum wage, Yoo Na Kim,21, who experienced the culture of respect towards the American soldiers, and lastlly Sun Kyo Ok, 23, who experienced Seattle’s computer education.


“In America, I met a student my age who was a member of the Democratic Party. But he had a best friend who was affiliated with the Republican Party. He says that they have become an inseparable pair since debating in middle school,” said Hong Kyun Kim.

When his group revealed their political preferences, they automatically got branded as a progressive or a conservative.

“Tactlessly bringing up a conversation about politics, you will either get an awkward silence or an angry divided crowd. As soon as those words come out of your mouth, they weave your entire life with your political ideology,” he said.

Yoo Na Kim supported this by saying, “Whether a progressive or a conservative, a person can have different opinions on different issues. I believe that it is incorrect to knock in a person’s identity by simply asking ‘Are you a Progressive?’ and automatically assuming, ‘Then you must be an activist’.”

Yoo Kyung Yang explained that she often felt that the older generation was trying to define them.

“Recently, I have come across many analysis on how people in their twenties are infuriated by the ‘unfair society’. Well… Will everything be solved as long as fairness is guaranteed?”

She continued by adding that she felt that the single word ‘fairness’ was being forced into a single frame.

“Sort of like ‘I’m following it so you should follow it too’ ? In reality, this is limiting. What kind of purpose would that serve? Politicians often speak of justice and fairness, while I want a society that guarantees diversity, creativity, and exploration,” she said.

“But since the politicians cannot ensure those values, it is like they are saying ‘let’s at least be fair’ and forcing our generation to follow that attitude.”

Seung Joo Lee agreed. She said that in today’s society, too many things are forced upon people.

She currently receives minimum wage in her part-time job. In Iceland, she added, the government does not set the minimum wage.

Instead, the companies and its workers freely and flexibly choose the wage amount.

On the other hand, the Korean government decides the minimum wage and even this becomes a political issue that creates a fissure in government between the assenting left and the dissenting right.

“And with these sort of automatic political definitions, it is difficult to have a proactive debate,” she said.


“We want the right of choice and diversity”

Sun Kyo Ok flew to Seattle, USA, to explore their coding education site first hand.

She was surprised by the amount of choice that the students there enjoyed.

“I was most envious of the fact that middle school students could choose classes that they wanted to take,” she said.

From classes on the Korean language, English, Math, Social Studies, Science, or even Music, all Korean students are required to take same classes.

Thus, when she wanted to learn coding, it was impossible.

“So, I thought… the American system that encourages each student’s passion was a big takeway. Our country has suddenly incorporated mandatory coding lessons as the importance of computers increased. I believe that giving students a choice by saying ‘you can learn coding’ versus obligating students by saying ‘you must learn coding’ is completely different.”

The youth also discussed how Korea seemed to be leading certain aspects as compared to their global counterparts. Source: Chosun Ilbo / Jongchan O

Jung Ook Sung supported her statement and said,“I think that Korea lacks diversity as much as it lacks choice. In Rotterdam, Netherlands, ports that I visited, Samsung SDS, Netherland ABN AMRO Bank, and the Rotterdam Port Administration were all working together to research a blockchain based trading platform.”

They told Ook Sung that in their country, it was commonplace to share and discuss ideas, regardless of religion, belief, race, or gender.

“I thought that our generation could differentiate ourselves from the older generation by creating a culture where we can hear out all the diverse opinions of individuals,” he said.

Whilst in a thank you letter writing campaign for American war veterans, Kim, who participated, was approached by an American student and a Chinese student who talked to her about the Korean War.

“I was surprised. It was like a Korean and a Japanese students going to the historic Seodaemun Prison (Japanese colonial authority ran this prison to jail Korean independence fighters) together. While it is important to look back and analyse the painful past, I hope my generation can get along with everyone for a brighter future,” she said.

Instead of hostility or anger, OK wanted to have more positivity and ambition.

“A peer whom I met in Seattle had a college loan and a monthly rent close to a hundred dollars. Nonetheless, he confidently said ‘I am on my way to my future and I will repay all my loans’. I envied his spirit. I dream of a day when youths can have more diverse paths,” said OK.

He hopes not only for a country made only by model students, but one that explorers can be recognised as well.


Those who have travelled abroad through participating in the Youth Future Expedition Team 100 project stated that there were certain aspects where Korea was more advanced than others.

Ms Yoo Kyung Yang who travelled to Ecuador said that “Korea seems to be ahead of the pack in terms of its dynamic driving speed to get things done”.

“This can be illustrated by the Starbucks chains in Korea. As soon as the disposable products became an issue, they quickly replaced the plastic cups and straws with more eco-friendly products. I could truly feel it amidst of the slow moving life of South America.

That there indeed are side effects to the ‘quickly, quickly’ culture in Korea, but we are very good at absorbing and applying new systems,” she said.

Mr Hong Kyun Kim who travelled to the US, stated that the young generation there envied Korea’s convenient voting system.

“If you want to vote in the US, not only is the registering process very complicated, but also the voting day is not a holiday. With this voting system in place, I felt that Korean young people should further actively voice opinions through voting.”

Mr Jung Ook Sung who travelled to the Netherlands said, “While collecting information on my exploration and getting to know the local people, I thought that with our young people’s digital abilities, they could prosper anywhere in the word.”

He continued by adding, “The Youth Future Expedition Team 100 has given me the courage to start a trading startup company with a few of my friends.”

This story by Kim Asa was originally published by The Chosun Ilboo on September 12, 2019


The Chosun-Ilbo initiated the ‘Youth Future Expedition Team 100’ project last March to provide young Korean people in their twenties with unlimited opportunities to explore all over the world while solving their curiosity and finding answers to our futures. The project aims to dispatch 100 young people, based on their proposals and plans, to all parts of the world where they believe the future is being shaped on an ongoing basis. The project is scheduled to be completed before March 2020, the Chosun-Ilbo’s 100th anniversary. The explorers will explore anywhere of 192 countries of six continents and meet whoever of 7.5 billion people on earth. The project will cover the entire world from the issue of the digital innovation led by Artificial Intelligence to African scientists studying the future of species, without limits on the regions and subjects. If you have further inquiries, please contact The website is Click here for more information: .

Inside the battle of Marawi

‘Falcon,’ a Marine sniper, recalls how his companions died as they tried to reclaim the Mapandi bridge from the Maute group – Isis-inspired terrorists – amid the five-month-long conflict in Marawi City in the southern Philippines that started May 2017.

Just a few hours past midnight, when the Marine troops tried to advance from the bridge toward a street surrounded by buildings, terrorists unleashed a storm of heavy gunfire, grenades and molotov cocktails. The firefight lasted 14 hours.

Despite the difficulty of getting through an area of terrorist-infested buildings, the valiant troops did not give up. Instead, they tried to enter the Mapandi area through a much farther bridge.

The Marines were eventually able to retake the bridge in at least two months, a turning point in the war that allowed the military to bring in more troops and supplies to the main battle area.

The bridge also became a key route used to transport rescued civilians and wounded soldiers, said Army Colonel Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of Task Force Marawi.

The experience made Falcon and Brawner realise the difficulties of urban warfare. The sniper added that most Marines were trained for thick jungle battles but not for fighting in cities.


The sound of bombs raining and flattening Marawi impaired the hearing of 78-year-old ‘Nanay Linda,’ who spent the whole five months in the hands of the terrorists.

Nanay Linda, a retired health worker, was among the hostages taken at nightfall on May 23.

That night, Nanay Linda recalled, they were taken in a van with teachers abducted from Dansalan College.

The reconstruction of the 24 most affected villages inside the 250-hectare land that used to be the main battle area would require an estimated P48 billion (US$927.2 million).

Nanay Linda said there were times Omar Maute, a terrorist leader, visited the building where they were held captive. An alumnus of Dansalan College, Maute would always talk to his former school principal about the good old days.

Maute assured the captives they would not be killed since they only wanted the military to withdraw its forces, Nanay Linda recounted.

What stuck with Nanay Linda from the conflict was the relentless bombing that led to flattened buildings and dead bodies.

“It was always raining bombs until almost all of the structures there were flattened,” she said.

For months, Nanay Linda and her fellow captives ran from building to building to avoid the bombs, while praying to the heavens that they would not be hit.

Until one day, no bombs fell from the sky.


Three weeks before the military announced the end of combat operations, the hopes of Nanay Linda and the rest of the captives lifted as a drone arrived. By then, the captors let their guard down as supplies were depleted and fatigue set in.

With a lipstick, one of the captives scribbled the word “help” on a cloth, hoping the drone would heed their call. And through the drone, the military handed them a phone, with an escape plan the captives pursued by dawn.

The captives ran until they were able to board a military safe vehicle, and were later brought to a safe house, staying there for eight days before they were allowed to go home.

However, much of the town was already flattened by the bombing, with many losing their homes in the process.

Townsfolk, like ‘barangay’ – meaning village – chief Bashir Manri, looked heartbroken as he stood atop what that used to be a lively park in the city’s centre, looking for this house.

“I looked for my home first. But I couldn’t even recognise our place because of the damage. I can no longer recognise home,” he said.


Even the powerful clans in Marawi were not spared by the destruction.

Provincial government official Zia Alonto Adiong broke down in tears when he saw the devastation that turned their ancestral house into a pile of broken stones and twisted steel.

Adiong’s grandfather, the late senator Domacao Alonto, began to build the house in Panganuran village in the 1950s. Their residence was treated as an open house, as Maranaos freely entered the compound on many occasions.

He said the family has yet to discuss how to rebuild their ancestral house. He has proposed retaining a portion of the ruins as a marker for people to see, a reminder to the next generation of the destructive power of hatred.

Simultaneous calls for prayer from towering minarets scattered throughout central Marawi used to wake up Maranaos from their lakeside slumber before daybreak. But the war silenced these Islamic beacons of peace as the nightmare of destruction befell the town area.

Out of at least 56 mosques or masjids — big and small alike — in the 24 villages in the main battle area, 48 were wrecked and would need to be built from scratch, according to the United Imam of the Philippines. Most of the destroyed mosques were the big ones, including the landmark Islamic Center.

Wider roads, a modern business district, riverside parks, and promenades are just some of the improvements expected to rise from the ashes of war in Marawi City. And what the battle destroyed in five bloody months, the government promises to rebuild in 4 years at most.

The reconstruction of the 24 most affected villages inside the 250-hectare land that used to be the main battle area would require an estimated P48 billion (US$927.2 million).

“It was always raining bombs until almost all of the structures there were flattened,”

How locals and the national government view reconstruction work may even lead to a worse problem – radicalism – said researcher Steven Rood, a former University of the Philippines professor from the northern Philippines who has done studies on the Moro conflict both for the Social Weather Stations and the Asia Foundation.

While the government’s plan tries to paint a beautiful and modern picture of a reconstructed Marawi in three more years, the Maranaos have a simpler vision—good ol’ home. As the Maranao saying goes: “Minsanoray bolawan a oran ko isa ka inged na mapangingiroy tadn i tarintik sangganatan.”

Roughly translated in English, it means: “Even if gold rains in other places, I will prefer the raindrops in Lanao.”

This story by Patrick Quintos was originally published on ABS-CBN News on March 13, 2018.

Written by Patrick Quintos, the story was part of a 9-part special report that won the 2018 Association of International Broadcasting (AIB) Awards in the interactive category and an Honourable Mention in Journalistic Innovation at the Society of Publishers in Asia’s (SOPA) 2019 Awards for Editorial Excellence. It recounts the five month siege on Marawi City staged by Islamic State sympathisers in 2017 through the perspectives of the people affected by it. Before this story, readers have never had a view of how widespread the destruction was except for news footage shown on television. The multimedia story was presented on a map with several aerial shots of Marawi, which gave readers a survey of its total annihilation. It was developed for the web by Regie Francisco and published on the ABS-CBN News Digital website, featuring photos from Jonathan Cellona and Fernando Sepe Jr and drone videos from Val Cuenca. With the city holding the families’ stories and their culture’s legacies in shambles, residents of Marawi fear that the situation will unravel into more conflict if the government failed to provide answers about its destruction. This story is both an attempt to acknowledge that fear, and to honour the people who struggled to stay alive as well as the memory of those who perished.

Probing Modi’s decision to buy 36 Rafales at a higher price

In April 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the purchase of 36 Rafale off-the-shelf aircraft jets from France as part of a inter-governmental defence agreement.

This decision turned out to be controversial as the Indian Air Force had sought 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft for its strategic needs.

Previously the Rafale aircraft was chosen among shortlisted candidates by the Indian Air Force and an agreement was being worked on for the sale of 126 aircraft (108 to be built by India’s HAL and 18 to be bought directly from France).

Modi’s announcement in April 2015, which led to the deal, changed the contours of the earlier proposed agreement and resulted in a political controversy over whether the new deal was more costlier than what was being agreed upon.

The six-part series by N.Ram published in The Hindu between January and April 2019 is a comprehensive look at various aspects of the controversial fighter aircraft purchase deal between the Indian and French governments.

The article focuses on a series of issues related to costing of the aircraft, procurement process, offset agreements among others, based on official and sourced documents.

Throughout the life cycle of the deal and beyond, the political opposition in India had raised questions about aspects of the deal which had led to parliamentary discussions on the issue. Several aspects of the deal were however either not revealed or not clarified by the government.

Each article by N Ram broke down arguments over whether the deal had secured the best interest in terms of cost and future strategic interests besides focusing on whether well laid out guidelines on defence procurement procedures were met. It also brought to light the dissenting positions of defence officials who found fault with some aspects of the deal.

The investigative stories by N Ram explained these aspects in a clear and detailed manner that allowed readers to understand the complexity of the procurement process, and to make informed assessments of whether the deal fit the guidelines that were set for defence purchases in India.

The articles were accompanied by detailed documentation and graphical information on overall and component costs, comparison between projected aligned costs and final offer; notes by defence officials with their positions on aspects relating to the deal and a concise break-down of this information.

Areas related to self-reliance in defence production, strategic affairs, procedures in public finance were covered extensively in order to bring out these articles that added substantially to public discourse. While some of the revelations in the series of articles were already published by other outlets, the distinguishing factor was the comprehensive and thorough look at various ends of the deal helping the readers to be better informed.

The full article package is hosted here.

This story is a compilation of a series of articles by Narasimhan Ram published by The Hindu from Jan 18 to April 9.

Taxes and more taxes: what to expect from NHI

A sneak peek at the National Health Insurance Bill shows the government is planning a single national pricing regimen and a surcharge on personal income tax, as well as an employer tax, and a minor role for medical aids.

The target date for full implementation is 2026.

The 88-page bill, which Times Select has seen before its public release on the morning of Aug 8, is now destined for heated debate in the National Assembly.

Past draft bills sparked vigorous debate, with the government claiming private medical schemes were its staunchest opposition. This bill provides more details than the proposed bill released in 2018.

In its preamble, the bill says it is targeted at addressing social-economic inequality and wants to “improve the quality of life of all citizens and to free the potential of each person”.

To make this a reality the government is proposing to establish and maintain a National Health Insurance Fund financed through “mandatory prepayment” that aims to achieve sustainable and universal access to quality healthcare services.

According to the bill, this fund will serve as the single purchaser of all healthcare services – pooling finances and strategically buying healthcare services, medicine and products from accredited service providers.

But where will the money come from?

The fund’s chief source of income will be appropriated from money collected from general tax revenue, including centralising money, now allocated to provincial health departments.

Doctors and hospitals will have to adhere to certain treatment protocols and guidelines determined by the minister and fund, and will prescribe medicine and health products from a “formulary” or a list provided by the government.

Income will also be derived from a payroll tax and a surcharge on personal income tax.

Medical scheme tax credits currently paid to medical aid members in the form of a tax deduction will also be reallocated into the NHI.


The first notable change for many South Africans pertains to the current referral system. Patients will now be made to first access healthcare services at primary healthcare level (a general practitioner or nurse) and will only see a specialist if referred.

Inside a hospital ward in South Africa. Source: Gallo Images/City Press/Muntu Vilakazi

Second, academic hospitals such as Cape Town’s Groote Schuur, Durban’s Albert Luthuli and Johannesburg’s Chris

Hani Baragwanath will be run by the national government instead of provincial health departments.

Their administration, management, budgeting and governance will be “made a competence” of national government.

Healthcare service providers, establishments and suppliers will have to be properly accredited and meet high standards before they are reimbursed for their work, and in the case of specialist services payments will be based on performance.

Emergency medical services will be reimbursed on a “capped case-based fee” basis with adjustments made for case severity where necessary.

All patient information, including fingerprints and residential addresses, will be recorded on a single database, the National Health Information System.


Doctors and hospitals will have to adhere to certain treatment protocols and guidelines determined by the minister and fund, and will prescribe medicine and health products from a “formulary” or a list provided by the government.

All medical professionals will have to adhere to a single national pricing regimen.

The minister has been empowered by the bill to make regulations that payments are conditional to meeting quality standards of care, “or the achievement of specified levels of performance”.

The minister can also determine how an individual health worker will be paid.

Private medical aids

The NHI Bill makes a one-sentence mention of the role of private medical schemes. It says that once it is fully implemented medical schemes may only offer complementary cover for services not reimbursable by the NHI Fund.

The target date for full implementation is 2026.

Asylum seekers and what the bill describes as “illegal migrants” will only be entitled to emergency medical services and “services for notifiable conditions of public health concern” (contagious diseases).


NHI will be implemented over three phases, according to the bill.

The first, which sought to pilot “health system strengthening activities”, supposedly took place between 2012 and 2017.

The second phase, scheduled from 2017 to 2022, seeks to continue these undefined health system strengthening activities; develop NHI legislation and amendments to other legislative documents; establish institutions that will act as the foundation for a fully functional NHI Fund; and purchase personal healthcare services for vulnerable groups.

The third phase is scheduled for between 2022 and 2026, during which the establishment and operationalisation of the fund as a purchaser of healthcare services must be completed.

The article by Katharine Child was first published by Tiso Blackstar on Aug 8.

With an aim to provide universal healthcare and increase taxes, there was extreme national interest in the future of the National Health Insurance (NHI) bill as it affected every South African. This was the first time the bill, which had been planned for years, was making it close to becoming law and ending years of mystery. Coverage by Times Select and TimesLIVE began in July, when it was clear it had been approved by senior members of the government. Hours before the proposed law was even released at midday on Aug 8, a team of reporters from Times Select, Tiso Black Star broke down the implications of the bill at 5am on the same day. With the help of political reporter Amil Umraw, Times Select scored a copy of the country’s new draft NHI plan from a senior trustworthy source the day before it was made public. The team then deciphered 88 pages of jargon and published the story with clear explanations of what was to come for readers from a middle class background. It suggested that health insurance would end as the middle class know it, leaving unanswered questions regarding their access to healthcare. Some of the flaws raised by the report include how it was unclear that bureaucracy will fix the health system as well as the lack of evidence that the ideas suggested were viable. Times Select was the first news website to lay out the government’s plan, which was widely condemned by economists and health experts as being unimplementable, poorly thought out and not designed to fix the broken state health system. In the follow-ups published on Times Select and TimesLIVE, the papers wrote about loopholes and a lack of clarity in the bill, which the department of health never addressed. The team also interviewed the man in charge of the office meant to deliver NHI to give readers real information – continually.

Malaysia one year after Pakatan Harapan rule

I risk being labelled as a Pakatan Harapan apologist but I’ll say it as it is anyway.

Under the Pakatan Harapan rule, the media in Malaysia is enjoying freedom as never before and that’s a fact.

I agree with a Malay Mail Online report published in May which said that after a year of Pakatan Harapan rule, the

Malaysian media is going through some positive developments as the new government repealed or set aside many of the archaic laws seen stifling press freedom in the country.

Since Pakatan Harapan took over Putrajaya, said the report, Malaysia has jumped up 22 notches in the World Press

Freedom index and has been ranked 123 out of 180 countries listed in the index.

This is based on figures obtained in May of this year.

Nothing great you might say ? Or just a small achievement? Maybe.

But it is still a big deal considering how the media in Malaysia has never been free before and was always suppressed.

As the Malay Mail Online sees it, the Malaysian media could heave a breath of relief as the mainstream media no longer has to wait for instructions of “wahyu” from Putrajaya to conform with the political narratives of the day.

Content presentation and headlining are becoming more sensational too, in a bid to capture the attention of a new generation of readers.

In July 1961, the Umno leadership sent a party strongman from Terengganu to meet Utusan Melayu editor, Said Zahari, to demand Utusan submit to its four pronged “surrender terms.”

Utusan Melayu was previously an independent newspaper which Umno wanted to control. But Said – or Pak Said as he was fondly known – together with his journalists wanted to ensure Utusan Melayu continued to be an independent national newspaper, uncontrolled by a political party.

Pak Said, who I regard as one of the best journalist in the world, had always felt that only with a free policy could Utusan Melayu “ be the voice of the people, fighting for the interest of the people with sincerity integrity and courage.”

But Umno wanted Utusan Melayu to be different. It wanted Utusan Melayu to belong to Umno and to serve it only.

Hence on July 21 1961, Pak Said led his journalists and other workers of the newspaper to launch the famous “Mogok Utusan Melayu “or Utusan Melayu strike.

Sadly the strike failed and lasted 90 days . Umno had won.

Malaysia’s media landscape could have been different had the strike was successful.

But with Umno’s victory, Utusan Melayu was never the same again. True, the company grew to be Kumpulan Utusan Melayu and boasted an array of publications like Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo!

But it became subservient to Umno – serving the party’s needs and demands .

However, I see Umno’s victory in taking over control of Utusan as somehow paving the way for other political parties to wrest control of other newspapers.

Like MCA and The Star and MIC controlling the now defunct Tamil Nesan newspaper. Just to name two. Naturally there are others.

The nation’s media outlets would be free of political party control had the Utusan strike succeeded in stopping Umno back in 1961.

Many – including journalists – had expected Pakatan Harapan to intervene by sending “its own people” or editors perceived to be pro -Pakatan Harapan to the media organisations to introduce Pakatan Harapan friendly editorial policies .

But, all that did not happen.

The editors who were running the show left on their own accord or upon advise of their own board of directors.

The Pakatan Harapan government did not meddle into affairs of the media.

For one it would have involved them buying shares from their political rivals and proxies; something the Pakatan Harapan did not want to do, obviously.

The other factor that held it back, was its promise to be committed in ensuring a free press.

Paris based organisation Reporters without Borders acknowledged press freedom received a breath of fresh air in

Malaysia after Barisan Nasional lost the general election in May last year.

It noted journalists and media outlets that were previously blacklisted were today able to work without fear of harassment.

As the Malay Mail Online sees it, the Malaysian media could heave a breath of relief as the mainstream media no longer has to wait for instructions of “wahyu” from Putrajaya to conform with the political narratives of the day.

For online news portals like Malaysiakini and The Malaysian Insight, the positive developments unfortunately have “little” effect on them.

This is not to say they are not appreciative of the freedom they are given but even in the Barisan Nasional (BN) days of media shackling, these portals have always toed the line.

A long time media watcher agreed that news portals are continuing to report as if in the BN government era but “ they seem to be more for ‘sexy’ news of daily going-ons instead of incisive reporting”.

It’s the so called conventional media that is “enjoying” this new found freedom. At least they ought to be.

Under the Pakatan Harapan rule, the media in Malaysia is enjoying freedom as never before and that’s a fact.

After all, they now can report on both sides of the divide. But admittedly they tend to be “cautious” or impose self censorship with regards to so called negative stories about the current government.

At times, these portals even indulge in “apple polishing” Putrajaya as well
like in the “good old days of (the) BN”.

But as pointed out by a journalist friend – who do you blame for this ?

It is worth noting that the mainstream media, owned by parties linked to the opposition are still “at it” – serving the interests and pushing the agenda of their owners or should I say “political masters”?

Furthermore, they get away without being apprehended.

Whatever the agenda, mainstream media – according to the media watcher – is “struggling to stay afloat and trying to avoid the fate of Utusan.”

News publishers continue to lose readers who used to pay to read news in print but now prefer to access news for free online.

However, some online portals are already charging for content while some are contemplating putting up paywalls.

Obviously financing is a very big element but as Malaysiakini rightly puts it, “ independent media cannot survive without independent financing”.

Just how can the media get independent financing ?

While they grapple with that complex task, the media watcher advises media outlets “to buck up and connect with the people.”

If they fail to do so, they might eventually “go the Utusan way.”

That in a nutshell are the two big challenges faced by the media today in the midst of more pressfreedom .

Oh yes don’t forget, there’s always social media where everybody seems to be a journalist.

Not to mention fake news which unfortunately many love to swap for real news.

But I believe that real media will eventually prevail.

The article by Mohsin Abdullah will be published on Sin Chew Daily on Sep 28. Mohsin Abdullad is a Malaysian veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.

An armed scam to jeopardise the elderly

Protected by the low supervision capacities of the National Social Security Institute (INSS), financial institutions make new victims every day.

Retirees in Brazil are suffering monthly unauthorised discounts that appear in their paychecks as insurances that they had never hired.

Two of the main beneficiaries of the allowances on salaries are the Sabemi Group, which operates in the insurance business and payroll loans and is headquartered in Porto Alegre, and the National Retirees and Pensioners Central (Centrape).

Both institutions are a target for at least 1,100 complaints on the Reclame Aqui website for improper charges.
The Federal Police opened an inquiry in April to investigate these irregularities. The Superintendence of Private Insurance (Susep) reported that it is in the second inspection process against Sabemi.

The first was in 2017 and resulted in fines. The most recent, from 2018, is at its final phase and could lead to the suspension of product operation.

Celi Scursel, 71 , is one of the victims. A resident at the Vila Nova neighbourhood, in Porto Alegre, the INSS retiree found out that she was linked to Centrape when the institution had already made 16 withholdings in her salary from February 2018 to May 2019, the period during which they took R$612 (US$149.96) from her. The instalments started at R$30 (US$7.35) and now are at R$52 (US$12.74).

“I never signed an insurance contract, I didn’t authorise anything at all. I don’t know how they got my data, but I will fight for compensation”says Celi, who moonlights as an elderly caregiver to supplement her monthly income.

For weeks, the RBS Investigation Group (GDI) infiltrated six WhatsApp groups composed of financial brokers and gained access to representatives, account executives and Sabemi software where the insurance proposals are registered.

Soon, it was possible to prove that part of the products supposedly hired by retirees was rigged by forging their signatures.

In the business, the blow is called an auto-pilot, which consists of using documentation of files to insert the insurance collection in people’s accounts. The report was also presented on Sep 15, 2018 at Fantástico, on RBS TV.

Retired farmer Alvaro Machado Noveli, 77 years old, was also a victim of signature forgery.

“I still don’t know what Centrape is,” said Alvaro Machado Noveli, 77. Source: Ronaldo Bernardi Agencia RBS 77

For about one year, the resident of Rincão do Cristovão Pereira, who receives a minimum wage from INSS, had discounted monthly payments of R$ 18.74 which went to Centrape. The discovery only was made because Noveli’s stepson once needed to take the paychecks to the bank.

To this day I don’t know what Centrape is, said Noveli.

He filed a lawsuit to recover the discounted values and claim moral damage. In this case, Centrape defended itself by presenting the associate’s form of adhesion, with the supposed signature by Noveli. The judge was asked for graphoscope expertise.

The report was emphatic in stating that the signature was false. The real one is shaky, while the document from Centrape featured lettering that was rounded and cursive.

“The alleged signature inserted in the document which led to discounts in favour of defendant was falsified. (…)

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to see, nowadays, gangs specialising in jeopardising naive people of low income by using expedients as the designed in the present case”, has stated, during trial, Judge Rogério Kotlinsky Renner.

The lawsuit has already been appealed in the second instance and Centrape’s condemnation and the indemnity to Noveli have been maintained.


In the rest of the country, there are similar cases against Centrape and Sabemi, brought by retirees who claim to have never authorised discounts.

In Campo Grande (MS), Ilto Rosa Delgado, 69 years old, is trying to recover R$525 which Centrape withheld from his salary. At the request of the report, graphoscope and document scope expert João Henrique Saibel Rodrigues analysed Delgado’s alleged signature in a membership proposal:

Celi , who suffered 16 retentions on her salary totaling R$612, has been trying to claim her these benefits.

“It’s a crudely forged signature, which used a model not in use by the person anymore, probably from some old document.”

There are cases in which it takes time for the elderly to realise the monthly retention and, when that happens, they are directed to call centre units. Meanwhile, agents, representatives, and companies accumulate resources.
Both Sabemi and Centrape said they do not condone any kind of fraud.


Insurances for retirees, in this specific case, are payroll loan ramifications, in which the payment parcels are withheld on the paycheck. Finance companies hold large document file volumes accumulated over years of lending, plus other data banks, which are sold in brokers’ WhatsApp groups.

The portfolios include personal information and copies of the general register (RG) or the National Driver’s License (CNH). With this set, representatives who adhered to the practices make retirees’ data entry in banking software in the so-called autopilot (use of documents from files to include the insurance billing in the account without the person knowing).

Then comes the most important step: the so-called formalisation, at which time the signature is falsified. The systems of the institutions are partnered with major banks or directly with the INSS, which allows them to transmit electronically the fraudulent insurance membership. After receiving the data, the INSS digitally stamps the monthly discount on the paycheck of the retiree.

The step-by-step instructions were taught and narrated to the reporting team by several artificers of this business.

One of them is Alessy de Almeida Cardoso, owner of Alupe Promotora, in Teresina (PI). Using staff skilled in signature forgery, Alessy’s company makes insurance for retirees on autopilot.

While in contact with the reporting team, who posed as potential clients, Alessy used Armais Promotora, his brother Rodrigo Silva Cardoso’s company, to register a GDI reporter as an agent, with authorisation to log in and use the password to access Sabemi’s system, where elderly data is included to forge product hiring. Armais is Sabemi’s representative in the Northeast. In the conversation, Alessy explained the reason for betting on insurance:

“The payroll is a little tricky, sometimes you earn and sometimes you lose. There’s contestation, there’s fraud. Today, I focus more on insurance. It’s profitable, it will give you security. By the end of the year, if you have a client portfolio of R$20,000 per month, you will stay at home just lying down, you won’t need to sell anymore.”


The advantage of insurance is that, once included in the pensioner’s paycheck, it will generate commission payment to the agent, to the representative accredited and to the bank every month.

This will only stop when those jeopardised get rid of the charge or when they die. Therefore, the insurance portfolios are cumulative and generate perennial money.

“What if you have any problems? It won’t come to anything. From the moment someone gives a complaint, Sabemi has a retention table, a call centre that will show the benefits (of insurance, such as prize draws and discounts at pharmacies).

From every 10 calls they receive there, only one cancels. I’m typing out one thing without the consent of the customer, but Sabemi says the responsibility is theirs,” narrated Alessy de Almeida Cardoso, owner of Alupe Promotora, in Teresina, Piauí.

“I, as an executive, can never endorse it. But that it makes money, it does. And a lot. Some people earn R$300,000 per month. Has anyone been arrested? Never,”

Over the phone, he introduced an employee from Alupe named Caio, responsible for teaching typing shortcuts and falsification.

The employee demonstrated over Whatsapp how a forged signature could be covered up with the help of a light bulb.


Sabemi Seguradora’s strategy, as revealed by their account executives and representatives, includes the presentation of supposed advantages guaranteed to retirees who discover they have become partners of the Brazilian National Retirees and Pensioners Central (Centrape).

The RBS Investigation Group (GDI) found that part of the alleged benefits, highlighted in Centrape advertisement and by Sabemi employees are difficult to access and are targeted for cancellations, such as the monthly draw of R$20,000 in the title of capitalisation and the drugstore discount.

Celi , who suffered 16 retentions on her salary totaling R$612, has been trying to claim her these benefits.

In one of several different incidents, the 71-year-old INSS retiree tried to use the benefit of technical assistance to fix her fridge. She was then told that the cost of the parts would be borne by the retiree. However, the technician that was scheduled to visit her house never showed up.


January 2018 audio recordings by a former employee from the Pampa Insurance Club, in downtown Porto Alegre, reinforce the evidence that Centrape is a Sabemi product.

Two conversations were captured at meetings of supervisors of the Pampa Club with staff responsible for insurance typing. At that time, the Pampa Club was Sabemi’s representative in Rio Grande do Sul, with 65,000 completed sales, according to information provided by supervisors during the meeting.

A Sabemi envoy was also present in the discussion, in which Pampa Club staff were ordered to overlook forgery of signatures, which were generating many “refusals”, occasions in which the business is stalled by technical problems.

“First of all, guys, the number of declines. We have to take our foot off the brake. Let’s be honest, we work with a photocopy machine. There is a lot that we accept, and we know that it is not really the customer. But it is our reality. Nobody here is a child,” said the then supervisor of Pampa Club identified as Marcia Cristina.

In a note, Sabemi reported that it promoted the discrediting of Pampa Club.


The reporting team contacted a Sabemi’s account executive and went to the headquarters of Sabemi financial institution in the historic centre of Porto Alegre, for an alleged business meeting. In the conversation, the official said that, currently, insurance accounts represent 70 per cent of the company revenue. Not knowing he was being recorded, the executive confirmed the existence of fraud.

The team also spoke to a Sabemi account executive located in the São Paulo countryside – the institution currently has 38 branches in 23 states. The scams would run trivially in the market, so she knew how to detail even the salaries of some representatives.

“I, as an executive, can never endorse it. But that it makes money, it does. And a lot. Some people earn R$300,000 per month. Has anyone been arrested? Never,” said the executive.


The impact of the report was seismic. Sabemi Insurance announced that it would return the money to the elders who were jeopardised.

It also said they would cease to operate in the field of associative insurance, the mode in which fraud occurred. Centrape, Sabemi’s business partner, also announced that it would end their search for associates.

The INSS suspended transfers of discounted amounts from senior paychecks to Centrape as membership fees. Due to the fraud, the INSS understood that Centrape should no longer be remunerated.

Procon-RS and the Public Defender’s Office opened special committees to check if Sabemi would properly compensate the jeopardised elderly.

The Superintendence of Private Insurance (Susep) suspended for 30 days the financial assistance operations of Sabemi, a byproduct of insurance. Susep has opened a new administrative investigation to investigate Sabemi’s conduct.

This story by Carlos Rollsing, Jonas Campos and Aline Rodrigues was originally published on Sep 16, 2018 by Zero Hora.

To investigate payroll insurance and payroll loans, Zero Hora reporter Carlos Rollsing, in a partnership with RBS TV’s Jonas Campos, spoke to victims and infiltrated scammers’ WhatsApp groups. It took around 50 days’ worth of research. From the telephone contacts, the reporting team approached bank correspondents and insurance representatives from around the country who specialised in gathering retiree documents and falsifying their signatures to divert a part of their paycheck to the National Retirees and Pensioners Central (Centrape). The elderly victims had no idea what Centrape was, but, every month, they were unwittingly enriching these professional scammers.

Strangers in their own town

At the age of 55, Piak feels as if he is a stranger in Bangkok.

He sleeps in Lumpini Park and calls the public park “home”. However, people in his “home” do not want to know him.

Before he lost his job and needed to move out of his rental accommodation, he had been working as a vendor in Bangkok’s central business area.

“I always feel as if people look through me, hardly see me exist at all. Despite the fact we share the same space, we are of different social ranks,” said Mr Piak.

Piak is one of about 90 people whom Lumpini park officials and park-goers mockingly refer to as “Lumpini Park residents”.

The park is well-known to those who love outdoor exercise and enjoy brisk walks and fresh air.

It is located on prime space, the central business area, and is surrounded by a major hospital, universities, schools, shopping complexes and swanky condominiums.

Lumpini Park’s “residents” have become a headache for the Social Development and Welfare Department (SDWD), under the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security.

The government has recently issued an order to clear the homeless from the park.

Napha Setthakon, head of the SDWD, told the Bangkok Post that the department is preparing to relocate the homeless people to a “real home”in a state-run temporary shelter.

“I don’t have enough money to rent a room. It’s all spent on food and travel expenses,”

Opponents, including university scholars, are demanding a better solution than just a change of sleeping venue.

Piak wants the government to review the plan.

“If birds and hia [water monitors] are allowed to live in the park, I should have the same right as a Thai citizen with an ID card,” Mr Piak said.

Mr Piak left his home upcountry and moved to work in Bangkok when he was 14, and claims he spends four or five days a week sleeping at the park because he wants to save money.

He is currently earning some money – 300 baht a day – selling clothes in the Sukhumvit area.

He does not want to rent and send all of his earnings back to his family upcountry. “I have to save some (money) to help support my family,” Piak said.

All of his savings go to his two daughters and their children who are studying.

Other so-called “Lumpini Park residents” also have their own reasons for being there.

Chai, an ex-worker in Bangkok who has moved to Chiang Rai, said he still needs to visit and stay in the city for days at a time because he is a patient at King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital, which is just opposite Lumpini Park.

His illness requires frequent appointments with his doctors. Because his medical welfare under the Social Security Fund has not yet been transferred to the hospital of his choice in Chiang Rai, he is taking shelter at the park during treatment.

“I don’t have enough money to rent a room. It’s all spent on food and travel expenses,” Chai said.

A 60-year-old woman who asked not to be named said she regularly comes to the park to take a nap during the day time. She goes along with her family, bringing a nephew to meet a doctor at King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital.

“So I do not mean to stay overnight at the park but only wanted to relax and take a nap while waiting for them to finish. But after a short sleep, I was suddenly woken up by officials who said the law prohibits sleeping in the park,” she said.

“I bet if foreigners or some wealthy-looking park-goers rolled out mats and fell asleep, nobody would wake them up,” she said.

Academic experts said the government’s handling of homeless people is prejudiced.

Bunloet Wisetpricha, a researcher with Thammasat University’s Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, said officials should be trained to deal with people using public space because some of their antics such as waking people napping on benches or asking people with destitute looks to move on displays bias.

“Low-income earners should enjoy the same right to relax and even lie on the lawn for a short sleep after working hard during the day,” he said, warning that officials should “not worsen their problems and close off their opportunities.”

The SDWD insisted it wants to help those 40 homeless people and 55 others who are using Lumpini Park for eating, bathing and taking naps.

“If birds and hia [water monitors] are allowed to live in the park, I should have the same right as a Thai citizen with an ID card,”

This group at Lumpini Park is among 897 people defined as “Wanderers of Bangkok”, according to a department survey this month.

Its latest effort to bring them to the state shelter came after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha visited the park early this month.

Park-goers gave him an earful of complaints during his visit about homeless people.

“Some view these (homeless) people as a disturbance while other visitors are worried about their safety,” Napha said.

“Over 50% of homeless people suffer from mental illness,”added Naphna. “These people would be sent to a state shelter in the Huay Kwang area of Bangkok”.

“The department will not only give them a place to live, but it also helps them reunite with their families and give medical treatment to those in need,” she said.

Mr Bunloet, known as an expert on the homeless issue, said the measures to return these homeless to their families or provide them shelter and welfare are acceptable.

“The social ministry needs to join forces with civic groups, especially City Hall and district officials and social workers to ensure long-term results,” he said.

Among the challenges is resistance from the targeted group.

“Homeless people usually oppose relocation to places far from areas they are familiar with,” he said.

The government needs to find the “right place” for shelters and make sure they are well-run and habitable.

Mr Bunloet said the first thing the government can do is to change the language it deploys. He warned officials not to use words such as “regulate”.

“It sounds like these people are linked with something untidy… something we need to get rid of, rather than help,” he said.

This story by Penchan Charoensuthipan was first published by The Bangkok Post on October 28, 2018.


In late 2017, the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security issued an order to clear a number of homeless from Lumpini Park who slept at the park and took baths at the park’s toilets. The ministry pledged to relocate them to a new home at a state-run temporary shelter. After the ministry’s order was announced, The Bangkok Post decided to investigate further on the situation of the homeless of Lumpini Park and allow readers to understand their plight in the capital. The paper aimed to examine the ministry’s actions to tackle the problems as well as give a voice to the voiceless. After the story was published, the ministry’s attempts to relocate the homeless to the shelter was monitored closely and a survey of the homeless who remained in the park was taken. Whilst some had decided to stay at the temporary shelters, a majority opted to stay and spend their life at the park despite having to escape the authorities.

No paid time off for 8 years

Is Taiwan ready for bilingual education? In light of the government’s new policy goal, many foreigners living in Taiwan have expressed concerns regarding the protection of their labour rights.

The government aims to turn Taiwan into a bilingual nation over the next ten years by attracting foreign teachers from across the Asia Pacific region.

Many cram schools, however, use “deceiving contracts” to deny foreigners rights for paid time off on weekends and national holidays. They also deny them any annual leave by forcing to sign for part-time jobs. This is the fallacy of Taiwan’s much-touted bilingual education and the “international perspective” local educators work so hard to foster.Dave Patrick, a Canadian English teacher based in Taipei, told The China Post how he is taking his former employer to court for allegedly denying any paid time off for the past eight years.

The teacher claims that Eagle American Institute used “deceiving contracts” to deny his rights for paid time off on a national holiday and annual leave, according to legal documents provided to The China Post.

The contracts would mislead many foreigners to the responsibilities of a “full-time” contract in which the school’s duties would be limited to those of a “part-time” agreement, Patrick said.

The Canadian English teacher told The China Post how he is taking his former employer to court for allegedly denying any paid time off for the past 8 years. Source: Courtesy of Dave Patrick

According to the Ministry of Labor, Taiwan workers are entitled to seven days of annual leave after one year of work and 10 days after three years of employment.

Patrick reportedly asked the school for the overdue payments of the national holidays and annual leaves, but his actions were met with failure, frustration and “negative remarks,” bringing the purportedly friendly working environment of Taiwan into question .

After consulting Taiwan Legal Aid Foundation and the Department of Labor at Taipei City Hall, Patrick accused the school of hiring “part-time” teachers to do “full-time jobs” with the aim of “denying their rights for fair paid time off.”

Like most foreign nationals confronted with legal woes, however, Patrick said he found himself struggling in the process for too long while the school not only hurled abuse at the “non-salaried employee” but also denied his payments.

According to Patrick, his employer has repeatedly failed to “notify part-time workers of their rights” and even “turned a blind eye even after the Department of Labor issued administrative fines to the school.” Such reckless actions are behind his decision to take his former employer to court, he said.

Source: Courtesy of Dave Patrick

Patrick added that foreign teachers should be better aware of their labor rights. “Many fellow coworkers are in the same situation,” he said, adding that this could be a widespread issue in Taiwan.

This recent case is indeed far from an isolated one; it casts a spotlight on the inconsistencies between government policies, foreign culture, and public expectations.

According to various reports, Taiwan is at a critical time to shape the future of its human capital through education.

Many believe, however, that fostering bilingual education requires more than a top-down approach.

Authorities should put more emphasis on changing attitudes towards English learning in order to build a friendly working environment for foreign teachers.

This story by Jay Cho and Dimitri Bruyas was originally published on The China Post on April 13, 2019.

Written in both English and Chinese, journalists Jay Cho and Dimitri Bruyas teamed up to inform Taiwan and its foreign residents about the alleged labour and tax abuses in English schools. The teacher, Dave Patrick, contacted Dimitri directly on Facebook through a special section in The China Post related to the foreign community in Taiwan. Since the publication of this story, Dave has won his case against the school, which paid him an undisclosed amount to quickly settle the issue. Many messages left on The China Post’s Facebook page show that his experience is not unusual. His successful claim has helped set a precedent for other teachers experiencing the same exploitative situation of being hired on part-time contract despite performing full-time work. In a bid to prevent further cases, Patrick has filed complaints at Taipei’s Labour Department and National Tax Office to ensure that the authorities will continue their inquiry into alleged labour and taxes abuses at other branches of the English cram school despite his financial settlement. The inquiry is ongoing.

September 23, don’t fear

Sometimes we cannot blame people when they react to social media posts on instability and unrest.

A post that was circulated online and generated by a Fijian who lives in Australia, caused quite a frenzy amongst Fijians.

The instigator plucked the date, September 23, from thin air and sent out a message declaring that there would be unrest on that day.

Thankfully, on 18 September, The Republic of Fiji Military Forces Land Force Commander (LFC) Colonel Manoa Gadai quashed the overseas-generated rumour that unrest would occur.

“Everything will be normal and people will enjoy whatever they will do on that day because their security and safety are in good hands,” he said.

Colonel Gadai made this comment after it was reported that some people were stocking up their supplies in case unrest would occur.

For Fjians who have seen what happened in 1987 and 2000, we should be grateful that our security is today in good hands .

Colonel Gadai said he was working closely with the Fiji Police Force to see that Fijians were safe and living happily in their own environment.

He warned those behind the rumour not to spread lies.

“Just don’t believe in these liars. The truth is – Fiji is safe,” he said.

However, many Fijians have not forgotten the political turmoil that divided the nation in the past.

They fear returning to a past era that was rife with pain and suffering that numerous innocent citizens endured.

The Fijian economy was one of the big casualties affected by previous tumult.

It has taken a long time for the country to recover and rise up to where it is today.

Unfortunately, there are rabble-rousers in our communities who want to disrupt that progress for their own selfish political agendas.

They have cheerleaders who live comfortably in their homes abroad and spread lies via social media to create instability.

They did not even stop to think about their families who still live in Fiji and who could suffer like everyone else should there be a disturbance.

It is comforting to hear from Colonel Gadai that the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) and the Police are ready to fulfil their role to protect the country and Fijians should there be an emergency.

The Land Force Commander is widely respected in the force and speaks with authority.

He also represents the face of the RFMF leadership today – a leadership that is committed to supporting the provisions of the 2013 Constitution.

From left: Republic of Fiji Military Forces Land Force Commander Colonel Manoa Gadai, Lieutenant-Colonel Ben Naliva and new 3FIR Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Aseri Rokoura in an earlier event this year. Source: Ronald Kumar

Both the RFMF and the Police take any threat to peace and stability very seriously.

The RFMF has been mandated by the Constitution to protect Fiji and all Fijians.

Last month when Colonel Gadai was chief guest at the Ratu Sukuna Memorial School (RSMS) passing-out parade at Albert Park in Suva, the very same rumour

He assured parents and guardians of RSMS students that the nation was secure and safe.

“Now that it has again resurfaced (this is) my advice – don’t believe in this rumour. It is a lie and spread by irresponsible people.”

He urged all Fijians to continue with their daily engagements on September 23.

All units of the RFMF, he said, were aware and ready to fulfil their constitutional role spelt out under the 2013 Constitution.

The Constitution states that the RFMF will at all times ensure the security, defence and well being of Fiji and all Fijians.

So if anyone is even remotely thinking of interfering with Fiji’s peace and stability they have been harshly warned – they will face the full brunt of the law.

For Fjians who have seen what happened in 1987 and 2000, we should be grateful that our security is today in good hands .

As Colonel Gadai has said, we currently have nothing to fear.

This story is a compilation of articles by Fiji Sun published on 18 Sept 2019.


In this era of fake news, Fiji – like other countries around the world – has been bombarded by a constant stream of fake news. Given Fiji’s history of political crisis – two military coups and a civilian takeover – the public is naturally highly sensitive to any news of possible instability. In this instance, messages were being forwarded on Facebook Messenger encouraging Fijians to stay away from school and work on Monday September 23, 2019. Facebook is the most popular App used in Fiji. It was noted that the person behind this fake message lives overseas. Like most fake news that has been circulated among Fijians, most are initiated by those living outside of the country itself. In this particular case, some had taken such news to heart and started to stock up on goods. Therefore, it was crucial for the media to debunk any fake news or misinformation being circulated on social media or other online platforms. The Fijian army, the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF), continues to play a vital role in nation building and in bringing stability and assurance to the people of Fiji. It normally does not enter into discussions on such issues, but as Fiji Sun journalists are trusted and credible, the Land Force Commander agreed to comment on such the situation that caused public concern and alarm.