Sayed-Khaiyum takes a jibe at Times

Attorney General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum during the parliament sitting yesterday. Picture: RAMA

Don’t listen to the Opposition and do not believe budget analysis in The Fiji Times.

This was the call from Attorney-General and Economy Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum to the people of Fiji as he replied in debate on the 2020-2021 Budget in Parliament yesterday.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said response to the 2020-2021 budget had been “positive”.

He accused The Fiji Times of being in cahoots with the National Federation Party and engaging in a smear propaganda campaign against Government.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said The Fiji Times was party to a “concerted political effort” to stop tourists from coming to Fiji.

“You have newspapers, honourable Prasad’s paper, going around having headlines, headlines without a single reference or question to us, whether what he was claiming was correct or not,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

“This is the situation we are in, so what type of, you know, mindset are we trying to inculcate in the public.”

“If you look at the way The Fiji Times has been going on about this without any reference to us or getting answers from us, it reminds me — those of you who know Bollywood — it reminds me of a 1980s movie, there used to be a character called Kader Khan.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the relationship between The Fiji Times and NFP leader Prof Biman Prasad was like a role Mr Khan played as opposition leader in a Bollywood movie where people had died in a flood.

“So the opposition leader calls his favourite newspaper reporter and says ‘look, if the prime minister goes to the flood-prone areas by helicopter, your headline should be “Prime Minister takes helicopter and people are suffering on the ground, expensive ride”.

“If he chooses not to go by helicopter and goes by car then you write “people are suffering and waiting for him, why didn’t he take the helicopter”.

“Precisely what honourable Prasad and Fiji Times have conspired to do.”

The A-G accused The Fiji Times of not asking questions about the budget.

“In the same way, just to show the calibre of reporting, I want to highlight, of The Fiji Times, I got a set of questions yesterday – not about budget issues but saying honourable Qereqeretabua has said that you came late for budget, can you comment on that.

“This is the level of questions that we get sent by the good old Fiji Times.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the feedback Government had received was that it was “on a good track”.

“And we must be focused, we need to be positive, I urge the Fijian people not to listen to the Opposition, don’t believe the analysis by The Fiji Times, this is just a smear propaganda campaign.”

The Fiji Times editor Fred Wesley said last night the newspaper would not be deterred from doing its job for its readers and for the nation.

He said Mr Sayed-Khaiyum was entitled to his opinions but he should also respect the views of others on the budget and their concern for the situation the country was facing.

“Some opinions on the budget, and other matters, will differ from his,” he said.

“Our journalists frequently ask the minister for responses to various issues but he generally does not respond.

“I’ve said it before. The Fiji Times exists to publish all views and to ensure there is balanced coverage of the news and balanced political debate.

“We agree with the minister that we must stay focused. But we can only be focused on solving Fiji’s problems if the information we all have is balanced and all views are taken into account. Our job is to put all the information in front of the people — not just the Government’s version.”

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