Truth, The First Casualty Of Misinformation, Fake News

Villagers from supposedly 11 villages in a province are incensed over what they heard about a foreign group doing some sort of development work on their land. Following a visit
10 Feb 2018 16:44
Truth, The First Casualty Of  Misinformation, Fake News
People watch the illegal activity at the Mosi River . Photo: DEPTFO News

Villagers from supposedly 11 villages in a province are incensed over what they heard about a foreign group doing some sort of development work on their land.

Following a visit by a number of Opposition politicians to the area, the villagers are blaming the Government for allowing the foreign group to be there.

But it appears the villagers know very little about the activities of this foreign group.

After seeking independent advice, their representative has been told the following:

No one, foreigner or local or a commercial group, can do any commercial  activity of the size the villagers are talking about on iTaukei land, unless the local landowners have given their approval via the iTaukei Land Trust Board or the Land Bank for a lease to allow the group to do any work.

The relevant business and operating licence has to be granted by the appropriate authorities.

Prior to this happening there would have been meetings and consultations between the respective stakeholders before they said yes to the project unanimously. TheTLTB or the Land Bank would have acted as mediators or facilitators.

The chiefs and members of the landowning clan would have nodded their heads and raised their hands in the affirmative. They also may have been signatories to a petition as evidence of their consent. The chiefs would have signed on the dotted line to seal the agreement.

The commercial project would have been scrutinized by Government agencies to ensure they meet the stipulated criteria. One of the requirements is an Environmental Impact Assessment to find out if there would be damage to the environment and harm to the landowners’ livelihood.

In the absence of this information, the villagers’ criticism of the Government is obviously based on what they heard from politicians who have been visiting them. If the villagers had cross-checked the information with the TLTB or the Land Bank, whichever is applicable, they would have discovered the truth. If the foreign group is found to be operating illegally, appropriate action will be taken just like the recent action by the Department of Lands and Mineral Resources in Nadi.

During a monthly inspection, it spotted an operator engaged in illegal river gravel extractions at the Mosi River. Yavuna villagers have been advised by the inspection team to report similar illegal activities.

If the villagers in question discover that there is an illegal commercial activity in their area, they can report it to the relevant authorities.

This experience underscores that the  truth is the first casualty of misinformation and fake news. The villagers have phones but not all are connected to the internet because of their isolation.

They may not be facing the information overload that many Fijians are going through. But these talanoa sessions by politicians are important sources of information for them.

While it may be tempting to take advantage of the gullibility and naivety of some people to score cheap political points, it is important that politicians speak the truth in their campaigns.

Misinformation via social media or conducted in political meetings has the same impact on people’s lives. Lies can never turn out to be the truth. They will be exposed in due time.

The sad fact is that when that finally happens the damage has been done. Truth and people’s lives are at stake here.

A Mark Twain quote says “a lie can travel halfway around the world, before the truth can get its boots on.”

This group of villagers in question is about to discover the truth about the the said foreign group’s activities.

And when the villagers do, there will be a huge sigh of relief. It will empower them to always seek the truth. When they find it, it will help them to make sound and wise decisions.

Edited by Percy Kean


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