Pocket meetings to the fore in Fiji campaigns
Originally aired on Dateline Pacific, Tuesday 29 July 2014
As campaigning steps up before Fiji’s election, the “pocket meeting” is king.
But political parties say even in small intimate gatherings they’re finding people are afraid to ask questions or express their views.
Sally Round went along to one meeting in the suburbs of Lautoka held by People’s Democratic Party candidate Vijay Singh.
VIJAY SINGH: A pocket meeting is where we get a small crowd, say ten to fifteen, to twenty people and we speak to them and we advise them and we share the views and we ask them questions to tell us what their views are, and tonight is this four pocket meetings in different places in Lautoka. So all of us leaders are distributed evenly everywhere.
SALLY ROUND: So how does it work, do you just turn up and people come and go?
VS: What we do during the day or probably give them notice at least four or five days, we give them small flyers and just them to advise ten to fifteen houses around the vicinity and we get to one venue so that we can talk to them.
SR: And are people generally welcoming this idea because three years ago meetings of three or more people were not allowed in Fiji?
VS: Yes that’s right, anything more than three people was not allowed and I think that was a great deception of democracy and people could not come out and they were in fear and even today they are in fear. Some people don’t come and they tell us ‘we are scared’ so we don’t get big numbers, so we do pockets.
SR: Why are they scared?
VS: I think they still feel the fear of the military and they’re still scared, and there’s coups, and what has happened in the last seven years, there’s people have been killed and everything was forced onto people by decree and they still haven’t come out of that.
SR: So this is a bit of a challenge, getting people to come along to these meetings.
VS: Very true, it’s a bit of a challenge getting people to the meetings. We have tried bringing big crowds at some stages but then we still find it difficult, they are scared but they will be standing in the corner far away listening but they won’t come to the core place of the meeting. The fear is still there, which is very sad.
SR: Will you have big rallies at all, is that in mind?
VS: Yes we will, once we have rounded up the pocket meetings, we have created little committees in every community where we go, and then we will utilise that committee and gather them at one place and make big rallies as the election gets closer.