Monday, January 16, 2012

Fiji Hires Regime Spinners to Push its Fraudulent Case

Dictator Bainimarama and his Illegal AG - Fiji's Tyrannical Duo
THE Fijian regime of Voreqe ''Frank'' Bainimarama has recruited one of Washington's most notorious lobby firms - one raided by the FBI and represents repressive regimes in the Middle East and Africa - to help manage its reputation and lobby foreign journalists.
Diplomatic sources believe the firm, Qorvis Communications, may be behind the ''bait and switch'' move by Commodore Bainimarama to lift widely condemned public emergency regulations, only to then enshrine them in a law.

The company is represented in Suva by former business journalist Seth Thomas Pietras, who has been in Fiji on and off since October.

A contract published by the US Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act reveals that Fiji Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum signed a deed with Qorvis in October worth $US40,000 a month for a year. In return, Qorvis has agreed to provide ''public relations services relating to business and investment to the government of Fiji''.

But it appears to The Saturday Age, which spent the week in Suva being lobbied by Mr Pietras, that his ambit is far greater than just spin.

It likely Mr Pietras, described as Qorvis' ''chief speechwriter'', helped draft Commodore Bainimarama's recent speeches, including his New Year's Day address announcing lifting of the emergency regulations. Several countries with an interest in Fiji expressed a belief to The Saturday Age that Qorvis might well have played a role in the decision to lift the emergency regulations, given the timing.

A diplomatic source also expressed concern that the kind of role played by such lobbyists in the Middle East and Africa was being imported to the Pacific.

''We're aware of their presence and we are watching with interest,'' the source said.
Mr Pietras, an executive vice-president of Qorvis' Geopolitical Solutions section, is at least the second Qorvis employee to travel to Fiji, after Tina Jeon, an Olympic archer and Qorvis spinner.

In early November, Ms Jeon posted on Twitter a photo of her and Commodore Bainimarama aboard a boat in Fiji, with the caption: ''No better place to write a press release.''

During last year's Arab Spring, Mr Pietras was Qorvis' spokesman when its role in defending repressive Middle Eastern regimes was the subject of debate. ''Our clients are facing some challenges now,'' Mr Pietras told The New York Times at the time. ''But our long-term goals - to bridge the differences between our clients and the United States - haven't changed. We stand by them.''

Qorvis has controversial history. In 2004 it was raided by the FBI in an investigation into whether an advertising campaign it helped run broke federal law by not disclosing funding from the Saudi government.

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