The Pacific Island community was reeling last month after the shock suspension of popular community radio personality Efeso Collins. The gagging came shortly after Collins expressed reservations over an uncontested government funding deal worth almost $5 million offered to a previously unknown economic development trust entity called Pacific EDA. Now the government is scrambling to distance itself from the whole mess, but the story just won’t die.
Collins made an empassioned statement during his regular spot on Radio 531pi recently, calling for more transparency but was then dumped by the station management. The text of his comments has been made available on the Pacific Eyewitness blog. Pacific EDA received a direct Ministerial allocation of funding in the 2010 Budget, contrary to advice given by officials at the Ministry for Pacific Island Affairs. Radio 531pi parent company National Pacific Radio Trust receives government funding and is chaired by Tino Pereira. The CEO of the Pacific EDA is one Anthony J M (JR) Pereira. Coincidence? No, the men are brothers and were both directors of Pacific EDA when the company first formed.
The affair reeks of political patronage and has been aggravated further by the fact that a journalist appears to have been prevented from doing his job because of vested interests. These efforts will come to nought however because Collins’ friends have ensured the case has been widely aired in the New Zealand Herald and in other media forums online. Collins rightly asks why an organisation with three employees should receive such a vast sum to essentially perform programmes that already exist within other organisations.
So, will this funding create more jobs and improved outcomes for Pacific Islanders? Will there be a demonstrable return to New Zealand in general? Those are very good questions. Questions that will no doubt be further explored by the media and the government in the weeks ahead.