Alfred Sasako photo: Solomon Times
Journalist, media critic and Solomon Islands political candidate Alfred Sasako is denying his no-show at a conference cost the region a crucial opportunity.
Sasako was to be one of the founding speakers for the launch of a new islands information forum, under the Asian Media and Information Communication Centre conference.
“True, I did not attend,” Sasako told Avaiki Nius Agency, responding to questions based on background complaints from sources who prefer to remain anonymous.
Establishment of a research and analysis body, SPICF, the South Pacific Islands Communication Forum, took place at AMIC on 14-18th July 2008, in Manila, Philippines.
In August, after the conference, Sasako confirmed he did not make a speech or make it to the conference, despite funding.
“True, funding was provided by UQ [University of Queensland].
“True, I could not go on medical advice,” he said in answer to email questions.
“Those who know me know that I suffer bouts of gout from time to time. I had it for a week and in fact I waited in the hope of getting relief, to no avail.”
Dr Kalinga Seneviratne, Head of Research at AMIC, confirmed the claim made by Sasako and that it “reflects correctly what happened.”
Dr Seneviratne said he was “disappointed” that Sasako could not make it but expressed support for Sasako “as a journalist and also as a person who could take the voice of the Pacific to international forums."
' HASSLES '
“Thats why I went into a lot of hassles to get the funding for him to attend the AMIC conference in Manila and I was hoping that this would be the beginning of a process where he could play a leading role in linking the South Pacific media people with those in Asia.
“So I was naturally very disappointed that he could not make it.”
In his email response, Sasako outlines events leading up to his no-show.
' HOBBLING '
“On Saturday night, the day before I was due to travel out from Brisbane, my wife drove me to the doctors.”
“His advice was that sitting for eight odd hours on the flight to Manila would not help. Nor the conference environment which required you to be in several places at any one time. I would not want to be hobbling in front 4-500 delegates. So I decided to take Mother Theresa's advice: Look after your body before work.”
Media colleagues privately criticise Sasako for not giving enough warning to the University of Queensland.
‘ NO APOLOGY ’
“He failed to turn up and no explanation or apology to the organisers or funders,” said one source.
“The fact that he was funded meant that others from the Pacific couldn't be funded,” said the source.
Others have questioned non-attendance since questions were sent and answered by Sasako in August this year.
An unsuccessful political candidate at recent general elections in Solomon Islands, Sasako is a leading member of two new regional media groups, Pacific Islands Journalism Online and the Pacific Freedom Forum.
Both informal, members from the two groups continue to privately question why Sasako was posting “heavily” to PIJO on the same day he was supposed to be presenting to the new AMIC forum, SPICF.
Sasako is the leading poster on PIJO and the PFF, with some 900 messages since January.
' BLOOD BOIL '
In answer to questions, he said he did let UQ know he was not coming.
“Those who have any doubts can contact Katie Patterson at the UQ directly as I had sent her a copy of the doctor's advice to enable UQ to claim insurance on the ticket which they had purchase for my travel.”
Commented one media worker about the Sasako funding, “It makes my blood boil ... because I know how hard the organisers worked to get some money for him.”
' DRAWBACK '
Dr Seneviratne eases concerns the Sasako no-show means island media missing out on future opportunities.
“I'm personally very keen to open doors for indigenous South Pacific media talent to make contact with Asian media people and create direct links between South Pacific and Asia, in terms of the media.
“This episode was obviously a drawback to these efforts but I still hope to pursue it.”
“ GO FOR YOUR LIFE ”
Sasako said he was fine with his comments being published.
“By all means, go for your life. It's not new to me. I am one of those few tall enough to be buffeted by winds from all directions. I've weathered many storms and who can say I won't again?”
Criticism of Sasako comes against a history of no-shows by Pacific media for various funded opportunities at media events.
A leading example last year was Joseph Ealedona, president of the region’s oldest media organisation, the Pacific Islands News Association, failing to make an appearance as keynote speaker for the annual general meeting of PIMA, the New Zealand based Pacific Islands Media Association.
Dr Seneviratne however expressed support for Sasako’s contributions to journalism.
“I have known Alfred well during his time at the Forum Secretariat as the media officer there. I used to be the IPS news agency's Australian and South Pacific correspondent at the time and during many of the reporting assignments in the region and at UN conferences he was very helpful in getting me good contacts from the South Pacific for my stories so the ‘Pacific voices’ would be reflected in the stories.”
According to the official AMIC website, most of the “Melanesian, Polynesian and Micronesian microstates have been left out of the main communication developments, caused by a number of reasons such as
- vast distances,
- scattered populations,
- persisting colonial influences,
- poor economies and unstable political regimes,
- lack of infrastructure,
- fragmented and insignificant market places for both goods and ideas.”
Editor’s note: due to a lack of resources, and as a voluntary effort, avaiki nius agency apologises for delays in completing this story, from August, when questions were originally sent.
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