One Week On

The first parliamentary session saw Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, as promised,  present the Attorney-General's reports from 2007 to 2013 and the nomination by the  Opposition of NFP's Dr Biman Prasad as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee that will vet the reports. I would expect Biman to do a very thorough job and avoid point scoring in this role.

The Opposition also announced its shadow ministers, with Biman shadowing the A-G.

On the sidelines, an announcement that Mick Beddoes is to head Ro Teimimu's office  was something of a surprise because of deserving others who were overlooked and because of the disastrous advice Mick offered SODELPA during the election campaign.  But he is coherent and fluent in English which should help the the party leader in and outside the House.

Opposition maiden speeches
For the most part the reported maiden speeches of the Opposition covered old ground: the perceived threats to Taukei land and rights and the need to amend the Constitution.  Khaiyum accused Ro Teimumu of reliving the election campaign and SODELPA's Niko Nawaikula, cautioned three times by the Speaker, obliquely threatened that if the 2013 Constitution was not amended (to include specific iTaukei protections that Government claims are unnecessary because the protections are already there) there would be another Coup.  He later said he has said nothing of the sort and now feared for his life following the remarks of the PM. 

Opposition Whip Nawaikula, a lawyer, was a member of the extremist CAMV party before it merged with the SDL, the forerunner to SODELPA. Check out the hyperlinks in the previous paragraph to follow the full story. My reading is that it was not a very subtle cover for the coup threat that had been reiterated many times during the election campaign, and his supposed fear for his life was for public consumption.

Tikoduadua replies 
For me, the most decisive maiden speech was made by  the Minister of Infrastructure and Transport  Pio Tikoduadua.

Delivering Government's right of reply in his maiden speech before the House, Tikoduadua said the Opposition "need some fresh ideas if they are to remain at all relevant to our national debate over the next four years" and not the "politics of division that cost them the election" and was "overwhelmingly rejected by the Fijian people."

He said they needed to accept their election defeat and "soon see the error of their ways" saying that if they don’t, it was going to be a "long and frustrating four years ... The only comfort is that when we gather here again after the 2018 election, there will be fewer of them. Because they have misjudged the iTaukei.
"What they say about the iTaukei does not resonate with me or any of the iTaukei I know," Tikoduadua said.
 He particularly mentioned  Ro Teimumu's speech, saying that instead of using the opportunity to propose new ideas, "she chose to fight the General Election all over again, resurrecting some of the main themes of her campaign [including] her claim that the iTaukei are somehow disadvantaged in the new Fiji when the opposite is true and they have never been stronger."

"The Opposition must come to terms with the fact that it was their politics of division that cost them the election. "They need ... fresh ideas that are relevant to the lives of every Fijian. And they need to tell the truth in this Parliament, the truth that they didn’t tell during the election campaign."

Tikoduadua: "It is not true"
Tikoduadua said the Opposition parroted "the same old negative chant – of the iTaukei people threatened when they’re not, Christianity threatened when it’s not".

"It is not true to say that the iTaukei have been weakened when we have guaranteed ownership of our land more than ever before – more than 90 per cent – and more opportunities than ever before.

"It is not true to say that our identity has been stolen when an English name that only came with the English is used to describe every other citizen. We are all citizens of our beloved Fiji, and as such we are all Fijians and the Opposition need to learn to accept that.

"It is not true that the right of we Christians to worship Our Lord Jesus Christ or Catholics to honour Mary and the Saints publicly or privately is threatened by the provision of a secular state in our Constitution. It is guaranteed, along with other freedoms, yet the Christian fundamentalists sitting opposite still try to stir up division.

"It is not true to say that our strength as a people has weakened just because some of our institutions have been reformed. On the contrary, the strength of our identity and capability as the iTaukei derives from us as a people.

"It is not true to say that there will be another coup unless the Constitution is changed. And it is an outrageous abuse of the privilege afforded by this Chamber for the opposition member opposite to have made such a threat.

"The Constitution will not be changed, except by the Constitutional provisions, and any insurrection will be addressed decisively. By the same token, it is hypocritical of the Honourable Whip of the Opposition to comment on the provisions of immunity in the 2013 Constitution when he himself was a beneficiary of similar provisions in the 1990 and 1997 Constitutions for the events of 1987.

"It is not true that expatriates are taking the jobs of qualified Fijians in our economy, in which we need the best people to take Fiji forward. We will not force the pace of localization if it means degrading our capability as a nation.

"And it is not true that Fijians have never been more divided, as yet another Opposition member claimed in his maiden speech."

An Opposition speech applauded
For me, the most appealing maiden speech was by Mosese Bulitavu, imprisoned  for speaking his mind during the Bainimarama Government tenure.

He said, "If Fiji is to progress and for us to be long remembered as the 50 members of parliament that truly united Fiji, we must break down all barriers and embrace each other's differences  ...  I plead to each one of us to reach across the racial, cultural and religious barriers and make this work. I am inspired to say that Yes We Can and Yes We Will. " -- Fiji Sun.

It is to be regretted that SODELPA expressed concerns about its member's maiden speeches, saying that they should have been vetted first. One hopes they did not include the speech by Bulitavu.

Comments

Jim Anthony said…
It will take unusual political acumen for the SODELPA Opposition to see the error in its ways. The choice for SODELPA seems clear: abandon old myths and face new realities or cling tenaciously (and foolishly) to old myths and refuse to face new realities.One--abandoning old myths and facing new realities--will take political courage and an enormous dose of good sense. It is the way forward. The other--clinging tenaciously (and foolishly) to old myths and stubbornly refusing to face new realities--will serve no useful purpose and will lead only to the marshes and quick sands of despair and isolation.

SODELPA will have to choose and take the road not previously taken. And the choice will have to be made soon for reasons that have to do, in the main, with its own political survival and its credibility. Going around in circles is NOT a pathway to progress. Neither is it the way forward.

Beddoes appointment to head the Leader of the Opposition's office is not a smart move. Mick may speak 'fluent English' as Croze Walsh says. Mick's major problem is that he is undereducated and under informed. It cannot be said of Mick Beddoes that he is widely read or that he writes and thinks with clarity. Mick's stuck in the past. He's a failed politician, still stuck in the gutter. If he has any 'brilliant' ideas for Fiji's future he has yet to set them out in a way that is clear and convincing. On the basis of his past performance it is very unlikely that Mick Beddoes will do very much that is creative in his new job. That's too bad because his new job is one that is a crucial 'bottle neck' where he is so placed as to be a gatekeeper for access to the Leader of the Opposition and a potential source of new ideas for her and the shadow Cabinet. I do not think that Mick Beddoes has any idea how to do that. His failure will reflect badly, not only on the Opposition, but also on the country.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Reality said…
Mick is not widely read and does not write or think with clarity ? Umm that hasn't exac tly stopped the PM now has it ?
blogger457 said…
and the difference between Niko's 'oblique threats' and outright threats from Bainimarama over the past eight years warning those who dare challenge him?? You make all the excuses in the world for the thug and have suggested mopre than once 'provocation', but for the opposition they have no excuse? Why is it thye would be held to any ndifferent standrad. I expect your complete silnce Croz when an oppositon member decides to beat up a minister or screams and threatens abuse at a female lawyer.
RITA said…
yes i agree, in the PM we don't exactly have Rhodes Scholar - we have a thug, with people around him ready to fawn and make excuses for him.
Jim Anthony said…
Continuing to call Fiji's elected Prime Minister a "thug" is a bit on the childish side. Its a crude attempt to stop the clock at a time that is now behind everybody. Yes, the PM is not a Rhodes scholar but then there is no one in the entire Parliament who is a Rhodes scholar or is of that quality. What can in fairness be said of this Prime Minister is that in what was a substantially free and fair election he was elected, along with his party, with a thumping majority. Those who still engage in ad hominem attacks on the PM are behaving in a way that brings dishonor on that esteemed office and on the country as a whole. Time to get out of the gutter and tone down the rhetoric. Part of being 'democratic' means that language used to express disagreement needs to be toned down a bit. Those who wanted elections got one. Those who wanted an elected Parliament now have one. Parliament is the highest forum in the land; it should be respected. It should be a place where reason prevails and reason is used as the vehicle to launch arguments and persuade others. Parliament is a place where dignity ought to prevail. People who live in a democracy have both rights and obligations. One of the obligations is to behave with dignity particularly with respect to speech, the language that is used--its tone, its timbre, the nuances conveyed--should be carefully modulated. Yes, this must apply to everybody, including the PM. If he has breached the rules I have outlined, he ought to be more careful, more compassionate, set a better example. Fair is fair.
No immunity for treason said…
Jim
You seem to conveniently forget that this cowardly thug didn't 'respect parliament in 2006. He raped it and the nation using his taxpayer funded thugs with guns. Then gave himself immunity for his crimes? No respect for such pigs.
Miri said…
"Parliment is he highest forum in the land; it should be respected. It should be a place where reason prevails and reason is used as a vehicle to launch arguments and persuade others. Parliment is a place where dignity out to prevail...."

What a fine set of words and a pity they weren't said earlier prior to the Honorable Voreqe Bainimarama coup. There is no doubt that he will make a dignified leader with his gift of great reason and his quick left fist.
Ratu Naita said…
@Jim-So do you hold the same thought when it comes to people like Roko Tui Dreketi, Naiqama Lalabalavu and others in the opposition who supported either 87 and 2000 coups? I guess you still refer to them as "pigs" as well?

@Miri-I guess the above comment I made to Jim goes for you as well less name calling.

Bottom line is, we all can't go back and change what has happened. 87, 2000 coups happened, we had election then another coup. A pattern has emerged in Fiji and we need to break this cycle. One of the many reasons why this kept recurring is certain elements of people in Fijian society found it difficult to embrace change as the world moves on. Whilst, I am not saying that we need to change everything we hold dear to our hearts, we need to implement certain aspects of modernisation to be able to keep afloat. The continuous harping of politicians about threats to land and Fijian culture plus Christianity is one of the stumbling blocks which indirectly leads to coups and is based on "hogwash'. Unless people like the both of you who choose to live in the past stop and look at things which you can help control, the FUTURE than God bless Fiji. No wonder fools like Nawaikula got voted in by some.
Ratu Naita said…
SORRY Jim Anthony. That comment should have read @No Immunity for Treason rather than you mate. I wholeheartedly agree with your post.
Jim Anthony said…
If you two above want to invoke "history" to the underlying "reasoning" with the use of words like "taxpayer funded thugs with guns," "pigs," "gift of great reason" and "quick left fist", then in fairness--as well as for reasons of historical accuracy, you need to go back to Rabuka (1987) and his "tax payer funded thugs with guns" and so on. And, for the same reasons go back also to George Spate and his thugs and how both he and Rabuka desecrated Parliament in ways that are unmentionable in polite society. And the desecration did not stop there: the Rabuka and Spate coups poured venom of the worst kind into Fiji's blood stream. When Ratu Sir KKT Mara and Ratu Penaia remained silent over the Rabuka coup they became co-conspirators by their silence. But there was more, as we now know, both of these senior statesmen in fact gave Rabuka's coup the nod--privately, of course. History is their judge and it should be yours too.

When the majority of the iTaukei community remained silent over the Rabuka descent into the hell of coup culture with all else attached to it: rape, arson, murder, denial of civil rights to non iTaukei citizens--I think this has also to be kept in perspective.

But here's the rub: I do not think that any useful purpose is served by going back to Rabuka and Spate and even Qarase. If you want to use your tar brush to denigrate Prime Minister Bainimarama then you have also got to reasonably expect that there is other relevant dirt that your faces are likely to be rubbed into. So, please, be forewarned. Fair is fair, right?

I dare say that this is the season during which we should try as hard as we can to forgive the past and build on the new. Forgiving, however, does not mean forgetting and people like you (No immunity for treason and Miri) ought not to forget that.

So please--yalo vinaka sara--lets all be careful.
Jim Anthony said…
Thank you, Ratu Naita. I did not see your post when I was composing mine.

To answer your question, however, about calling people like Roko Tui Dreketi and others, names whatever the names might be. My answer is No. I have no interest in calling them names but I will draw attention to what I think is a fair description of their role in history. in a way that is inoffensive and appropriate--within the canons of what I consider to be good taste. Hope you agree, Ratu Naita, that this is fair.

Again: forgiving is within human reach. As for forgetting--nobody has a magic eraser with which to erase the past so that forgetting lies in another domain. Memory lingers--and lingers--and lingers. As an Australian author has said: "The past is in us, not behind us. Things are never over."
Jim Anthony said…
On quite another matter.

With the announcement last night of former Australian Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam's death at 98, there's been a substantial flurry of historical reminders about how the Whitlam government was subverted, destabilized and finally overthrown, with the apparent assistance of foreign intelligence agencies and their operatives.. I can send your readers lots of reliablelinks from the Net.

Foreign intelligence agencies interference in domestic politics in Fiji is a subject that has not surfaced on this blog site--as far as I can remember. In Fiji's case this is an important subject. This is a matter that requires attention. You can bet your bottom dollar that Australian, New Zealand, American and other foreign intelligence operatives are busy in Fiji. Fiji's task is to keep abreast of what they are doing. Are foreign intelligence agencies funneling money into the pockets of ngos (usually selected ones) and other sections of Fiji society not excluding political parties.

A vigilant and creative press has a lot of work to do in this area. And the same task applies to members of Parliament.
Miri said…
@Ratu Naita and Jim Anthony
Your point of view is much appreciated and one which I respect very much. Your reminders of the 87 and 2000 coups are relevant however as one born in the 80's, the first went over my head. I must admit though that as a youth in 2000 and I could have done so much more by way of demostration or mobilising people of my age group but I didnt. This has been my great regret to this day.
Since we are being cordial in our discussion, I want to state that the main reason I am against this government is because of the hypocrisy and the double standards. We are expected to not name call while the leader is well known for name calling (btw calling Niko Nawaikula a fool is name calling as
well Ratu Naita!). We are expected to give democracy a chance and respect the integrity of parliment while the newspapers found it fair play to run down any moves by the previous democratically elected party and place them under the microscope.
For the sake of moving our country forward we are expected to walk on eggshells around this government? I am not pro sodelpa (everyone assumes that since I oppose I must be 1) SODELPA supporter 2) Ignorant 3) an old indegenous landowner who benefitted from the last governemnt).
Gentlemen, I do not want to be the type of woman who for the little "good" that I get I am willing to withstand a lot of "bad". I am also sorry for my below the belt sarcasm above. It was uncalled for and not in the spirit of a good discussion.
No immunity for treason said…
Bainmarama is a coward. As are the fascist fools who support him.
Jim Anthony said…
Miri: It is difficult to reply to you note above.
I understand your dilemmas, your sense of hurt, the hypocrisy, the double standards and probably much more.
Nobody has a magic eraser with which to erase the past. The past lingers in the present. It does not go away.

Terrible, irreversible mistakes have been made. The events of 1987 was a terrible mistake. The events of 2001 were a terrible mistake. Fiji has been built on an unsteady accumulation of terrible mistakes. I am not sure that Fiji has learned from its terrible mistakes.

You can curse and verbally abuse Frank Bainimarama and the people around him.But they have done some really brave and bold and pathbreaking things. But I am far from sure that these 'good things' will be enough to carry Fiji into the future--safely on a new, solid foundation of dignity, good sense and creativity.

I go back to an old theme derived from an abundance of caution:time will tell. One swallow does not make a summer. One election after 8 years does not make democracy. Democracy is a many strand beast. Democracy evolves--slowly, painfully. Evolves means that it takes time. Making course corrections along the way can be bloody. Democracy as it emerged in England took a long time. It grew out of turbulence. The US, the same.

It is already time to ask: After Bainimarama, who? After Bainimarama, what?

Another set of questions to ask is: Does Fiji have enough smart people capable of looking at the world through wide angled lens, people who are intellectually dextrous, who think and write well, who understand globalization and something of history, particularly the history of Fiji, people who are multi lingual (especially in Bauan and Hindi), people who have walked with Kings and haven't lost the common touch? Leadership is what I am talking about--na veiliutaki. These are issues that should be on the table of public discussion. And the discussions should be carefully calibrated, wide ranging, rooted in reason. Is there such a table? Who can create one? And how soon?

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