What Happened at the Lau Provincial Council Meeting?
The change is reported to have occurred after a statement (that others called an "outburst against the government") in which she denounced the People's Charter and Government leadership. Adi Ateca denies this, saying, “I was in no way [trying] to persuade the Council not to support the government. I was giving my views to the Council and not saying that we do not want to support the government.” But Commissioner Eastern LtCol. Leweni says this was not what she said.
Following this exchange, Leweni "made it clear that assistance to the province and the people of Lau would continue and not be affected – but they would not be able to work with Adi Ateca after the comments she made."
“The delegates were asked to deliberate further on the stance of the chairperson – due to her outburst yesterday – in which she clearly showed her intention that she is not willing to work with government. That’s the gist of government’s message this morning – that if this is the stance of the chairperson, it is unfortunate, and government will not be able to work with someone who does not see eye to eye with government’s development plans.” He said Government had no problem with Adi Ateca’s election as chair until she made the outburst, and asked them "to meet amongst themselves for an hour... to deliberate what is best for the province." An hour later, at least two members must have changed their position, and Bole was elected chairperson.
A reader questions this position, asking when is it was against the law not to support the People's Charter? A quick answer is that it is not, but it would be extremely difficult to work with senior civil servants who opposed government's central policies, and the Provincial Council, for better or worse, is an arm of Government.
The anti- blogs said pressure had been applied even before the meeting for members to vote for Bole, and so again it might have been. Elsewhere, this would be considered lobbying and quite acceptable. In the Fiji context it should also be noted that there is always unstated pressure to vote for the chief over the commoner. Listen to audios on FijiVillage.
We ignore Ratu Tevita's statement about the supposed ultimatum, vote "regime stooge" Bole or an immediate meeting closure, and no funding for Lau. And his remark that the "people of Lau cannot be bought... [they] see through the dictator’s lies and broken promises. It shows when the people are allowed to vote they do not vote for Bainimarama or his lackeys."
A word for Ratu Tevita: It was not the people who voted but Council members, and had the election been held under the old electoral system 17 over 15 would not have won. With less than 50% of the vote, preference votes would have come into play. Do you know how they may have been cast? Your first-past-the-post elections, supposedly representing the people of Lau, hinged on two votes.
No doubt there will be more to say, from both sides, once the dust settles.