Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi on Political Choice
Political parties need to adopt a combination of approaches to attract broad support, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi says. The Roko Tui Bau and former vice-president said that in this way parties will also maximise their strength in Parliament.
“The efficacy of the traditional approach will depend on the audience and what will work in one context may not be as successful in another.”
Ratu Joni was also present during the Social Democratic Liberal Party visit to Bau Island last Wednesday. The delegation was led by its leader, Ro Teimumu Kepa.
“I believe the vanua itself must retain some distance from all political parties and allow its people freedom of conscience and association, because the vanua like the lotu encompasses everyone within it irrespective of political affiliation.
“The ordinary iTaukei voter will support a political party for all sorts of reasons including belief in their manifesto, having a connection with a candidate or candidates (whether kinship, professional, religious, ethnic, military or otherwise), party affiliation. Whether appealing to iTaukei identity and a sense of victimhood over events since December 2006 will attract majority iTaukei support is an open question.”
He said: “SODELPA officials explained frankly how they perceived iTaukei concerns over land issues had been compromised particularly in relation to the iTaukei Land Trust Act being made subject to the provisions of the Land Bank Decree.“However, what impressed me most was the absence of rancour and invective displayed towards the government. I thought it an encouraging sign.”
On whether he agreed that a majority of iTaukei votes will be split by SODELPA and the proposed FijiFirst party, Ratu Joni’s answer was affirmative.
“I agree because both political parties require a majority of iTaukei support for a strong performance as they form 58-60 per cent of the population. SODELPA are appealing to iTaukei identity and the proposed FijiFirst party is asserting its multiracial and multicultural credentials.
“However, I also think the Prime Minister will move gradually towards the centre and acknowledge iTaukei concerns as the elections draw closer,” he said.
“Tui Macuata is a vice president of the proposed FijiFirst, a tacit acknowledgment by the Prime Minister and FijiFirst of the influence the vanua continues to have.”
Ratu Joni said it would take a generation or more to bring about the changes in ethnic perceptions the Prime Minister has sought to foster in the last eight years.
“Although he (Mr Bainimarama) will probably attract significant support among the youth of all communities- many of them believe Fiji’s political history began in December 2006.”
Ratu Joni admits that it would be difficult to predict the outcome of the September polls.
“People are reluctant to say what they really feel and in all our communities there is a sentiment of telling others what they wish for fear to avoid giving offence. “The utterances of support community leaders often offer in public need to be considered in that light. It is not necessarily being inconsistent or disingenuous – it is the way we relate to those in power and authority,” he said.