Some Chiefs Beg to Differ
|Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara|
Ro Teimumu is the sister of the late Ro Lady Lalabalavu Mara, the wife of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, and the head of Burebasaga, one of Fiji's three tribal confederacies.
With SODELPA's campaign increasingly focused on issues such as putting God back in the Constitution, restoring to Taukei the exclusive use of the title "Fijian", the restoration of the Great Council of Chiefs, and accusations that Bainimarama is stealing Taukei land, many people could may think that Ro Teimumu Kepa is expressing the concerns of all chiefs.
But even within her own family this is not the case.
Her nephew Ratu Tevita Mara certainly supports her now but initially he supported Bainimarama and is thought to have been the officer in charge of the beating of women NGO leaders in 2007. But then he plotted against Bainimarama and dodged a charge of treason by fleeing to Tonga where he is now on the King's personal staff.
Her niece Adi Ateca Ganilau, Ratu Mara's daughter, and husband Ratu Epeli Ganilau also initially supported Bainimarama (Ratu Epeli was in Bainimarama's Cabinet), but fell out after Adi Ateca made a blistering attack on Bainimarama at a Lau Provincial Council meeting for what seemed to be mainly personal reasons. She said Bainimarama had always been against the Mara family.
However, another of Ratu Mara's daughters and Ro Teimumu's other niece, Adi Koila Nailatikau is married to Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, the President of Fiji, and he very definely supports Bainimarama.
|Ratu Seru Epenisa Cakobau|
So also does their cousin Bauan chief Adi Litia Cakobau, the daughter of former Governor-General Ratu Sir George Cakobau. All these chiefs are descendants of Ratu Seru Epenisa Cakobau who ceded Fiji to Queen Victoria, and none of those supporting Bainimarama think FijiFirst is a threat to Taukei interests.
Neither, obviously, do the three chiefs —Ratu Peceli Rinakama, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola and Adi Laisa Tora —who are Fiji First candidates, or the other 27 FijiFirst candidates, including Bainimarama, who are Taukei.
Nor, incidentally, does the former General Secretary of the SDL party, SODELPA's predecessor, Ema Druavesi, who now supports FijiFirst believe a FijiFirst government would be any threat to Taukei interests.
With so many Taukei leaders supporting FijiFirst, Ro Teimumu's claim must be seen as an appeal to the Taukei elite who no longer enjoy special privileges under the Bainimarama Government, and to a large number of less educated and tribally-orientated Taukei who are likely to believe her.
The Bainimarama Government had its shortcomings and many of these have been discussed in this blog, and there is no way be can know the motives of all those standing for FijiFirst. But the same can be said of the Qarase Government and those standing for SODELPA..
The real issue before voters in this election is not between a totalitarian regime and a democracy as some observers claim. The real choice is between a party that promises to treat all citizens equally and fairly and a party that pays lip service to equality but more frequently hints at Taukei paramountcy.