Political Round Up for the Last Week in April

The breaking news from Fiji concerns the 1987 coup leader and former  PM, Sitiveni Rabuka who had joined the SODELPA party, hoping to stand as a candidate and presumably have some prominence within the party.  His supporters  wanted him to be deputy leader but all this came to an end today

SODELPA Rabuka Quits Party he will not be participating in the party under any official capacity
April 24, 2014 | Filed under: Fiji News | Posted by: newsroom

Former coup leader and later Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka says that he has quit from the Social Democratic Liberal Party.

This is after a statement from the party yesterday said: “Major General Sitiveni Ligamamada Rabuka, OBE, (Ret) will not be contesting the 2014 General Elections as a SODELPA candidate. Due to recent media speculation, SODELPA also clarifies he will not be participating in the party under any official capacity, but remains a party member and staunch supporter of SODELPA. SODELPA wishes Major General Rabuka every success in his future public and private endeavors.”

Mr Rabuka said: “I understand that the SODELPA Youth Council and the Women’s Wing objected to my membership with the party. I’ve accepted the decision and I told them that women will always be the country’s conscience and the youth are the society’s future.”

Mr Rabuka explained how he joined the Ro Teimumu-led party.
“I was encouraged by the Queen Victoria School old boys to join the party when we were drafting our proposal for the Yash Ghai Commission. I just put my hands up to contribute towards nation-building.

“I had a private conversation with Laisenia Qarase so I joined the party,” Mr Rabuka said.
Mr Rabuka was being lined-up by supporters within SODELPA to be deputy leader. But when news of this leaked, there was a strong backlash by opponents within SODELPA and those who saw him as a liability, not an asset.

“I am prosecuted for my past and I thought I had cleaned it when I was the Prime Minister  from 1992-1997 but people were still holding grudges because of my past,” he said.
“There’s a saying that goes: “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.”
What of his future in politics?

“I have not thought about it, but for the time being I’ll relax for a while.”


Most of the news this week is more of the same, or at least more on the same themes. With the exception of the Fiji Times that continues to carry almost no political news, preferring instead to titillate with rapes, murders, drownings and home fires, other media has carried almost the same news:

  • The ongoing concerns of the four registered parties about different aspects of the Elections Decree such as the absence of party names and symbols on the proposed ballot paper; 
  • The choice of blue and white as the Fiji First colours, the same as SODELPA; 
  • The Electoral Commision's supposed lack of independence and immunity for election officers, this by FLP's Lavinia Padarth, and 
  • Mick Beddoes's crusade, sometimes on his own behalf, at other times as spokesman for the United Front for  Democratic Fiji, claiming the PM is breaching the Electoral Decree by canvassing before his party is registered. (Police are still investigating the alleged electoral violations.)  

(* Sleight of hand is not a separate branch of magic, but rather one of the means used by a magician to produce an effect.)

This week, though, he adds a concern for immunities, past and present, by asking: "If the rule of law is supposedly applied equally to all, why is George Speight in prison while the 2 other coup leaders are free and able to contest elections? What was different about the 2000 coup from the 1987 and 2006 coups? How have we justified such an unfair application of the rule of law in this instant?"

The answer, of course, will be seen differently depending on how each of us views these three coups.  I would argue that the 1987 and 2000 coups used ethnic Fijian nationalism to remove ethnic Indian-dominated or -led governments, on the pretext that land and customs were threatened. Both also has strong elements of self-interest, and both served the interests of the chiefs and ethnic Fijian elite. Leaders of both coups should have been punished but most weren't because the governments that followed the coups were pro-Taukei.

Rabuka's subsequent  rapproachement with Jai Ram Reddy's Indian-led National Federation Party and his election as PM probably saved him, while Bainimarama's insistence led to Speight's imprisonment, thought few of those behind the coup faced trial.

The 2006 Coup differed greatly from the earlier coups. It was not anti-Indian; it had considerable support from the "thinking classes" because it set out to remove corruption and the racist legislation of the Qarase government and, of course, it was supposed to be only temporary. Bainimarama had virtually put Qarase into power following the coup and he has always maintained Qarase betrayed him by not bringing all those responsible for the 2000 coup to trial.

There will never be agreement on what was right and wrong, or on whether immunities should ever be granted, but I think it is time for Speight to be released, and to this extent I think Beddoes has a point. Speight was a last minute appointee to the role of leadership. We can guess about the real leaders but we shall probably never known for certain who they were.

Beddoes's argument raises the never-ending question of right versus wrong, which in turn reminded me of these words in David Baldacci's novel Divine Justice that I have recently finished reading:
"There was right and wrong, although those lines got blurred all the tme.  Justice and injustice too were often all over the place, he knew. There were no easy answers and whatever road you took, be it the high, low or more likely somewhere in between, half the people would hate the result and half would applaud. And the hell of the thing was in a way they'd both be right."
One other item is of interest was the delay to the registration of the PM's party that was expected on Monday, and his further tour of the the North and maritime areas to collect signatures. On the surface the delay was a surprise,  The media, and particularly the Fiji Sun, presented us with pictures of the PM surrounded by people clamouring to be registered. And the latest Razor poll, published last Saturday, showed he had maintained his 84% preferred PM position.  Why then did his registrations fall short? The Opposition, naturally, claim it exposed his real level of support, and so it might be, but a more likely reason is the dearth of registration offices in the North. Readers will recall that the only registration centre is in Labasa and the PM has called for new centres in Savusavu and Taveuni. Fiji Live informs us that registrations to date total "547 thousand 554", a most novel way of presenting results.

Last Saturday's Razor poll showed two major changes from earlier weeks. The People's Democratic Party founded by trade unionists jumped from one to eight percent and  the PM's party Fiji First dropped from 66 to 57%. The  Sun's political editor Nemani Delaibatiki attributed the PDP rise to uncertainties surrounding the Fiji Labour Party with the outcome of Chaudhry's sentence still unknown, and the FF's fall to a spike the week before when the PM launched his blue bus campaign.

Several of my Fiji friends and former colleagues doubt the reliability of the Razor Polls, inferring that the results are rigged.

Razor and the Fiji Sun are owned by C.J. Patel which raises questions of the poll  independence. I have no way of checking on these accusations but I can't see why anyone would run a faked  poll right up to the elections when their accuracy will be known, and possible duplicity exposed. For a few weeks perhaps, to influence public opinion, but not for the whole time.

Another friend pointed to how an earlier polls conducted by Tebbutt Poll were frequently well out with their predictions, and this of course is a "given" with all polls but the Razor polls to date show very clear  results, the PM and the FF party are way ahead,  which raises only two questions: 1. Did those questioned fear giving their honest opinions? 2. Has Razor fudged the results?

I shall continue to record and report poll results for some more weeks, and then attempt an analysis of findings, trends and reliability.

The only other news of moment was USP's cancellation of a public meeting on NGOs and the elections organized by the NGO Fiji Media Watch on the grounds that it could violate the Elections Decree that prevents foreign funded NGOs from participating in election education. This  led the university's journalism lecturer Pat Craddock to say that the cancellation "stifFled debate." He said the decree does not prohibit universities from conducting election education so they will organize their own pubic meeting to replace the one cancelled.


Anonymous said...

Use and abuse of Rabuka continues.

Lamusona Levu said...

Croz, you overlook a very simple mechanism here: If you want to rigg elections, you first have to rigg polls. You do not want to be seen as inaccurate or inconstant when the PM’s party is announced the winner.

Bill Carson said...

Isa Rambo, once counted the council of chiefs as his fan club, now reduced to zero, a nobody !!

What a fall.

Manase said...

There is no need to rig elections! Reliable polls conducted by Fiji's leading newspaper constantly show that more than 80% of the electorate will vote for our AG and our PM.

Anonymous said...

Rambo did the coup, but apologised, and returned Fiji to democracy. He did not hold onto power like Bainimarama. After he learnt of the error of his ways, he did not persecute or insult indians in the manner of Qarase and others in his government, like Asenaca Caucau. Rambo never called for indians to be murdered like Kubuabola and another former SVT government minister who openly called for the assassination of chaudhry at a meeting in Raiwaqa. Rabuka was brave when it came to admitting mistakes. As PM he never went after the media, unlike chaudhry. Rabuka made mistakes, and recanted. History will be kinder to him. He ranks along the likes of statesmen like Jai Ram Reddy, Ratu Sukuna and Ratu Mara, where as opportunists like like Ro Temumu do have hios charisma or status, and will be forgotten after they leave office. As long as Rabuka does not let his experiences embitter him and do wrong things, he will be judged kindly by all except those too bitter to see any good in anyone.

Anonymous said...

The minister who said assassination was one option of getting rid of Chaudhry was Konusi Yabaki. While Rabuka fought for indigenous rights, he did not stoop to such levels. He was never that greedy or evil.

Razor said...

This Sun poll results are really interesting! While the 'old' parties managed to get 10,000 signatures of supporters (this is approximately 3 % of the vote) they poll below 1% while FF does not seem to get 5,000 despite Frank polling at 85%. Something a bit amiss here?

Crosbie Walsh said...

My understanding is that the PM has the signatures but has delayed registration to allow others to sign up.

No immunity for treason said...

We don't care how many traitors the dictator has signed up. But it would be nice to know how much he pays himself through illegal AG khaiyum's aunt (and how much she gets in commission?).

Anonymous said...

Fiji First will win simply because the alternative is worse - Ro Temumu (useless), Biman Prasad (classroom economist) and mahen chaudhry (will be in jail by september). None of them have anything new or better to offer. mahen and Ro temumu had their chance. they blew it. ...

Anonymous said...

Interesting spin. But lets not get overly exited here. The election results have been determined by the indolence the Fijian population has shown over the last eight years.

Anonymous said...

Great logic. Pol Pot will win because Hitler and Stalin had their chance and they blew it.

Anonymous said...

Pol pot? Hitler? Stalin? Are we on the same plane? What have you been smoking?! I suppose next you will compare Qarase to Nelson mandela.

Anonymous said...

sodelpa dumped rabuka because he would have lost them fijian voters, just as SVT in 1999. rabuka is no longer the strong, anti-indian, nationalist he once was, so no longer welcomed by sodelpa. on the other hand, turncoats like tupeni baba have been welcomed with open arms.

Anonymous said...

What spin? Didn't they register yesterday with more than 40,000 signatures?

Anonymous said...

Blah blah blah go back to smoking whatever you have been indulging yourself in buddy. I heard this since 2006 and people are still blabbing on about it. I ain't a coup supporter but geez lets discuss real issues with real evidence to support whatever view one may have not "gas-bagging" with heresay.