THE SON OF A GUN:
Will SODELPA go out at the barrel of a gun because of Sitiveni Rabuka? And that is why, regretfully, Fijileaks calls on him to step down for the good of SODELPA and Fiji
* I make no apology for repeatedly pointing out that the appointment of coupist Sitiveni Rabuka as leader of SODELPA is a GREAT BETRAYAL for all that I have fought for since 1987, 2000 and the 2006 coups;
* In 2001, I had urged Laisenia Qarase to break free from Rabuka's SVT and form a new party to take Fiji forward. He formed the SDL, only to become hostage to Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu's Conservative Alliance Party but redeemed himself by forming a multi-party government with Fiji Labour Party;
* But Qarase was again seduced to come up with nationalistic Bills which provided the perfect excuse for Frank Bainimarama and his military cohorts to overthrow the Qarase government in December 2006;
* Now, Lalabalavu controlled SODELPA has returned to its old nationalistic anchor by appointing Rabuka to lead the party into the 2018 election;
* With Rabuka's appointment SODELPA is trying to deceive ordinary native Fijians into believing that he will restore the GCC, empower the Church and protect land and indigenous rights;
* But Rabuka is an opportunist who has been in the wilderness since losing the 1999 general elections - he brings nothing to SODELPA except one frightening scenario - A FIFTH COUP - if the party wins the election, for there is no way the present MILITARY will stand by and watch Rabuka and his nationalist supporters unravel everything the military has defended since the 2006 coup
* As I pointed out, Rabuka is all about Rabuka! He will do anything to remain relevant, like after the 1992 elections, when he betrayed the FLP:
‘Rabuka had already learned the art of political double speak (what we in Fiji call aage pichie or liu muri) and was prepared to walk a precarious path to stay in power’ - Rabuka's official biographer John Sharpham in Rabuka of Fiji
By VICTOR LAL
Fiji's Daily Post, 2001
The new 1990 Constitution was overtly racist and biased in favour of Fijians. In the new 70 seat Parliament, Fijians were allocated 37 seats, Indo-Fijians 27, General Voters 5 and Rotumans 1. The Senate had 24 seats for Fijians, 9 for other races and 1 for Rotumans. In addition, all the key government posts-the presidency, prime ministership and heads of the judiciary, military, public service-had to be held by Fijians. A quota of at least 50 per cent Fijians was set for new recruitment into the public service.
Another important feature of the distribution of Parliamentary seats was the gerrymandering of the 37 Fijian constituencies because many urban Fijians had voted for Bavadra’s government in the 1987 elections. Thus rural Fijian voters were given 32 constituencies with the remaining 5 going to urban Fijian voters.
With the new racist 1990 Constitution promulgated and Fijian political supremacy guaranteed, the first general election was held in 1992. The principal parties that entered the election contest were: SVT, FLP, NFP, General Voters Party (GVP) and the Fijian Nationalist United Front (FNUF). Meanwhile, the NFP-FLP Coalition had split up following the death of Dr Timoci Bavadra. The FNUF, led by the late Sakiasi Butadroka, was a coalition of extremists from Fijian nationalist party (FNP) and SVT, which was formed in March 1991 with Rabuka as its political leader. The SVT had the backing of the Great Council of Chiefs. The SVT was not necessarily a unified political group and the real issue for the party was who was to become Prime Minister after the election: the ‘Father of the Coups’ Sitiveni Rabuka or the reliable, safe, moderate but right-wing Josevata Kamikamica? .
The political divisions within the Indo-Fijians, who are ‘All Chiefs and No Indians’, was not surprising. As the old coolie saying goes: ‘You put two Indians on a desert island and on your return next day to pick them up, you will find they have become three Indians.’ The FLP, led by Chaudhry, initially threatened to boycott the elections, stating that taking part would be tantamount to endorsing the 1990 ‘racist constitution’. However, at the last minute, the FLP leaders changed their stance and contested the election. The result of the 37 Fijian seats were as follows: SVT 30, FNUF 5 and the last 2 went to Independents. The 27 Indo-Fijian seats were equally shared: the NFP won 14 and the FLP the other 13. The GVP won the 5 seats. The election results created the inevitability of a Coalition government.
Although the SVT was theoretically in a position to form a coalition government, Rabuka was not assured of the coveted Prime Ministership. Some newly-elected SVT parliamentarians had thrown in their lot with Rabuka’s arch political rival, Josevata Kamikamica, a former Finance Minister in the pre-election Interim Government.
Rabuka appeared to have 18 votes with Kamikamica only two, Filipe Bole four, and Ratu William Tonganivalu three. However Bole, Rabuka’s former teacher, freed his votes to allow them to support the majority-holder, in this case Rabuka who needed 36 confirmed votes from those who now held seats in the new House to grab the post of Prime Minister. He went to the Government House asking President Ratu Penaia Ganilau to appoint him as Prime Minister, declaring that he had 42 votes. Ganilau asked Rabuka to demonstrate his support with accompanying signatures to confirm the numbers. Ganilau also was acutely aware that that another high-ranking chief, Ratu Mara, and a number of SVT personalities had been backing Kamikamica.
In a cruel twist of irony, both the rival factions of the SVT began to court support from the NFP and FLP, the very parties deposed to ensure Fijian political supremacy in perpetuity. The SVT, formed to unify the Fijian people, could not agree on who should be its parliamentary leader. Rabuka was shocked to learn that Kamikamica had cut a deal with the veteran Indo-Fijian lawyer and politician Jai Ram Reddy and the NFP, and as a result Kamikamica had 30 votes to Rabuka’s 26.
In desperation, the desperately power-hungry Rabuka, who had imprisoned Mahendra Chaudhry twice, and had terrorised him and his family since 1987, shamelessly turned to the FLP leader for his political survival. But first Rabuka had to be humbled and humiliated, and reminded that power flows from the fountain of a ball point pen and not from the barrel of a Fiji Military Forces gun with a sticker reading, ‘God Loves You’. So Chaudhry and the FLP laid down the conditions for their support for Rabuka: a review of the Constitution; repeal of several controversial labour decrees, scrapping of the Value Added Tax (VAT) and land tenure reforms.
The so-called Methodist preacher, a decorated solider, and a cynically pragmatic Fijian nationalist Rabuka, who desperately needed Chaudhry’s 13 historical votes, agreed to sign a letter committing himself to a deal with the FLP. The letter read: ‘I acknowledge the proposed outlined in your letter (2 June) delivered this morning. I have considered your proposals favourably and agree to take action on these issues, namely the constitution, VAT, labour decree reforms and land tenure on the basis suggested in your letter. I agree to hold discussions on the above issue in order to finalise the machinery to progress the matter further.’ In return, he got Chaudhry’s 13 votes to take him well in excess of his required 36 for the post of Prime Minister. The FLP however informed Rabuka that it would not be part of the governing coalition. Desperate to remain Prime Minister, Rabuka had accepted all the conditions in writing, only to dishonour them on resuming power. He had managed to secure the support of the GVP, the Rotuman representative Paul Manueli, his former army commander, and 2 independents.
Now he had the numbers and the prime ministership in his sulu, Rabuka backed away from the agreement with the FLP. A spokesman of his insisted that all Rabuka had agreed to do was to discuss the issues that had been raised. There was, he stated, no agreement to do any more than this. As his official biographer John Sharpham recently put it, ‘Rabuka had already learned the art of political double speak (what we in Fiji call aage pichie or liu muri) and was prepared to walk a precarious path to stay in power’.
King Maker makes ‘Deal with the Devil’
What about Chaudhry who had done a deal with Rabuka and delivered him and a faction of the SVT the prime ministership? When Chaudhry was asked if he had done ‘a deal with the devil?’ he responded: ‘No, there was no deal; the fact is we laid down conditions’. He also acknowledged the irony of the situation between the jailed and the jailor. ‘Oh, yes’, he responded when asked, ‘we hope we can enjoy that type of irony, which does not happen very often’.
Chaudhry clearly relished the role of king-maker where an Indo-Fijian was called upon to arbitrate and settle question of leadership in the chiefly sponsored SVT. It is surprising that the SVT had not run to the Great Council of Chiefs, whom they have recently elevated as the guardians of Fijian political aspirations, to settle the question of political leadership within their own ranks.
Meanwhile Kamikamica continued, in a typical Fijian fashion, to harbour his political ambitions against Rabuka. He refused to enter the post-1992 election Rabuka Cabinet, feeling that he would have been a better Prime Minister. Rabuka’s political woes however continued to shadow him in office, notably the ‘Stephen Affair’. (We will write about the Stephen Affair soon)
Rabuka managed to ward off Chaudhry and his colleagues threatened withdrawal of Labour’s support for him by forming an inter-parliamentary committee to recommend appropriate machinery for considering changes to the 1990 Constitution. In December 1992 he caused a stir in his own party and a surprise by proposing consideration of a government of national unity (GNU). According to Sharpham, ‘In March 1993 the government sent a paper on the concept to the Great Council of Chiefs, saying that the proposed government of national unity should be considered, but underplayed it as being of major importance. Mara, with other chiefs, questioned the need for such a government, and he led many chiefs who felt the idea had little merit. The chiefs decided to send it out to the provincial councils for their reaction, a move that was designed to quietly bury Rabuka’s proposal. This move was seen by some, to be aided and abetted, it has to be said, by some of the prime minister’s senior colleagues and advisors’.
The SVT, and the Caucus complained at not having been consulted. Reddy half-heartedly wondered about numbers and representation. ‘We should have a figure’, he said, ‘that bears some resemblance to their [Indo-Fijian] numbers, contribution and work, and just not a token number’.
On the Indo-Fijian political front, the rivalry between the NFP and FLP intensified to the benefit of the NFP. In October 1993 the NFP candidates had roundly defeated their FLP Indo-Fijian candidates in the municipal elections. The FLP had also fallen out with Rabuka in 1993 when he did not honour his promises in return for the FLP’s support for the premiership in 1992.
On the Fijian political front, politics essentially still revolved around Rabuka and his political foe, Kamikamica. Rabuka’s critics seized the adverse aspects of the Report into the ‘Stephens Affair’ and called for his resignation. Rabuka brushed aside the resignation calls and even survived a motion of no-confidence in him. However, six Fijian MPs including Kamikamica, and David Pickering from the GVP, finally succeeded in their dogged pursuit to get rid of Rabuka when they voted with the Opposition against his budget 36-33 (with one abstention). The dissidents had hoped that Mara might either appoint Kamikamica or Ratu William Tonganivalu to form a new government.
Instead, Rabuka exercised his constitutional right to dissolve his government and call for new elections.