Fijileaks: Let us hope Konrote will shed his Indo-Fijian prejudices now he has been elected President of Fiji; Indo-Fijians to remain third-class beggars when it comes to top positions in Bainimarama-Khaiyum's 'new Fiji'
President: Jioje Konrote; Prime Minister: Frank Bainimarama; Speaker: Jiko Luveni
"Despite his [Victor Lal's] claim to the contrary that "this is not a personal attack on the Rotuman community, many of whose members are very good personal friends of mine, and some are even related by marriage to my family", I consider his very misleading and vindictive views to be that of a racist as they have been consistently offensive and insulting. In fact, he has the gall and audacity to challenge the authenticity of our indigenity and this is most unacceptable as it questions the integrity of our heritage and indigenity as islanders of Rotuma which is part of the Republic of the Fiji Islands...A new multi-party Cabinet has now been formed and I believe that all good citizens of Fiji will want to see it work, therefore we should be more tolerant, accommodating and forgiving for true reconciliation to be achieved and peace and harmony to reign. As a Christian, I will ask my chiefs and people to forgive Victor Lal for the great injustice he has done against us and hope that he is more sensitive, fair and considerate in future as such controversial and divisive public utterances are not conducive to reconciliation, peaceful and harmonious co-existence within this diverse multi-ethnic nation of ours. May Almighty God continue to richly bless this beloved country of ours Fiji."
Jioji Konrote on Victor Lal, Fiji Times, 6 August 2006
"I have done no injustice to the Rotuman community, and therefore, do not expect any forgiveness. If anything, I have praised them and highlighted some of their genuine grievances. I have only spoken out against the injustice that is being done to non-Fijians and non-Rotumans over the affirmative action programs. " - Victor Lal, replying to Konrote
THE SPEECH OPPOSITION LEADER KEPA WAS STOPPED FROM DELIVERING ON THE ELECTION OF A NEW PRESIDENT OF FIJI
SPEECH - LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
RO TEIMUMU VUIKABA KEPA
NOMINATION OF THE PRESIDENT
Madam Speaker, the Honorable Prime Minister, Members of Parliament, the Diplomatic Corp, and the People of Fiji joining us this morning either through television or the internet, I rise this morning to give effect to Standing Order 136 (2) and submit my nomination as Leader of the Opposition for the consideration of this House in accordance with section 84, sub-section 2 of the Constitution. As Leader of the Opposition, our nomination is Ratu Epeli Gavidi Ganilau MC, OStJ, MSD.
Madam Speaker, this is the first time that we will be nominating the President under this process for nomination in this House as defined in Standing Order 136. Therefore this side of the House calls for complete adherence to that Standing Order Madam Speaker.
Moving on, it is unfortunate Madam Speaker, that the Business Committee, once again, has been ruled by Flying Minute based on the guidance given by your Secretariat. This is a matter of grave concern because it attempts to usurp the role of the Business Committee as laid out in Standing Order 124 by the elected representatives of The People.
Standing Order 136 is silent on the amount of time each side of the House is given to nominate their candidate, which could have been all day from our side if I so chose, but unlike others in this House, I get tired of hearing myself speak. Standing Order 136 is also silent on who speaks first on this important occasion. This is why the Business Committee should not abdicate its responsibility to unelected public servants.
Madam Speaker, I am fully aware of the gravity of this task for the appointment of our Head of State. I have tried as much as is practicable to follow a consultative and inclusive process that removes the nomination from partisan politicians and follows to the best of our ability, the process of nomination as stipulated in Section 90 of the 1997 Constitution.
That is why, Madam Speaker, in the interest of transparency we had made public the name of our intended nominee.
Madam Speaker, if we are, I quote “all Fijians united by common and equal citizenry” as this Constitution proclaims in the preamble, this then process of nomination leaves out the very people for whom we all -- including the Head of State -- purport to represent. The People who pay for us all, have no input in this process and we therefore call for the review of the Constitution that will allow for a referendum. It is our fervent wish that when we review this Constitution we can find a way, such as a Referendum, for the Head of State for Fiji to have the firm backing of The People and is not left to partisan divides.
Allow me, Madam Speaker, to briefly mention that the nomination process of our Head of State, is quite odd as set out in this Constitution and leaves much to be desired given that the President is essentially our ultimate “boss”.
The Head of State when all else is silent or fails, has, what lawyers know as “reserve powers”. You will recall Madam Speaker that the first sitting of this Parliament in line with section 67 of the Constitution was summoned by His Excellency the President. This House was summoned by the President, and now we are here to elect she or he who summons us.
Madam Speaker, our partners on the Opposition bench the National Federation Party have been consulted at every step of this process and they agree that the nomination should be devoid of partisan politics for the highest office of the land. The NFP then left the process to SODELPA which has the greater numbers in the House to determine how and who, as we may differ to varying degrees on how we do things and that is fine as we are different political parties.
This is why section 90 of the 1997 Constitution was our guide in SODELPA and the Bose Levu Vakaturaga approach was used to the best of our ability. The SODELPA President and Head of the Tovata Confederacy, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu put forward our nominee’s name which was endorsed at our SODELPA Parliamentary Caucus Meeting and the SODELPA Management Board. Furthermore, views were also obtained from traditional chiefs of the Vanua of Tovata, Burebasaga and Kubuna.
I wish to stress at this point Madam Speaker that I did not personally bring up our nominee’s name as he is a very close relative. That is well known to my Party however the Party President; our Members of Parliament; and our Management Board endorsed our nominee and as I am here on behalf of my Party, I shall defer to the wisdom and choice of my Party. That is what democracy and participatory democracy is all about.
Madam Speaker, Section 83 of the Constitution lays out the constitutional qualification for the appointment of the President. In accordance with section 83 subsection 1, it is our firm belief in SODELPA that Ratu Epeli Ganilau is eminently suited to the position as stipulated in the constitution. His decorations include the Order of Saint John, Military Cross, and Meritorious Service Decoration.
Madam Speaker, apart from holding only Fijian citizenship his professional performance and leadership on the domestic and international level will be difficult to match.
We are of the firm belief that as a traditional representative of the Tovata confederacy with traditional links to other 14 provinces, Ratu Epeli Ganilau will have the full support of the majority of the people of Fiji of all races, color and creed who dwell in those provinces. Within his career path he has also had many positive relationships with all Fijians.
Madam Speaker, with his military and civilian professional background he is well qualified for the position and will be able to command the respect of our military forces as The Commander in Chief as section 81(3) of the Constitution mandates. He has remained clear of any political affiliation leading up to the general election last year.
On 15 July, 1991, Brigadier General Ganilau was appointed Commander, Republic of Fiji Military Forces.
In addition to the Military Cross, he has been awarded the Multinational Force and observers Medal [Sinai], the Fiji Republic medal, the General Service Medal [GSM] and the Meritorious Service Decoration [MSD].
In 1981, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II approved the award of the Military Cross in recognition of his gallant and distinguished services in the Lebanon.
On 22nd October 1993, he was admitted as an Officer of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem [OStJ]
On 28th February 1999, after serving as Commander Republic of Fiji Military Forces for eight (8) years, he resigned to pursue a career in the political arena. He is posted to the Reserve of Officers.
On March 2001, he was appointed Chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs or the Bose Levu Vakaturaga.
On 15th January, 2007, he was appointed by His Excellency the President to be Interim Minister for Fijian Affairs, Heritage, Provincial Development and Multi Ethnic Affairs.
On 7th January, 2008 he was appointed by His Excellency the President to be Minister for Defence, National Security and Immigration.
He resigned on the 17th day of November 2010.
In 1974, Brigadier General Ganilau married Adi Ateca, daughter of the late Right Honorable Ratu Sir Kamisese and the late Adi Lady Lala Mara. They have four children (2 sons & 2 daughters) and six grandchildren.
Carrying on from the hallmark ability of His Excellency the President, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, our nominee has the ability to work and walk with all of Fiji’s people and will ensure a smooth and stable transition for our people and country.
Madam Speaker, may I from this side of the House on behalf of both Opposition Parties also record our most sincere gratitude to Ratu Epeli Nailatikau and Adi Koila and their family members for performing an extremely difficult task, through tumultuous times with the dignity and grace befitting the venerated Presidential Office.
We wish them the very best in all of their future endeavors.
Madam Speaker, I therefore commend to the House, Ratu Epeli Gavidi Ganilau as President of the Republic of the Fiji Islands.
Madam Speaker, before I sit down may I point out an inconsistency in our Standing Order related to the high office of The President which may have escaped the drafters of these Standing Orders. In Standing Order 62 (2) in relation to Prohibited References for Debate we are expressly prohibited in this House to introduce the President’s name to influence Parliament or any committee and I quote: “The President’s name may not be introduced to influence Parliament or any committee”. Yet Standing Order 136 grants this House permission to appoint a President in this way – a very partisan political method.
Given that we will, by the end of this sitting, appoint the new President we on this side of the House need to be assured that this process upholds the dignity and decorum of the Legislature as required by Standing Order 62(2) I therefore seek an urgent ruling that must be made before we take a vote that what we are about to undertake now, here, is not a violation of Standing Order 62(2).
Lastly Madam Speaker, we would like to inform this august House that pursuant to Standing Order 21 sub-section 3:
“Despite clause (2), the President must summon Parliament to meet if it is not in session and he or she receives a request in writing from not less than one-third of all members requesting that Parliament be summoned to meet to consider without delay a matter of public importance.”
The Opposition has exercised our Rights and has already petitioned the outgoing President to summon a special sitting within the week to determine whether or not A Referendum to validate the results of today’s vote can be effected.
Finally Madam Speaker, I respectfully appeal to the Honorable Members to put politics aside and support our nominee the most capable of carrying out the duties required by the Head of State at this time.
May God Bless Fiji.
"The People who pay for us all, have no input in this process and we therefore call for the review of the Constitution that will allow for a referendum. It is our fervent wish that when we review this Constitution we can find a way, such as a Referendum, for the Head of State for Fiji to have the firm backing of The People and is not left to partisan divides.The People who pay for us all, have no input in this process and we therefore call for the review of the Constitution that will allow for a referendum. It is our fervent wish that when we review this Constitution we can find a way, such as a Referendum, for the Head of State for Fiji to have the firm backing of The People and is not left to partisan divides" - Ro Kepa
Fijileaks promoted person with the common touch to be president; from Fiijileaks archive:
It is time to look at the role of the Fijian President in the 2013 Constitution compared to the 1997 Constitution to think about how ‘we the people of Fiji’ have the duty to decide who will be elected to that position.
While thinking about it we should realize that the position of the President in the 2013 Constitution is now only ceremonial. That means, basically, opening Parliament, cutting ribbons, accepting credentials from diplomats of obscure countries with unpronounceable names, kissing babies and, perhaps as a necessary obligation, opening ablution blocks in rural areas. Admirable duties these are of course but, sadly, no longer very significant in the body politic. Particularly since the President can now only outline the policies and programmes of the government at the opening of each annual session of parliament (section 81 (4) of the 2013 Constitution), a provision missing from the 1997 Constitution.
Gone is the robust and substantive role that the President enjoyed under the 1997 Constitution. Gone is the proper and respectable position as head of state with important powers to take care of all the people of Fiji and, importantly, as the substantive commander-in-chief of the military. The President’s role, as far as the RFMF is concerned under section 81 (3) of the 2013 Constitution, is now only ceremonial. On the other hand, under section 87 of the 1997 Constitution, the President was actually the Commander-in-Chief of the military forces. With such statutory demotion, it is not really clear who can now actually command the military in a meaningful and statesman like way since the job of the Commander of the RFMF under the 2013 Constitution is only to exercise military executive command of the forces, being mainly in appointments, removals and disciplinary actions. This ‘executive’ job was also provided to the Commander in the 1997 Constitution but with two significant differences: in that Constitution, the Commander-in-Chief was the President who held his position as a substantive officer and therefore could meaningfully command the military; and any ‘executive’ command of the Commander could only be carried out subject to the control of the relevant Minister. Both clauses are now gone.
The inclusion of section 131 (2) in the 2013 Constitution (which came from section 94 (3) of the 1990 Constitution), makes the current position of the military forces quite interesting. By reading all the relevant sections together in the three constitutions of Fiji, 1990, 1997 and 2013, we can spot the vacuum created by making the position of the President merely ceremonial in regards to the RFMF. In trying to eliminate the problem created by Qarase for Bainimarama, the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater. Now no one really ultimately commands the military- certainly not the President and, it appears, also not the Commander, and not the Minister. In fact the Commander has a slight command edge over the other two officers of the state.
But back to the President: let Fijians choose a humble farmer or simple worker to be the President of Fiji. Clearly the person will need a certain level of literacy to be able to communicate with all the people of Fiji, especially when opening parliament, but we have so many highly intelligent people who have participated actively in public life, have sacrificed their personal needs for the public good and, yet, may not be formally educated. For so long we have had chiefs, military leaders and the hoi poloi of Fiji bidding for the position of President but now that the job is purely ceremonial, surely the hoi poloi can step aside to let an ordinary but capable citizen of Fiji become President? Especially someone who is not associated, even subtly, with any of the current political parties, including the government, so that the people can look forward to absolute fairness and impartiality from their next President.
People should put names forward of remarkable citizens who have done much for Fiji without accolades and fanfare or for selfish reasons. After all, next time round, parliament will decide who shall be President, not the elites. People should not let the elites (whoever they are) manipulate and therefore ambush the ordinary people’s duty to elect their President from among their own ranks in light of the constitutional phrase…’We the People of Fiji…'