Pragmatic politician-in-exile focuses on elections to end military rule


Since the military takeover in Fiji in December 2006, a number of ironies have emerged on Fiji's political landscape. Elected prime minister and victim of the May 2000 failed coup attempt - Mahendra Chaudhry - joined the government of Commodore Frank Bainimarama, a self-appointed prime minister by virtue of the successful 2006 coup staged by his RFMF soldiers.

After being held captive by civilian George Speight during the May rebellion, Chaudhry was replaced by Laisenia Qarase who won elections in 2001 and 2006 before his SDL party was forced from power in the RFMF takeover.

Since Chaudhry's falling out with the soldier-politicians in 2008, Speight's brother and senior SDL executive Samisoni Tikoinasau has formed a diplomatic front with Chaudhry's Fiji Labour Party. At the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in August in the Cook Islands, both parties acted together towards one goal - ending military rule.

Tikoinasau sought asylum in Australia after being beaten at the military barracks in Suva in February last year. He remains an active SDL campaigner having served in the cabinet of Laisenia Qarase's government until it was deposed.

While in government, he represented a seat on the eastern side of Viti Levu - Tailevu North, a hotbed of militant Fijian nationalism. Last month, he told Telinga Media that after the failed rebellion of 2000 - in which his constituents were prominent - nationalists adopted a new strategy tied to electoral politics and respect for the rule of law.

Having distanced himself from the events of 2000, the politician-in-exile is part of the expatriate movement intent on restoring constitutional government.

But Telinga Media put it to him that victims of his brother's actions in 2000 may be skeptical that his supporters could not be mobilised again - outside the electoral contest - if they felt their interests were threatened.

Hear Podcast

Fijian society being 'dismantled' by decree: high chief

roteimumu-captionExpatriate Fijians can be found living in most parts of the globe. Their ongoing ties to their homeland are taken-for-granted. But the promised democratic elections in 2014 have given them another reason to track political developments in Suva.

A constitutional commission is working on a new draft constitution which, it is hoped, will be endorsed at free and fair national elections.

One group following these developments is the Australian-based Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement (FDFM), which held its annual conference in Adelaide last Saturday. Its chiefly guest was the Roko Tui Dreketi, a title given to Ro Teimumu Kepa, the paramount chief of the Burebasaga confederacy, one of three autonomous groupings covering customary lands within the republic.

She told delegates who came from South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Canberra that the current military-led government had thus far been successful in undermining the pillars that keep Fijian society together - especially in its rural heartlands.

Hear Podcast...

Read more ...