If the people of Fiji had expected a smooth, less confrontational political life after the September elections, they will be disappointed. One day after being sworn in as Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama was at his vitriolic best, heaping scorn on political rivals and mounting a scathing attack on the Methodist Church. But at the United Nations in New York just days later he changed tack. “I pledge that I will govern for the benefit of all our citizens, no matter who they are, where they come from or who they voted for,” he said. “Mine will be an inclusive Government over the next four years. I will be the leader of all Fijians, for all Fijians. And as we move our beloved nation forward, I am determined to leave no-one behind.
“In that spirit, I extend a hand of friendship to my political opponents.” In a pre-election interview the former army strongman who rose to power after removing Laisenia Qarase in December 2006 said he wanted a Parliament without an opposition. Indeed, he had hoped to win all 50 seats on offer in the elections. But it was not to be, with the far right Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) taking 15 seats and the centrist National Federation three. Labelling all others “losers” or “liars” on national television and in radio and newspaper interviews Bainimarama has signalled that he intends to beat all opponents into submission.
F o r e i g h t y e a r s B a i n i m a r a – ma has had total control of Cabinet, the Civil Service and the media. He has faced no scrutiny in the areas of governance and public accounts which are so crucial in democracies for simple accountability and transparency. All that is about to change with a Parliament in which one third of members have waited close to a decade to raise their voices. They will demand to know how development projects were allocated and where money was spent.
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