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Rabuka puts his hand up for SODELPA leader

January 30
10:18 2014

By ROSI DOVIVERATA

Fiji’s first coup leader and then elected prime minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, says he is prepared to lead the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) in the general election this year, if given the opportunity.
He has confirmed that he has sent his application for both party leader and as a candidate.
“I still have a lot to contribute to Fiji,” said the 64-year-old politician.
His application comes at an opportune time as the party is struggling to find a suitable leader.
Mr Rabuka said he had the support of the people of Cakaudrove along with the blessing of the Tui Cakau, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu.
He remains adamant that the May 14, 1987 coup was something he had to do and has no regrets about it.
Now that he has made his stand known, he says he has a very clear conscience going into the elections.
Following are excerpts from an interview:

WHY SODELPA?
“I want to go with SODELPA because most of the people who were with me in the Soqosoqo Vakavulewa ni Taukei (SVT), they supported Qarase’s policies in keeping with SVT’s policies for Fiji, although we differed in some of the areas like Fijian Holding – they were basically the same for the development of Fiji.”

SUPPORT?
“I still have some support in Cakaudrove and I had indicated to the Turaga Bale Tui Cakau that I’ll be willing to stand for elections again, just to make sure that we still have a voice in the administration of our nation,” Mr Rabuka said.
“He welcomed it and I don’t know whether he will want to run but which-ever way it goes, we have enough support in Cakaudrove to carry the both of us and even more – if he wanted to stand.”

TO LEAD SODELPA?
Mr Rabuka said if given the opportunity to lead SODELPA he would make sure the party came first.
“I don’t want to break up the party for my candidature for the leadership – because the party is more important than any single member.
“I’d rather have the party consolidated and contribute, rather than leading and having the party disintegrate.”

SOMETHING TO
PROVE?
“I just want to prove that I still have a lot to contribute to the leadership of the nation as part of a team or as a leader- whichever way it turns out, I will be prepared to run.
“I still have a lot to contribute. I owe a lot to this country and I want to continue to contribute,” he said.

STANDING TO CLEAR
HIS NAME?
“Not necessarily, too many people were hurt but the subsequent coups have put everybody in a coup spot. Those who did not favour my coup or Speight’s coup jumped on the bandwagon with Frank so we are now all even.”

NO 1987 REGRET?
“No, I had to do what I had to do in 1987,” he said.
Speaking figuratively with a smile, Mr Rabuka said: “You know, I’ve just come back from the garden. In order to get it cleared, you kill the grass.”
He retorted when pushed for answers regarding the 1987 coup:
“I’d rather not go back on that ground. What has been done, has been done, no matter who was in the background, who said what and for what.
“I was the one who pulled the trigger so to speak, and I had to answer for it and face the world with it – that’s the way I want history to remember.
“I have a very clear conscience going into this,” he said.

BAINIMARAMA
GOVERNMENT?
“I like some of the things that are happening, like what we have doing in terms of development. I’m just worried about how we are going to pay for it. And we have paid for everything that we have received, we the people of Fiji have paid for it and will continue to pay.”
Mr Rabuka said that was the way governments operated.
“It is when you show the people the debt burden that they will be carrying and the future generations will be carrying that they will look for alternatives to lighten the burden and we’d like to make the people responsible for what they get and what they do. So it’s a symbiotic relationship between the leaders and the land.”

HAS THE COUNTRY
IMPROVED?
“I don’t think so, I think the country has gone back, there is a general feeling of gloom – perhaps only because they have not had a say on where their tax money has gone,” he said.
“The big United States of America was started because people said, no taxation without representation. When they did not have any voice in the allocation and the utilisation of the taxes they paid – they said that was not right.”

YOUNG VOTERS?
With a big chunk of voters under the youth category, Mr Rabuka said parties who wanted to draw their votes must focus on opportunities.
“A lot of first time voters will focus on opportunities. Which group will provide the opportunities for them,” he said
“Give them something they will be proud of – their character.  We don’t want any future generations of parasites.
“We want people to work for what they get and not just wait for handouts. I believe that whoever will come into leadership must provide for hand-up and not hand-outs.”
He said the free education implemented by the Bainimarama government is a hand-out.
“It takes away the responsibility of rearing a child from the parents and they have very little to claim, apart from the biological factor,” Mr Rabuka said.

FOCUS AREAS
He said if selected he would focus his campaign efforts in the North and Suva.
“Suva is always a good think tank because of the people here, so it’s a good combination.
“People in Cakaudrove may have needs that may be different from the people in Suva but it gives you an indication of the rural people, sea transportation, copra industry and local cottage industries.”

LIFE LESSONS
After more than 10 years away from politics Mr Rabuka said he had learnt some great lessons along the way.
“That you will die some day and that you can only contribute so much. When the time for you to go comes, you go. But until then, you contribute as much as you can.”

 

SITIVENI LIGAMAMADA RABUKA

BORN: September 13,
1948

EDUCATION: Provincial School Northern, Queen Victoria School, NZ Army schools, Indian Defence Services Staff College, Australian Joint Services Staff College.

MILITARY CAREER: Rabuka was trained initially in New Zealand army schools, from which he graduated in 1973, and later did postgraduate work at the Indian Defence Services Staff College in 1979, and at the Australian Joint Services Staff College in 1982. He was a senior operation plans manager for UNIFIL peacekeeping troops in Lebanon in 1980 and 1981. On his return home, he was appointed Army Chief of Staff. From 1982 to 1987, he was an operations and training officer for the Fijian army, except for a two-year absence (1983–1985) when he commanded the Fijian Battalion as part of the Multinational Force and Observers peacekeeping force in the Sinai.

POLITICAL CAREER: Rabuka emerged from obscurity on May 14, 1987, when he staged the first of two military coups following the 1987 election. Rabuka carried out a second coup on September 28 that year. At first he pledged his allegiance to the Queen, but later proclaimed a republic, abolishing the 113-year link to the British monarchy. He handed over power on December 5 to an interim administration, headed by Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau as President and Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara as Prime Minister.

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