NEWS

I Was Unaware Of ‘Political’ Letter, Says Church Head

The president-elect of the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma, Reverend Tevita Banivanua, said he was unaware of the letter that was circulated to its 56 divisions. And the copy
26 Sep 2014 10:23
I Was Unaware Of ‘Political’ Letter, Says Church Head
The scene at most supermarkets across the country before the national announcement by Dr James Fong, Permanent Secretary for Health and Medical Services. Photo: Leon Lord

The president-elect of the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma, Reverend Tevita Banivanua, said he was unaware of the letter that was circulated to its 56 divisions.

And the copy of the letter he produced at the press conference yesterday was not on the church’s letterhead and was unsigned.

However, the original one, which was obtained by the Fiji Sun, had the church letterhead and was signed by Rev Iliesa Naivalu, the church’s secretary of Christian Citizenship and Social Services.

The letter had allegedly included many of the untruths championed by the Social Democratic Liberal Party on major issues such as the Secular State, the reinstatement of the 1997 Constitution and the Yash Ghai draft. It also mentioned the church’s concerns on the so-called claims of weakening of iTaukei affairs and the removal of the Great Council of Chiefs. The letter purportedly urged the congregation to vote for SODELPA.

This had drawn severe criticism from the Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, on Wednesday who said: “I’m very disappointed that the Methodist Church and some talatalas of the Methodist Church can come up with these lies as SODELPA came up with during their campaigns.”

Rev Nawadra said he was unaware of the letter and its contents.

“I must admit that until this matter was highligheted in the news, I was unaware of the lettter or its contents,” he said.

He confirmed that they had had a meeting with Rev Naivalu and that he would be taken to task.

“We just want to right the wrongs in terms of the process on how ministers go out to the public with their statements.”

He said one of the roles of Rev Naivalu’s department was to help church members become aware of current issues affecting society and the church’s theological stand on them.

The contents of the circulated letter to divisional ministers was to give a background to the resolutions to show that the issues were not new and had been part of the church’s social policy for some time.

“It was to place these resolutions in its proper context,” he said.

He said his understanding of the situation was that Rev Naivalu’s efforts were well intended.

Prime Minister Bainimarama had said the letter was political and it had all that SODELPA was campaigning about.

Meanwhile Republic of Fiji Military Forces Commander Brigadier-General Mosese Tikoitoga said – “Anybody who reads this; the paper talks about the Methodist congregation not to vote or not to consider voting for the Government even though they fell short of saying not to vote for FijiFirst or to vote for another party.”

Rev Nawadra said the issues raised in the letter were based on resolutions passed in the 2014 church conference.

Rev Banivanua said the incident showed that the church had a gap in its communication process. He confirmed that they would relook into the matter.

He also explained the church’s official absence from the interfaith thanksgiving service for the 45 Fijian United Nations soldiers released in the Golan Heights.

He said they didn’t want it to be misconstrued  as a political endorsement.

Feedback:  litia.cava@fijisun.com.fj

 



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