NEWS

FOCUS: Get Used To Robust Debate, Opposition Told

The Opposition has been told to get used to robust debates in Parliament by leading Fijian academic Professor Steven Ratuva. Professor Ratuva was responding to Opposition member and National Federation
10 Apr 2015 09:43
FOCUS: Get Used To Robust Debate, Opposition Told
Professor Steve Ratuva

The Opposition has been told to get used to robust debates in Parliament by leading Fijian academic Professor Steven Ratuva.

Professor Ratuva was responding to Opposition member and National Federation Party leader Biman Prasad who had criticised the way in which the current government of Fiji was running the country.

Mr Prasad was quoted by local media saying the government was still in “campaign mode” and indulged in a “fear mongering” style of rhetoric in an attempt to promote dislike of the Opposition among people in Fiji.

But the University of Canterbury’s Pacific Studies Professor Ratuva told Pacific Media Watch any member of Parliament should be used to this.

“It’s an arena full of intrigue, full of back stabbing, full of conversation of different plans,” he said.

“It’s something which politicians have to be keen enough to be able to handle and therefore the culture within which parliament operates can be quite intense.”

Six months after the Fiji elections, Professor  Ratuva said politicians needed to respect the election process.

“The Bainimarama government came into power on the back of a very big margin, so this has a big majority,” he said.

‘Fight power’

“This means that they have a lot of fight power in terms of what they can deliver and what they want to push through.”

Local media reported that Mr Prasad had said the actions of the government were an attempt to disguise the fundamental concerns affecting the country, such as the continuing supression of freedom of speech and freedom of association.

But Professor Ratuva said, whether or not these issues had been dealt with was a matter of “perception”.

“Some people feel those restrictions are there and some, who are in Fiji, feel those restrictions are gone,” he said.

“What I think is being aluded to by Mr Prasad is the Media Decree and the decree still has those restrictions in terms of the way in which it regulates the behaviour of journalists”.

Professor Ratuva claimed a lot of journalists and people believed the decree was something that needed to be “rid of”.

To the claims of Mr Prasad about Fiji moving from a “military dictatorship to parliamentary dictatorship”, Professor Ratuva said it was important to seperate the “rhetoric from the reality”.

‘Lopsided debate’

“The reality is that you have a majority of FijiFirst at 60 per cent and the other 40 per cent is the opposition,” he said.

“You’re bound to have a lopsided process of debate of policy making, it happens everywhere in the world”.

According to Professor Ratuva’s analysis of the 2014 Fiji elections, he said FijiFirst were likely to be in power for the next few elections.

“The two major opposition parties which are SODELPA (Social Democratic Liberal Party), which is largely an iTaukei party, will need to shift towards a more multi-ethnic position to grab voters from other ethnic groups,” he said.

“The NFP (National Federation Party) is still very small and needs to expand its appeal and needs to come up with something new to appeal to a broader population.

“If these two parties are able to do that successfully, and are able to work together during the election, then there might be a shift away from FijiFirst.”

According to Professor Ratuva, in the 2014 Fijian election, 71 per cent of the Indo-Fijian group voted for FijiFirst, along with 50 per cent of the iTaukei population and 80 per cent of other ethnic groups.

Whereas, 46 per cent of the iTaukei population voted for SODELPA, along with less than 1 per cent from other ethnic groups.

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