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EDITORIAL: Konrote’s Election Opens Door For Commoners To Aspire To High Office

Yesterday was a historic day in our country. It was the day Parliament voted in the first commoner and non-iTaukei from Rotuma, a minority group, as the next President to
13 Oct 2015 08:03
EDITORIAL: Konrote’s Election Opens Door For Commoners To Aspire To High Office

Yesterday was a historic day in our country. It was the day Parliament voted in the first commoner and non-iTaukei from Rotuma, a minority group, as the next President to take over from Ratu Epeli Nailatikau who officially finishes his term on November 12.
Every Rotuman should be proud of Jioji Konrote’s elevation and he deserves it. He has the right credentials. He has served Fiji outstandingly as a senior military officer, civil servant, minister and diplomat. He also comes from both sides of the political divide.
Those who oppose his election in SODELPA should know that Mr Konrote was Fiji’s High Commissioner to Australia from 2001 to 2006 under the Laisenia Qarase-led SDL Government. SDL is the fore-runner of SODELPA.

Many of the policies of SDL were carried over to SODELPA. In 2006, Mr Konrote contested the general election as an independent and won his seat. He was then invited by Mr Qarase to join his government and was appointed minister of state for Immigration and Ex-Servicemen in Mr Qarase’s government.
Last year, he entered the general election under the FijiFirst banner and won a seat in Parliament. He was subsequently appointed Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations.
Mr Konrote has served with distinction in all his appointments. There is no doubt he will continue that tradition in Government House.
As a highly decorated military officer we can be rest assured that he will serve with absolute integrity.
Because we live in a democracy, there are people who will not agree and they are entitled to their opinions. Because he has served on both sides of the political divide, he understands and is well familiar with the local cultural sensitivities.

Why couldn’t his former colleagues on the other side of the House mutually acknowledge his nomination, and in the spirit of national unity?
When things don’t go their way, it is very convenient for them to say that the Government has missed the opportunity for a bi-partisan approach. They wanted the Government to recognise their nominee, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, because he was, they said, endorsed by the traditional confederacies of Kubuna, Burebasaga and Tovata.

That was an internal process employed by SODELPA and supported by its junior partner, the National Federation Party. They wanted the Government to recognise that process, which is an internal party matter. By the same token Government has its own process.
There is nothing in the Constitution that stipulates the process that needs to be used to choose a nominee. It’s the prerogative of the respective sides of the House. At the end of the day, it will be the two nominees that MPs vote on.
With all due respect to Ratu Epeli, he was on the wrong side of the House. He is capable like Mr Konrote and has similar service record. He is a chief and very respectable The reality was that he was never going to get it. The Opposition knew that and every attempt it tried to get Government to support it would prove futile. Having said that, it was good it nominated a candidate. But any attempt to challenge or change the outcome of the vote in Parliament is undemocratic and unconstitutional.
The NFP MPs, who abstained from the voting claiming the process was not depoliticised and lacked a bipartisan approach, still wished Mr Konrote well. SODELPA’s tactic of using the traditional confederacies to lever support is a poor attempt at trying to mix tradition and politics to achieve a political goal.

The talk about depoliticising the system is a lot of hot air. It’s the old style politics re-surfacing again. It looks as another attempt by the traditionalists to maintain the chiefly hold on the presidency as a means to keep the chiefs relevant in the national scheme of things.
But Mr Konrote’s election opens the door for commoners to aspire to this high office.
Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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