Opinion

Has Roko Tupou Forgotten That Bavadra Family Forgave Rabuka

 Jone Dakuvula was a longtime political activist  and consultant. He served in Sitiveni Rabuka’s office between 1992 – 1995 as chief assistant secretary and press secretary.    The election
30 Jun 2016 15:18
Has Roko Tupou Forgotten That Bavadra Family Forgave Rabuka


Jone Dakuvula was a longtime political activist  and consultant. He served in Sitiveni Rabuka’s office between 1992 – 1995 as chief assistant secretary and press secretary. 

 

The election by the SODLEPA management of Sitiveni Rabuka to be their new leader and possibly to lead SODELPA to the next general elections raises many questions.

 

Criticism over appointment

There has been criticism of his appointment and even threats of forming a breakaway from SODELPA. Some leading members have resigned. These are acts by people who it seems remain tied to historical grievances about his role as the “father” of coups in Fiji.

Some of those who are now waxing moral indignation against the 1987 coup leader had not expressed this at the time the coup happened (or they were too young then), or after he became a first post-coup Prime Minister.

 

Rabuka admitted to his wrong doing

There are two broad points I wish to make as an observer of events.

The first is, these critics need to consider that Rabuka had admitted he had wronged and hurt many people because of what he did in 1987 and he had begun to apologise for these actions some way back. What had impressed me about Rabuka after the SVT was defeated in the 1999 General Elections was that he went to visit the late deposed Prime Minister, Dr Timoci Bavadra’s tokatoka and family in Vuda, and presented his ‘matanigasau’ (traditional apology) and asked for their forgiveness and they gave it. Has Roko Tupou Draunidalo forgotten this?

His moves towards reconciliation may still be incomplete, even now, and in that respect many people who still have negative views about him and whose hurts from the 1987 coup are still deeply felt may be right. Hurts can be maintained for life and not healed. What more can Rabuka do? How does Fiji move beyond the shadows of 1987, 2000 and 2006 and is Rabuka the man to lead us out of them?

 

Many iTaukei caused his defeat in the 1999 elections

Supporters of SODELPA who have recently made him leader will remember that many of them were the cause of Rabuka’s defeat in the 1999 elections (from the iTaukei side), because they did not trust him. They had campaigned against his 1997 Constitution and his coalition with Jai Ram Reddy’s National Federation Party. They had accused him then also of betraying the iTaukei through the 1997 Constitution.

Many had supported George Speight’s seizure of Parliament because they believe Rabuka had sold them out. The SDL party led by Lasenia Qarase was elected in 2001 with the promise to replace the 1997 Constitution with a new one, in the spirit of the George Speight coup. Many of them had never read the 1997 Constitution, so they did not know (even up to now), that it was protective of iTaukei institutions and rights, consistent with the UN and the ILO conventions that the followers of Niko Nawaikula often invoke these days.

 

1997 Constitution and coalition with NFP: 2 concrete steps towards national reconciliation

That constitutional achievement and the subsequent SVT coalition with the NFP and GVP in 1999 were two concrete steps on the path towards national reconciliation and healing of the wounds of 1987. Much more would have been achieved had Rabuka’s coalition government been elected in 1999.

The majority of the iTaukei now in SODELPA (indeed supporters of the FLP as well) had rejected him in 1999 also because they believed they were superior to him and wanted political power for themselves.

The consequences of the defeat of the SVT /NFP/GVP coalition in 1999 were the dark days of 2000 and the coup of 2016. It is to the credit of Prime Minister Bainimarama that he implemented some of the positive changes that the Rabuka-led coalition would have introduced had they not been rejected in 1999.

 

Party endorsing Rabuka vision

Now SODELPA has come full circle and embraces Rabuka’s vision 17 years later. In hindsight, was the rule of the SDL exclusivist government all a waste of time, energy and more unnecessary pain? I guess we are all human and we all learn from our past mistakes.

It is good that the NFP will continue to dialogue with SODELPA and other political parties on a new way forward, notwithstanding Roko Tupou’s reservations. The FLP and other parties need to join this dialogue and resume what was abandoned in 2009.

 

Rabuka admits he is flawed and has made mistakes

The second point to be made about Sitiveni Rabuka is that he is a flawed person and political leader and he had been publicly admitting this for some time. And yet he still offers his leadership. For a politician offering leadership to admit to weakness and vulnerability is a very rare quality amongst political leaders in Fiji, and indeed in the world.

The conventional political creed and practice in democracies is never to admit one had made any error of judgement and decisions in the past or in the present situation. To admit this is for some, a sign of weakness and inconsistency and it is a NO NO in politics. Politicians admit to no mistakes. So why do we need politicians who confess publicly that they are human?

 

US political consultant and pollster Frank Luntz’s comments

Last week I watched leading US political consultant and pollster Frank Luntz interviewed on the BBC Hard TALK programme about his views of the current political situation in America, particularly the Presidential Elections. He said he had been a professional pollster for 40years and he believed that the political system in the US is “broken”. And that this is the first time he could not say with any confidence that he knows where his country is heading. He observed that was the situation as well in the United Kingdom.

 

Luntz tells US presidential candidates to admit mistakes publicly

He said all the presidential candidates this year consulted him as a professional pollster and he had advised them all, and especially Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, to be honest. To admit publicly that they made mistakes in the past and are likely to make mistakes in the future. Luntz urged them to tell the American people how they will correct themselves when they mess up, if they became President. He told Mrs Clinton to admit that her support for the Iraq war and the bombing and deposing of the Mummar Qadafi regime in Libya were wrong. He also asked her to admit that her plan to invade Syria if she becomes President is wrong. Honestly in politics is the message that Frank Luntz as a pollster had been getting from most ordinary Americans. In times of crisis, it seems people everywhere want honest politicians. They usually do not get them.

The ordinary Americans, the pollster observed, are angry with their political leaders because they promise them something and do something else. President Obama was given as an example. He therefore advised the presidential candidates to be honest and respect people’s intelligence. People are fed up with political leaders telling them they have got the solution to America’s domestics and international problems and they have had enough of being lied to.

All American presidential candidates who paid for Frank Luntz’s advice, told him he was stupid. He said to the BBC interviewer. “I could be wrong sometimes but I am not stupid. I have a DPhil from Oxford University and that is not a stupid qualification”.

 

Politicians must admit their mistakes and say they are willing to correct them

So what does this have to do with Sitiveni Rabuka’s aspiration to lead Fiji again?

May be the time is coming soon for leadership from politicians who admit that they made mistakes in the past and may continue to make mistakes in the future and are willing to corrects their mistakes by listening to critics. That leaders need critics inside the party as well a freedom to criticise outside of government in order to perform better. That their current policies and attitude could be wrong and can be changed to accommodate others who are different.

Rabuka was not an authoritarian leader

Rabuka has called on his critics to remain in SODELPA.

Under his leadership in 1992 to 1999, the news media was the freest it had been before or since. He was not an authoritarian leader, even though he could have chosen to be that given his popularity amongst the iTaukei at the time.

He has learned many lessons from the consequences of his 1987 coups that have made him more patient, tolerant, forgiving and willing to treat all communities’ interests with respect and care.

 

We should give him a chance

May be we should give Sitiveni Rabuka another chance to pursue his vision that was rejected by a great majority of Fijians in the 1999 elections almost 17 years ago. Can we learn from history and change?

Feedback:  jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

 

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