Missed Opportunity For Opposition

This is an edited version of Nemani Delaibatiki’s My Say from yesterday’s FBC programme 4 The Record.     All Opposition political parties should take their cue from SODELPA leader
12 Sep 2016 08:09
Missed Opportunity  For Opposition
Sitiveni Rabuka.

This is an edited version of Nemani Delaibatiki’s My Say from yesterday’s FBC programme 4 The Record.



All Opposition political parties should take their cue from SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka, especially those who were invited by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, to attend the Constitution Day celebration at Albert Park Pavilion and Grounds in Suva last Wednesday, but decided to boycott it.

If the late A D Patel, S M Koya and other founding fathers of the National Federation Party were alive today, they would have joined the celebrations at Albert Park. In the 1960’s, they fought hard for universal franchise of a common roll or one man one vote in our electoral system.

Their dream was to eliminate voting on communal or ethnic lines.

That dream is today a reality. We now have a Constitution that embodies everything they lived, worked and sacrificed for.

They would have turned in their graves when they saw that the once proud National Federation Party, the party that started this movement more than five decades ago, was not represented.

If that was not enough, NFP leader Biman Prasad, then went on to rub salt to the wound and played right into the hands of the anti-Fiji brigade from Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat.

Mr Prasad told the radio station that the first Constitution Day was a sham and a meaningless exercise. Maybe meaningless to Mr Prasad, but not for the thousands who celebrated.

That may be his democratic right to boycott the event and express his views.

But sometimes political leaders are expected to rise above the politics and show that national pride that Mr Rabuka displayed on Wednesday.

His lament about a missed opportunity for those who boycotted came from someone who once held the top job as PM and he knew what it was like.

Every now and then we hear the Opposition parties complaining about the silence from Mr Bainimarama about their calls for a bi-partisan approach to discussing national issues.

If they were genuine they would have put aside their politics and attended Constitution Day. It might have broken the ice.

It’s a shame that Mr Prasad has displayed his political petty-mindedness and political immaturity to boycott Constitution Day.

Not only has he forgotten what his predecessors stood for, he has lost his sense of direction for what the party stands for.

Complaints about the electoral system are unfounded. If people had misgivings about this Constitution they would have voted with their feet in the 2014 general election.

Instead, they ratified it by overwhelmingly voting for the FijiFirst Party. The independent election monitors, the Multinational Observer Group, comprising several countries,  called the election fair and credible.

Mr Prasad and Co should stop being pedantic and do some serious soul searching on where they want this country to go.

Do they support the Bill of Rights? Do they support equal citizenry? Do they support a common identity or common name?

Do they support an electoral system not based on race? Do they support the new social-economic rights for all?

Do they support a secular state which allows them to exercise their religious belief within the bounds of the law and without imposing it on others?

Do they recognise the indigenous people or iTaukei, their ownership of iTaukei lands, their unique culture, customs, traditions and language, the same for Rotumans and descendants from Indian indentured labourers, Pacific, settlers and immigrants?

Do they support the universal principles of equality, fairness, justice and the rule of law?

If all their answers are in the affirmative, then what are they really complaining about?

This is the substance of this Constitution. It contains everything that binds us together as a nation of one people, despite our differences. It converts our diversity into strength.

Sometimes we     dwell too much on mechanics and philosophical ideas that slow us down.

In the end we become irrelevant and lose the focus on our ultimate goal of one people, one nation and one vision.

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