NEWS

Padre Tells All On Methodist Church’s Annual Bazaar Row

Reverend Josefa Tikoinatabua backs PM in controversy over invitation to open annual Methodist fundraising bazaar. He says church delegation failed to tell PM whole story
29 Jul 2019 15:16
Padre Tells All On Methodist Church’s Annual Bazaar Row
Reverend Josefa Tikoinatabua. Photo: Simione Haravanua

Fiji Corrections Service chaplain Reverend Josefa Tikoinatabua has come out to support Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama in the controversy over the Methodist Church’s annual bazaar.

Reverend Tikoinatabua revealed for the first time yesterday that members of a church delegation who met the Prime Minister to invite him to open the church’s annual bazaar next month did not tell Mr Bainimarama the whole story.

The former Republic of Fiji Military Forces chaplain disclosed that he was asked to be an intermediary by the church HQ to arrange an appointment with the PM because he personally knew him.

He said the delegation did not tell him or the PM beforehand that Opposition leader and SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka would close the bazaar.

Reverend Tikoinatabua said if he had known this beforehand, he would have counselled the church against the idea of pitching two political leaders in a church event.

He said such a move was not good for the church.

At the meeting with Mr Bainimarama, the delegation was asked about the purpose of the fundraiser. The PM was told it was to pay for developing the new frontage for Lelean Memorial School.

The PM then asked what their target amount was.

The delegation quoted $100,000, the PM said “set”, meaning he would arrange to pay for the cost.

It’s the same amount that Mr Rabuka and SODELPA are trying to raise, prompting the SODELPA leader to make a public appeal for contributions.

Reverend Tikoinatabua said he was embarrassed when he learned later that Mr Rabuka was also part of the programme.

He felt betrayed that he had been used to get an audience with the PM who had behaved “with absolute integrity in this matter”.

He said the PM had made a commitment based on the information he was given.

When the PM found out the whole truth, he changed his mind because he did want to see politicians and political parties competing in a church forum.

“I don’t blame him. I would have done exactly the same.”

Reverend Tikoinatabua said he had known Mr Bainimarama for a long time.

“He is upfront and honest and has the welfare of all people, faiths and cultures at heart. He stands up for what is good for the whole nation.”

Reverend Tikoinatabua warned Methodist Church leaders to beware of some lay people in the church who were giving wrong advice to them.

He said some had their own political agenda to promote and this was evident in this case.

Reverend Tikoinatabua said some had been brought in to enhance the church’s business interests and streamline church activities.

He felt strongly that it was time that ordained ministers presided over all church interests, including those in trust, to ensure that they were free from political influence.

Ultimately, he said, the spiritual welfare of the members and the future direction of the church were at stake.

Meanwhile, Methodist Church President Reverend Epineri Vakadewavosa could not be reached for comments yesterday. It is believed that he is in Saqani, Vanua Levu, and will return today.

Methodist Church General Secretary Reverend Ili Vunisuwai was also contacted for a comment. All he could say was: No comment.”

The Fiji Sun visited SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka‘s home at Namadi yesterday, but he could not be reached for a comment.

Edited by Epineri Vula

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