Explainer

Politics Of Fear Resurfaces As Rabuka Tries To Placate Indo-Fijians, Targeted In His 1987 Coups, With Peace Promise

He assured people that they had no reason to fear him because he was not the same Rabuka who, as a then colonel in the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, led the racist 1987 coups against the Indo-Fijians.
07 Oct 2020 09:56
Politics Of Fear Resurfaces As Rabuka Tries To Placate Indo-Fijians, Targeted In His 1987 Coups, With Peace Promise
Opposition leader and SODELPA caretaker party leader Sitiveni Rabuka.

The politics of fear resurfaced in the West last week as Sitiveni Rabuka concluded his West listening tour.

No many people saw it coming but it was the Opposition leader and SODELPA caretaker party leader who raised it.

He assured people that they had no reason to fear him because he was not the same Rabuka who, as a then colonel in the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, led the racist 1987 coups against the Indo-Fijians.

He had also wanted Fiji to be a Christian state and imposed that infamous Sunday ban.

Mr Rabuka’s peace assurance came out of the blue for many people who might have wondered what prompted him to make that statement when he had several times, in the past, apologised for his role and the pain and suffering the coups caused for the victims.

It’s obvious that many have not forgotten the coups’ collateral damage to human cost and economic ruin up to this day.

As such it is difficult for some of them to forgive Mr Rabuka and therefore do not trust him. The fear factor is part of it. Mr Rabuka may have picked this up in his West tour and decided to allay this fear publicly.

Result of recent survey

In light of Mr Rabuka’s and SODELPA’s surge in last month’s Fiji Sun-Western Force Research public opinion poll, people are again talking about Mr Rabuka.

Included in this group are the undecided voters who are looking at what the Opposition parties are offering as alternatives if they win the 2022 election.

Most of their public utterances are criticisms against the FijiFirst Government with few solutions.

Two leaders creating an impact by offering tangible ideas and solutions are Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry and Unity Fiji leader Savenaca Narube.

This is reflected in their improved ratings in the opinion survey.

Unfortunately for Mr Rabuka, the demons of the past are still haunting him and will continue to do so when it comes to national leadership debate.

They were responsible for him losing the reins of power to Mr Chaudhry in the 1999 General Election.

The Indo-Fijians revolted in protest after then National Federation Party leader Jai Ram Reddy went into coalition with Mr Rabuka’s SVT (Soqosoqo ni Vakavunilewa ni Taukei) Party. They simply did not accept the deal because of what Mr Rabuka did to them in 1987. SVT won only eight of its 31 seats it had previously and NFP lost all 20 seats, the first time it had not won a seat in an election.

Mr Rabuka raised eyebrows when he invited NFP leader Biman Prasad to join him in his West tour. Was this a repeat of history, some asked. It was the first time the two leaders were seen on the campaign trail together after the 1999 election debacle.

Confusing twist

Then in a confusing twist, Mr Rabuka said SODELPA would contest the 2022 election alone, a move designed to appease SODELPA members who questioned the wisdom of the joint tour when the party was doing well in the polls.

But it must have been awkward for Mr Prasad who was probably hoping for a unity arrangement to help bolster the sagging NFP rating in the recent poll. In addition, Mr Rabuka had effectively said no to the proposal for a United Coalition of Opposition parties for 2022.

Resurrected past

Mr Rabuka’s bid for a second term as SODELPA party leader after he lost the 2018 election has generated discussions on whether he should lead the party into 2022.

It has resurrected his past history and it’s clear that some people have not forgotten 1987. It’s a question of trust underlined by fear.

What has complicated matters for Mr Rabuka is that under his watch SODELPA has been plunged into deep division between the moderates and the conservative right wing. It led to its temporary suspension for breach of the party constitution.

To make it worse he has failed to show impartiality and sided with the right wingers. It has frustrated his efforts to build unity and consensus and impede his progress as leader. It could actually count against him when they are tallying points in the selection process of the party leader contest.

Mr Rabuka knows that this fear about him could be detrimental to him and the party. That was why he had to address it in Rakiraki.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatikia@fijisun.com.fj

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