Politics

Why Did Mereseini Vuniwaqa Unexpectedly Resign?

It has emerged that her rather close association with a strong pro-indigenous advocate, Varinava Tiko, may have influenced her stance.
15 Aug 2021 12:56
Why Did Mereseini Vuniwaqa Unexpectedly Resign?
Left: Former Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Mereseini Vuniwaqa. Right: Mereseini Vuniwaqa gets cozy with Varinava Tiko at Naitata, Navua, as she changes her vehicle after arriving with him on Tuesday. Photo: Lusiana Tuimaisala.

Why did Mereseini Vuniwaqa unexpectedly resign?

She had just returned from an interview for the top job at the UN Women, to be the new executive director. Her trip to New York for the interview obviously signified the Government’s endorsement.

But a day before she was released from isolation at the Hilton Fiji Beach Resort and Spa in Denarau, her resignation citing ‘personal reasons and new opportunities’ was posted on the Fijian Government Facebook page.

There was no warning or indication of her resignation except that it is understood that she did not support the proposed amendments to the iTaukei Land Trust Act commonly known as Bill No. 17 of 2021.

It has emerged that her rather close association with a strong pro-indigenous advocate, Varinava Tiko, may have influenced her stance.

Mr Tiko is a paying member of the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA). This was confirmed by SODELPA General Secretary, Lenaitasi Duru. Mr Tiko has been critical and vocal about the party as well. On his Facebook account, Mr Tiko promotes himself as an Independent political candidate for 2022.

Among other businesses, he runs a private recruitment company called Access United (Fiji) Ltd.

Media reports in 2003 said that Mr Tiko was charged with a number of serious offences related to the 2000 Speight coup when he led the armed seizure of Korovou town. He was sentenced to two years jail.

Mr Tiko is a widower. His late wife Frances Malani, a lawyer, passed away last September.

Mrs Vuniwaqa on the other hand once belonged in the inner sanctum of the FijiFirst party. She was a flag bearer for the women’s fraternity and fought for the rights of women, children, the physically challenged and the elderly.

In Parliament, she stood for family values and the family unit as the sure foundation for our society.

And then she breaks the cardinal rule in family relationships.

It is understood that after her release from quarantine last Saturday, Mrs Vuniwaqa was uplifted by Mr Tiko early that morning.

Varinava Tiko.

Varinava Tiko.

A source followed them from the hotel up to Mr Tiko’s home at Kashmir, Lautoka.

Sources have revealed that they were travelling together in Mr Tiko’s private vehicle over the weekend.

Mereseini Vuniwaqa gets cozy with Varinava Tiko at Naitata, Navua, as she changes her vehicle after arriving with him on Tuesday. Photo: Luisiana Tuimaisala.

Mereseini Vuniwaqa gets cozy with Varinava Tiko at Naitata, Navua, as she changes her vehicle after arriving with him on Tuesday. Photo: Lusiana Tuimaisala.

On Tuesday both Mr Tiko and Ms Vuniwaqa were spotted in Naitata, Navua at around 7.05am. Mr Tiko dropped off Ms Vuniwaqa who later boarded a waiting vehicle for Suva. Mr Tiko returned to Lautoka. Attempts to get a clarification from Mrs Vuniwaqa about the alleged association and reasons for her resignation were unsuccessful.

Her only reply via Facebook Messenger under the profile Mereseini Rakuita was: “Bula Lusi. Have a Blessed Day.”

Mr Tiko was also approached for a comment. He denied all allegations of any relationship or association with Mrs Vuniwaqa. When asked if they were involved in a romantic relationship, Mr Tiko said: “Ai tukutuku levu ni kaya tiko mai qori.” (Those are some very big allegations.)

“E ka vou saraga vei au na I tukutuku qori. Ke dua na i taba qori, au sega ni kila na i taba qori. Au kurabui saraga e na i tukutuku qo. Au kidacala taka na i tukutuku qo, au sega ni rawa ni kaya kina e dua na ka.” (That information is news to me. If there is a picture, I don’t know anything about it. I’m surprised and shocked about this information and can’t comment about it.)

When further probed he said: “Valoloma saraga o keda na I taukei va qo. E dua e vakayagataki kemuni tiko mai, e dua na kai Idia?” (It’s a pity that some iTaukei are like this. Is someone using you, is it an Indian?)

Screenshot 2021-08-15 at 12.34.32 PM

Edited by Rosi Doviverata

Feedback: lusiana.tuimaisala@fijisun.com.fj



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