Analysis

Critics Missing The Point In Vuniwaqa Controversy

Our reporter discovered that Mrs Vuniwaqa opposed the amendments to the Land Trust Act claiming there was no consultation with the landowners. That made her position untenable and she had to resign as minister, from Parliament and FijiFirst.
17 Aug 2021 11:30
Critics Missing The Point In Vuniwaqa Controversy
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.

Many critics of the Fiji Sun in the Mereseini Vuniwaqa controversy are missing the point.

It is not about women in leadership or because she is a iTaukei or there is a vendetta to discredit her.

It’s about accountability and transparency and it applies to all public figures irrespective of their ethnicity, gender, religious and political affiliation or socio-economic status.

Why Mrs Vuniwaqa?

Mrs Vuniwaqa remains a public figure despite the fact that she had resigned as Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation.

The Government statement said she resigned for “personal reasons”.

Any journalist worthy of being called a journalist would ask the question about what were those personal reasons. It is their job to find out and inform the people who have the right to know the reasons for her sudden resignation.

This requires a certain amount of investigative zeal and our reporter went to great lengths to unearth the information that constituted the original story.

Our reporter discovered that Mrs Vuniwaqa opposed the amendments to the Land Trust Act claiming there was no consultation with the landowners. That made her position untenable and she had to resign as minister, from Parliament and FijiFirst.

An appendage to this episode was her association with Varinava Tiko, who transported her from Nadi to Navua.

Mr Tiko is now a SODELPA member. But he is not only a member of FijiFirst’s main opposition. He was part of the upheaval in the 2000 Speight coup and was jailed for his riot in the takeover of Korovou Town. He is articulate and passionate in his beliefs.

Mrs Vuniwaqa had sought his help despite the fact that she was offered Government transport to Suva, which she refused. Her family friend Geeta Reddy had driven all the way to Nadi to pick her up as previously arranged, but was told to go back.

While Mrs Vuniwaqa has opted to remain silent, Mr Tiko has denied any alleged misconduct.

The question that remains unanswered is whether she was influenced to change her political position and beliefs by Mr Tiko.

Despite her resignation she remains a high profile public figure.

At one stage she was part of the inner circle of Cabinet and was being touted by some as a candidate to become Prime Minister after Voreqe Bainimarama. She was appointed Acting PM once and showed the PM’s faith in her.

She was popular for her campaign against domestic violence and was a flag bearer for women in leadership.

She shocked everyone when she resigned because the Government had endorsed her application for a top United Nations Women’s job.

This background made her a top candidate for public and media scrutiny on matters of national interest. Her sudden resignation is a matter of public interest and any media organisation worth its salt would pursue the story.

The controversial hugging photo in the Fiji Sun raised other questions about the relationship between her and Mr Tiko.

Some people claim that there is nothing wrong with hugging. Well, for starters, under the current COVID-19 crisis, we are told to stay in our bubbles and not to go outside to hug another person.

Whatever the relationship between the two is it appears they might have forged a political front.

Obviously, the wording of the press statement about her resignation was agreed by the Government and Mrs Vuniwaqa to minimise the impact of a political fallout.

Those who are attacking the Fiji Sun for carrying out its role are biased and have vested interests. They include so called journalists. Many are anti-Government.

They have distorted the substance of the articles and label it unethical.

Our reporter did her due diligence in her investigation and ticked all the boxes.

The same rules apply to all public figures. The media’s role is to hold public officials accountable 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Some so-called journalists are ignoring that in their anti-Government and anti-Fiji Sun zeal.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj



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