No More Coup, Methodists Told

The president of the Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma Reverend Ili Vunisuwai says no church minister or member should be involved in any other coup like in 1987 and 2000.
18 Apr 2022 11:41
No More Coup, Methodists Told
Methodist Church of Fiji President Reverend Ili Vunisuwai opens the Nakasaleka Methodist Church in Kadavu. Photo: Wati Talebula-Nuku

The president of the Meth­odist Church of Fiji and Rotuma Reverend Ili Vunisuwai says no church minister or member should be involved in any other coup like in 1987 and 2000.

Speaking to the Fiji Sun in Nakasaleka, Ka­davu, yesterday Reverend Vunisuwai said: “We don’t want history to repeat itself. I am also talking in general as the coup takes us back.”

“We must make sure that there won’t be another coup in Fiji. Listen to me, the con­gregation of the Methodist Church of Fiji, there should not be a member from the Meth­odist denomination who will overthrow any Government that has been elected in Fiji be­cause we will only increase problems.

“There are people who take coups lightly, but the good definition of a coup is a dangerous robbery at gunpoint.

“Robbery is a sin no matter the definition those that overthrow Governments give. A coup is a dan­gerous type of robbery especially when an elected Government is overthrown at gunpoint.

It is rob­bery with violence no matter the definition the coup-makers give, to give themselves credit for what they have done.”

In 1987, some Methodist ministers and their followers backed Sitiveni Rabuka, then a colonel in the army, who led the country’s first military coup.

He overthrew the democrati­cally elected Fiji Labour Party-Na­tional Federation Party Coalition Government of Dr Timoci Ba­vadra. One of them, Reverend To­masi Raikivi, became a minister in Mr Rabuka’s interim government.

Others including Reverend Ma­nasa Lasaro and Reverend Tomasi Kanailagi were part of a group that ousted church president Reverend Josateki Koroi and installed Rever­end Sireli Caucau. Reverend Koroi had opposed the coup.

Again in the 2000 coup, members and ministers of the church fea­tured prominently in support of coup leader George Speight. The coup deposed the country’s first Indo-Fijian Prime Minister Mahen­dra Chaudhry’s Fiji Labour Party Government.

The church strongly campaigned for a Christian State and supported the move to give iTaukei political dominance.

After the overthrow of Laisenia Qarase’s Soqosoqo ni Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) Government in 2006, the Bainimarama interim administration banned the an­nual church fundraising festival because of the internal political agitation.

The 2013 Constitution declared Fiji a secular state with Fijian as the common name and equal citizenry. It eliminated race-based elections.

Although it went against what the Methodist activ­ists had fought for, Methodist lead­ers elected since 2006 had mellowed and moved towards reconciliation.

This is believed to be the first time that a Methodist Church president had spoken out against all coups.

Reverend Vunisuwai has also en­couraged the district of Nakasale­ka to vote.

He said it was a godly duty to choose the Government that would lead Fijians in the next four years.

“I don’t care which Government you want to choose but what I want to tell you is to do your duty as citi­zens of Fiji,” Reverend Vunisuwai said.

“I hope that we will do our Chris­tian obligation. I hope that no one from the Methodist church will say that they do not want to vote.

“It is not the job of the church to tell you which political party to be part of, but it is the job of the church to encourage everyone to go to the polling station and vote.

We must choose the Government that will lead us in the next four years.”

Reverend Vunisuwai stressed on the importance of Holistic salva­tion (Bula vaka yalo me taucoko).

“We have had four coups, and this shows a dangerous picture of our country. In the last 35 years, we have overthrown four Govern­ments.

We are a small nation with a population that has not reached one million,” he said.

“Sydney has a population of 10million, and we are a nation that has not even reached one million, but we have overthrown four Gov­ernments.

This is not a good pic­ture we have painted of ourselves for a country this small.”


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