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FIJI: 'Get used to it', Ratuva tells opposition MPs on robust debate


National Federation Party leader Professor Biman Prasad ... government still in "campaign mode". Image: Gregory Ravoi/Republika

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Item: 9198

Alistar Kata
AUCKLAND (Pacific Media Watch): Opposition member and National Federation Party leader Professor Biman Prasad has criticised the way in which the current government of Fiji is running the country.

The Fiji Times reported that Dr Prasad said the government was still in "campaign mode" and indulged in a "fear mongering" style of rhetoric in an attempt to promote dislike of the Opposition among people in Fiji.

But University of Canterbury's Pacific Studies professor Steven Ratuva told Pacific Media Watch any member of Parliament should be used to this.

"It's an arena full of intrigue, full of back stabbing, full of contestation of different plans," he said.

"It's something which politicians have to be keen enough to be able to handle and therefore the culture within which parliament operates can be quite intense."

Six months after the Fiji elections, Dr Ratuva said politicians needed to respect the election process.

"The Bainimarama government came into power on the back of a very big margin, so they have a big majority," he said.

'Firepower'
"This means that they have a lot of firepower in terms of what they can deliver and what they want to push through."

The Fiji Times reported Dr Prasad had said the actions of the government were an attempt to disguise the fundamental concerns affecting the country, such as the continuing supression of freedom of speech and freedom of association.

But Dr Ratuva said, whether or not these issues had been dealt with was a matter of "perception".

"Some people feel those restrictions are there and some, who are in Fiji, feel those restrictions are gone," he said.

"What I think is being aluded to by Dr Prasad is the Media Decree and the decree still has those restrictions in terms of the way in which it regulates the behaviour of journalists".

Dr Ratuva claimed a lot of journalists and people believed the decree was something that needed to be got "rid of".

To the claims of Dr Prasad about Fiji moving from a "military dictatorship to parliamentary dictatorship", Dr Ratuva said it was important to seperate the "rhetoric from the reality".

'Lopsided debate'
"The reality is that you have a majority of FijiFirst at 60 percent and the other 40 percent is the opposition," he said.

"You're bound to have a lopsided process of debate of policy making, it happens everywhere in the world".    

According to Dr Ratuva's analysis of the 2014 Fiji elections, he said FijiFirst were likely to be in power for the next few elections.

"The two major opposition parties which are SODELPA (Social Democratic Liberal Party), which is largely an iTaukei party, will need to shift towards a more multi-ethnic position to grab voters from other ethnic groups," he said.

"The NFP (National Federation Party) is still very small and needs to expand its appeal and needs to come up with something new to appeal to a broader population".

"If these two parties are able to do that successfully, and are able to work together during the election, then there might be a shift away from FijiFirst."

According to Dr Ratuva, in the 2014 Fijian election, 71 percent of the Indo-Fijian group voted for FijiFirst, along with 50 percent of the iTaukei population and 80 percent of other ethnic groups.

Whereas, 46 percent of the iTaukei population voted for SODELPA, along with less than 1 percent from other ethnic groups.   

 

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand Licence.

About the authors

PMC profile photograph

Alistar Kata

Pacific Media Watch project contributing editor 2015

Alistar Kata is of Cook Island, Māori (Ngapuhi) descent and is a Communication Studies Honours student at AUT and Pacific Media Watch contributing editor.
 

PMC profile photograph

Pacific Media Watch

PMC's media monitoring service

Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators.
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