‘All in the same canoe’

The author says 40 per cent of the population have been alienated by Government through its treatment of the 40 per cent's elected representatives in Parliament. Picture: FT FILE

WHILE appealing to all Fijians to prepare for the 2018 election and to exercise their democratic right to vote, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama stated: “….we are all in the same canoe and are on the same journey towards creating a better nation, a stronger nation, and one worthy of our children and the generations to come…” (FT 24/04/2018).
I don’t think that all the people of Fiji totally agree with the PM, or even in the same canoe that he keeps talking about internationally. We know that the FijiFirst Government came to power with about 60 per cent popularity. However, there was a very large segment of society, about 40 per cent of the Fijian population, who did not support FijiFirst.
This same segment of our community voted and had their elected representatives in Parliament, who are not having it easy in Parliament. They are overwhelmed, out-gunned and outmanoeuvred at every quarter by the Bainimarama Government.
Even in cases where Government does not have to rub salt into the wound of the Opposition, because of its majority, Government does not relent, regardless.
There is no mercy at all in deliberations, points of order, opinions, standing orders etc. Sadly, as we look back over the past four years, it is no secret that Government did not work with the Opposition, which meant alienating around 40 per cent of the Fijian population.
The PM’s rhetoric now sounds so hollow when we look at the history in Fiji’s Parliament to date.
How can we be all in the same canoe, on the same journey towards creating a better nation, a stronger nation, and one worthy of our children and the generations to come, without the other 40 per cent of our people who have not given any mandate to the PM? Has the PM reached out to these people of our nation via their elected representatives in Parliament?
I believe not a single bi-partisan legislation was publicly discussed, allowed to be debated, nor passed in any show of solidarity by the Government. Any Bills or motions brought up by the Opposition were immediately quashed. It was clear that whether the Parliament had any opposition or not, it did not matter to the Bainimarama Government, which was going to use its majority to dominate every facet of the parliamentary politics.
In my opinion, Fiji needs a government of national unity or a workable grand coalition to ensure all Fijians are adequately represented through their elected representatives.
A better and stronger nation, one worthy of our children and the generations to come needs the ideas and consensus of all segments of our society. This has to be done in an all-inclusive manner.
I believe the present party politics is not bearing results as expected. Thus it is time for the Opposition parties to stand up and be counted by our people and for them to show their true “spine”, if they have one.
The Opposition must show maturity, professionalism, shrewdness and unity well before the PM announces the date of the second election under the 2013 Fiji Constitution. They need to clearly announce their national unity message and alternative governing strategies and what they offer to Fijians.
In my opinion a government of national unity is the only way forward for multicultural and diverse Fiji and will provide much needed stability by the pooling of thoughts, ideas, ability to work together and reach compromises establishing a genuine all-inclusive Fijian community, society and nation.
Nations are built by men and women who have the will and vision to accomplish greatness, not for them, their immediate families and friends, but for their country. If we can find the will to offer such a leadership, and support it by strong and dependable political and economic institutions, we will find a way forward to our national greatness.
Nation building in a holistic and earnest manner needs to involve the entire network of our country men and women. This task is not reserved for a select few elite and the existing political leaders of Fiji. It involves all Fijians being allowed to take an active interest in the development and progress of Fiji; and further fully included in all fora dealing with the finetuning of its future focus, vision and direction as a nation.
Fijian leaders need to look at nation building for the long run, ensuring the longevity of its political institutions with continuing peace, stability, progress, social and economic prosperity for all segments of our nation.
Building consensus around all the key provisions of our written supreme law, both present and past, has remained a challenge for nation-building. Fiji needs a constitutional settlement that commands the acceptance, if not the respect, of a majority of our citizens.
By noting that our young nation has had a number of coups and four constitutions in a very short period of time — since independence in 1970 — we can safely say that our political elite and leaders have failed to work as a team.
If we are to succeed in nation building, I believe we must have a leadership that is committed to the rule of law and has a demonstrable sense of fair play and democratic tolerance; a leadership with ability and integrity; above all else, I believe we must have a leadership that can see beyond the trappings of office and an ability to work with the Opposition in a show of solidarity and shared nation building aspiration.
We need a leadership that will not only leave its footprints in the sands of time, but one, through hard work, playing fair, dedication, sacrifice and commitment will leave huge footprints in the hearts of our brothers and sisters for ever.

* Dr Sushil K Sharma BA MA MEng (RMIT) PhD (Melb) is an associate professor of meteorology at the Fiji National University. The opinions expressed are the author’s alone and does not represent the views of the FNU or this newspaper.