2018 General Elections: Let us debate

Unity Fiji party leader Savenaca Narube says leadership is the most important issue in this election. Picture: FT FILE

MAJORITY of Fiji’s political leaders contesting the 2018 General Election want a leaders’ debate.

Leaders of the National Federation Party, Unity Fiji party, Fiji Labour Party, Freedom Alliance and the Social Democratic Liberal Party believe a political leaders’ debate is important for the voters to judge the credibility of the leaders they choose.

NFP leader Professor Biman Prasad said leaders must clearly articulate the policies of their party and what they would do in government.

“We have been consistently calling for a debate with the Prime Minister. It is important because we want him to explain why under his leadership of the past 12 years the cost of living has skyrocketed, the health and medical services have deteriorated, the sugar industry is struggling, the dairy industry has been suffocated etc,” Prof Prasad claimed.

He said any leader of a nation should not shy away from a debate and expected the PM to be part of the national leaders debate instead of sending his representatives.

“Mr Bainimarama is no exception. We are ready.

“All we hear from the PM is lies about NFP, racist filth and gutter level politicking. He has totally broken his pledge to campaign on ideas and issues to enhance the livelihood of our people,” Prof Prasad claimed.

Unity Fiji leader Savenaca Narube said leadership was the most important issue in this election.

“We get this right and everything else will fall from it. We get this wrong again, we will do irreparable damage to national unity and the economy,” Mr Narube said.

“I believe that a live debate will help the voters make up their mind on who is the person that will best lead the nation in the next four years,” he said.

Mr Narube said it was difficult for voters to compare the ability of leaders to articulate their vision for Fiji without a debate.

“It will bring out the ability of the leaders to explain important national issues to the people. It will confirm whether the leaders have the attributes to lead. “Leadership is everything in running a country. We must choose the leader who has the vision, experience and persona to lead us. The debate helps us choose the leader.”

FLP leader Mahendra Chaudhry said a leaders debate would enable voters to separate the wheat from the chaff.

“Voters and people generally are better informed through such debates,” Mr Chaudhry said.

He said if given the opportunity, he wanted to debate with the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General on issues of governance and socioeconomic inequalities faced by some of the people.

Freedom Alliance party leader Jagath Karunaratne claimed in a democratic world, the debate between leaders was often started by the leader of the government, the Prime Minister.

“Unfortunately, it is not to be in Fiji and moreover it is apparent that the Prime Minister seems to ignore such calls by other leaders with lame excuses,” Mr Karunaratne claimed.

Ideally, he said the Government should have announced the elections early and issued a policy statement or their manifesto way before the campaign resumed if they were keen on inclusive dialogue to find best possible solutions on burning issues.

“All political parties heading towards the same goal for the betterment of the nation and debates and discussions can only improve and finetune various policies proposed by each party. Debates not only allow gap analysis of proposed solutions but also enable the people to understand, digest and contribute as to how they perceive the solutions should be and tailored to fit into the society.”

SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka said a leaders debate was necessary so that voters have a better feel and understanding of the leader they were going to choose as prime minister after the general election.

“Voters will be interested to see and hear which particular leader can articulate better on issues of national interest. More so to gauge the type of leadership quality each of the leaders have,” Mr Rabuka said.

“Political leaders debate is very important for this country because in the past 12 years, voters can only see the landmark of dictatorship,” he claimed.

“It is time that voters hear and see the quality and the type of leadership from other leaders. It will also give the opportunity for other leaders to show their experience and commitment to nation building and multiracialism.”

Questions sent to the FijiFirst party and the HOPE party remained unanswered when this story went to press last night.

Some of the debatable issues identified by the four leaders include: basic rights and freedoms; State of the economy; wage rate; poverty and unemployment; cost of living; housing; debt sustainability; education; national unity; e-ticketing; foreign policy; and, traffic congestion.