15 July, 2018, 12:45 pm
The question that seems to be on many lips is “when is the next election”? Although, with the way things get announced around here, by the time you read this, it may be redundant.
According to the Fijian Elections Office, elections can be held after three years and six months have passed since the first sitting of Parliament (after the last general election).
That first sitting began on October 6, 2014, which means elections could be held anytime between April and October 2018.
It’s a big window, but it is already narrowing and there are some clues we could ponder on to try and divine the date. What we could factor in is that the second school term break is still scheduled for August this year.
“Empty schools = polling stations” as we might say on one of those omnipresent street signboards despoiling the scenery.
Although we also understand the date of elections needs to be announced six weeks in advance, so that might be cutting it pretty fine.
Then we have the impending royal visit by Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.
They are expected in October after going to the Invictus Games October 20-27 in Australia, making a call on New Zealand, then on to Fiji and Tonga.
My feeling is that there is probably a strong preference not to be having politics and elections impinging on the niceness and jolliness of a royal visit.
I read that the duchess, who has a markedly different background from the English roses already in the royal family, has been well schooled in royal etiquette and traditions by royal household and diplomatic staff.
This includes how to greet dignitaries — and expect to be greeted — how to behave on royal engagements, the intricacies of palace life and perhaps how to swig a bilo of the local traditional brew without anything other than polite delight.
Timing of a royal visit aside, I’m actually not too sure why we’re so concerned about when the election will be.
After all, campaigning has well and truly started; in some cases been going on for years.
It seems that any public event, opening of some minor building, a church gathering, festival, professional conference or whatever, provides a platform to instruct the population on how much the Government is doing for us all; and how bad other people would be at it.
That politicians should blow their own trumpet is normal, but what they toot about is often the simple fulfilling of a government’s duty.
They are supposed to be fixing roads, running an effective education system, supporting the needy, eradicating corruption, making an affordable health system available and providing the basic services that people need as well as the tricky business of keeping the economy going. These things are not gifts handed out by a generous government, it’s their job and they are paid for by our tax dollars.
Which brings another question to mind. What really are those signboards with odd slogans on them popping up all over the place all about; and who is funding them? I say nothing of the whimsical use of capital letters.
What are we to make of signs on busy corners that say “Stability and Equality”, “Honesty and Justice” and “Youth Employment and Women’s Rights”. Yes, lovely, and what about them? “Fiji does better when Fijians unite
Very nice, but unite for what purpose? Cheering on the rugby boys and girls? My large Samoan writer friend became agitated over “all Fijian families matter” until I managed to explain that we are now all called “Fijians” and those who were Fijian are now iTaukei.
She remained puzzled by the whole concept of name swapping. It would perhaps be at least a little better if the population, who has to look at these intrusive signboards and advertising billboards, could suggest ideas of their own.
Perhaps “No more environment damaging signboards to spoil Fiji’s natural assets and ruin the tourism industry”; “Who is in charge of approving urban development and architectural designs for new buildings”; “Give us back our local government where democracy begins”; and “Why are Professor Brij Lal and Dr Padma Lal still banned from coming home to Fiji”?
And all right, if we don’t already know: “When is the election?”
The views expressed are the author’s and not of this newspaper.