23 April 2015: Speech by Roko Tupou Draunidalo at the Rotary Club Lunch, Grand Pacific Hotel

TDThe President and Members of this Rotary Club, Ladies & Gentlemen. I thank the Club very much for the invitation to speak today

It is the lot of politicians to use some of our time to spread the message/s of concern to the community and that in turn, we hope keeps the electorate relatively informed.

Speaking engagements like this one help in this regard.

I was somewhat given the privilege and freedom to speak on and discuss my views on the progress of our democracy thus far and the road ahead.

That is a very broad topic indeed and I will not pretend to cover everything in the few minutes that I have.

I will however focus on a few big headings, that will no doubt be expanded upon at other speaking engagements by me and/or other commentators and politicians.

I will start by saying that the NFP party leader delivered a very good speech not too long ago about some of those headings.

I encourage you all to have a read, it is posted on the NFP facebook page and we can make copies available.

In that speech Prof. Biman Prasad discusses the current state of our economy and democratic governance.

Regarding the latter, he identified various decrees and the 2013 Constitution as obstructions to the functioning of a fully democratic government.

He then said again what all reasonable and well informed people in Fiji know – bipartisan talks and agreements between the political parties in parliament – to make amendments to those laws is the key to returning our democracy to a properly functioning one.

On this note, Prof. Prasad has also recommended the concept of a GNU, government of national unity a fe times in the life of this parliament.

And we have made it clear that this is not self serving for the NFP. We do not thereby seek a seat in Cabinet. We will be content to sit in the back benches so long as we can assist the two big parties to form government to move Fiji forward.

That is the foundation for long term and sustainable social, economic and political progress.

Apart from those matters that the Prof. discussed, I want to briefly discuss today the fabric of our system of governance in the context of our coup culture over the last thirty years.

For those who may have been deliberately under a bushel during the election campaign – I made that coup culture the theme of my campaign.

I sincerely believe ladies and gentlemen and I know that many right thinking people agree that if we do not have a proper national discussion about the causes and, effects of this affliction on the fabric of our governance then we are only setting ourselves up for more coups.

And that will not be beneficial to anyone.

So moving forward in our brave new democracy, I will briefly discuss some of the causes and effects of the coup culture in Fiji.

One of the things that always stands out to me is our lack of discussion, questioning or rebellion at various public policy acts and actors.

We are very much led by the strong man or woman that asserts himself/herself. We like to go with the flow.

We hide our disagreement and hurt until flash point which in this country has been a military takeover at various intervals over the last thirty years.

Wouldn’t it be smarter to lobby governments for peaceful discussions?

Much of this will fall on small to big business that have the means to do or support the lobbying by activists.

Take the Qoliqoli and Reconciliation bills before the last coup – would we have had a different course had many more lobbyists taken the time and expense to approach the government to discuss the issues out peacefully and not let things fester until the next flashpoint?

If not, what about the takeover itself in 2006.. would we have had a different course if many more citizens protested and spoken out to disagree with what was happening?

After all, they can’t take too many people to the camp. Certainly not every one of us citizens of this country.

What about taking part in the Usurper’s administration? Or the Charter process?

Not just 2006 but 1987 and 2000 as well.

Why do we feel the need to take part and use the excuse of peace to give the Usurper sustenance?

Why can’t we ignore them and watch them crumble?

Wouldn’t that send a better message to the military camp so that other enthusiastic soldiers get all of the right messages ie. Obey the elected government.

While we’re here, we Fijians of all ethnicity are also good at delegating. We like to have others fight our battles for us. Whether it be our regional neighbours or the multilateral bodies, anyone but us.

The hand out mentality and free, free, free of domestic pork barreling has gone too far.

Unfortunately for us, freedom is not free. We have to do these things for ourselves. Primarily. Everyone else can tag on later.

Another issue we need to consider, moving forward is the ‘winner takes all’ style of political leadership which afflicts a few leaders. No names.

Not just current but it was present in the past too.

What is so hard about hearing what your opponent has to say? Surely we can’t know everything.

Granted, our political contests are so partisan and hard fought that it’s hard to soften quickly or at all. We are human.

But we need to be more vocal as citizens to disagree with that style of leadership which only hardens hearts and makes progress very difficult let alone peace.

Call your leader, or a relative or friend that knows him or her. Fiji is so small. We are all related through kin, work, school, children or something.

Express that view to your leader. Ask him or her to give the benefit of the doubt now and again.

Separation of powers doctrine and independent offices – This also needs work ladies and gentlemen.

We need to voice our concerns wherever we can.

In parliament, in the offices, businesses, out in the street – that these institutions and offices like the military and civil service – yes they should give fearless advice to the elected government but at the end of the day – they take their orders from the elected government.

And right now, that is the elected Fiji First government.

Independent constitutional offices and their heads need to jealously guard their independence so that they properly carry out their functions.

I have very briefly touched on three big headings ladies and gentlemen that require all of our hard work to move forward and rebuild our democracy.

All of our effort is required and this gathering has people with a lot of influence in high places, please use it gently and with a good heart for the greater good.

I believe that the interventions of persons like yourselves who are not the primary partisan political combatants will be very useful in this process. It may be easier for our opponents to hear hard messages from you.

This is a long hard road after another coup period, the longest period this time of eight years from 2006.

Every time we have a coup the issues I have highlighted get more pronounced. Our governance systems and processes break down even more into smaller pieces and rebuilding gets harder.

But we need to start somewhere and I encourage you all to do this for our beautiful Fiji. Our children and grandchildren will thank us for it.

Vinakwa.

Tupou Draunidalo, MP
President NFP