Sunday, April 16, 2017 Fiji Times
Former FijiFirst member and Government Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Pio Tikoduadua speaks to the media during a press conference at the National Federation Party office in Tamavua, Suva on Saturday, April 15, 2017. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU
TWO years after he resigned from the FijiFirst-led Government in Parliament, former minister for infrastructure and transport Pio Tikoduadua has declared he will apply to contest next year’s election on a National Federation Party ticket.
He made this announcement during a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Tamavua, Suva yesterday.
Mr Tikoduadua resigned from Government in May 2015 citing health reasons associated with cancer. He said his health had improved in the past two years, which had led to his re-entry into politics.
But yesterday Mr Tikoduadua claimed that apart from his health condition, another factor that led to his resignation was a disagreement he had with Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.
“In 2015, a FijiFirst party member of Parliament who was a backbencher voted with the Opposition on a parliamentary motion on health issues.
He did this for reasons of conscience.
“This was courageous and principled, even if it was politically unwise. Some of my fellow ministers called for him to resign. I was not one of them.
“I gave my opinion to the PM that we should show flexibility and forgiveness,” he claimed.
“For me, this was an opportunity for the Government to listen and learn about why that one of its MPs had felt so strongly about an issue that he would vote with the Opposition.”
He claimed Mr Bainimarama had initially accepted and agreed with his recommendation and he later informed the MP that the matter was resolved.
“Unfortunately, the PM then took advice of the Attorney-General and changed his mind. I went back to argue my case again. He then informed me that my opinion did not matter,” Mr Tikoduadua alleged.
“I took that statement as an order that my services were no longer required. I then left the Government.”
Mr Tikoduadua said loyalty must be given to a leader but it must also be returned.
However, this was not the case in this matter, he claimed.
“Fiji’s biggest problem at the moment is not that my opinion does not matter. It is that nobody’s opinion matters, except those of the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General. No-one else’s views are sought. No concession is made to any person with a different opinion. Nobody else can ever be right and they can never be wrong,” he claimed.
“This approach is deeply destructive of democracy and national unity. It divides Fiji it means that we lack a common vision and we operate in a climate of fear and restrictiveness. This is no way to run a country. This is no way to solve Fiji’s problems.”
When contacted for comments to those claims yesterday, Mr Bainimarama labelled Mr Tikoduadua’s statement as “irrelevant” and said he would not comment further on the issue.
“I have told all the media it’s not relevant. His comments are irrelevant,” Mr Bainimarama said.
Several attempts to obtain a comment from A-G Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum regarding the claims proved futile when this edition went to press last night.
Mr Tikoduadua also addressed his decision to work with the military government after the 2006 coup saying that he personally considered this to be a continuation of his military duty to the commander RFMF.
“I was part of the military government. I cannot and do not ignore that fact.
“I believed, rightly or wrongly, that the military could help to create an effective and sustainable democracy in Fiji. And whether I was right or wrong, I must accept responsibility for that fact,” he said.