Thursday, May 21, 2015

Where To Now For The Opposition in Fiji Parliament?

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With a heavy heart I pen this piece following Ratu Naiqama's patently unjust suspension from the house earlier today. The decision also begs real questions of the Opposition given its inability to make a difference against the torrent of procedural abuse by the Fiji First regime!
We all knew it was always going to be tough as the rules of the game let alone numbers were stacked against them from the start. All realised that the:
- 2013 Constitution;
- electoral system and campaign rules;
- parliament standing orders;
- party funding in Parliament; and
- MPs remuneration were all unilaterally determined and imposed.

Yet we acquiesced and decided to join the election in the distant hope that common sense and fair play will slowly percolate the conscience of those who have mercilessly been wielding power for the last 7 years! So we knew full well what we were getting into and there can be no excuse pretending otherwise. The regime had all the cards and had given absolutely no indication it was ever capable of changing its corrupt, vindictive and dictatorial ways. After all, they have been very successful with it since seizing power in 2006. Why then change a winning formula? So what hope was ever there for the Opposition from the start of parliamentary rule? None, zilch and today's suspension of Ratu Naiqama merely followed on numerous other humiliating setbacks for the Opposition in Fiji.
So what and where to now for the Opposition?
Those of us who had waited on the examination of the Auditor General's Report of the regime's misuse and squandering of public money are right fully disappointed at the lack of parliamentary action to hold the government to account following the quiet tabling of the accounts committee report! Granted, questions have been raised in the house on various issues concerning government management. Yet, there is no real sense, from afar anyway, that the Opposition has made significant inroads into the government's handling of its mandate.
My observation has been that there is a real mismatch in the politics between the Government and the Opposition. Bainimarama and Khaiyum have remained true to their brand - demonize opponents and overwhelm them with force at your disposal! Before the election it was brutal and physical force through torture, threats and intimidation by the military, police and even corrections. Post election it is via majority numbers in Parliament and use of legal instruments of the State.
Meanwhile, the Opposition has opted for a "combative yet don't rock the boat too much approach". They seem to be playing the nice and victim approach while taking on the government from time to time. Is it now time for the gloves to come off and take on the government for what they really are?
Has there been a deliberate policy to adopt a low key approach in order to "socialise" the brutal and dictatorial regime into a democratic government? Well, that hasn't worked and never had a chance from the start given its political DNA and real modus operandi of the Bainimarama and Khaiyum clique! For them, hanging on to power by any means is the sole purpose of being in government as the alternative is destitution and prolonged incarceration.
The Opposition just can't continue taking pot shots at the government as it hasn't worked. They need to appeal to the whole population to stand up to the government and oppose its policies and programmes. The fight must be directed at Bainimarama and Khaiyum in particular to rattle them. Fijian members of the government must also be the focus of attention to question their loyalty to the Itaukei cause given the destructive effect of government policies. The right to protest and publicly demonstrate must be tested.
Accepting the current position signals weakness in the Opposition. No doubt this is what Qorvis will be saying to Bainimarama who now is so confident of his position, he can regularly absent himself from parliament and away from scrutiny.
Having opted to join in the fabricated political environment unilaterally designed and imposed by the Bainimarama regime, the Opposition must now modify its approach in line with it. Playing it nice hasn't worked so far and will not anyway. It may have worked if the referee and rules were on its side. Ratu Naiqama's blatantly unjust suspension, coupled with the numerous blunders by the Speaker of parliament, have proved to all that fairness and common sense have yet to find its way into the conduct and operation of Fiji politics.

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