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Bainimarama unleashes the hidden power of Fijians

Fiji’s Interim Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama believes that the general election due to be held on September 17, 2014 would be a turning point for Fiji and inaugurate a new chapter of progress and prosperity for its people.

He believes that Fijians are finally free from their erstwhile racial segregation and that he has unleashed their hidden power to make the country ‘great.’

In his exclusive interview with Indian Newslink in Auckland on August 9, he described the ensuing election as ‘an exciting exercise to create a new pathway towards a real democracy in which every Fijian will enjoy equality in every sphere of life.’

“We will work together to create a new Fiji that recognises all citizens as equal irrespective of their political and religious beliefs. There will be no place for race or any other form of discrimination. Fiji has suffered long as a country divided by such unwanted elements and it is time to move towards a common destiny as one people,” he said.

Misunderstood friends

Mr Bainimarama was full of life during the interview, confident of having done the right things for the good of his people since he seized power on December 5, 2006 overthrowing Laisenia Qarase and his Government.

“Many of our friends, including New Zealand, Australia and other member-countries failed to understand the issues that confronted Fiji. They did not understand our plight and the need for reforms not only in terms of a new Constitution but also in the entire administrative machinery. I had to take a number of bold decisions for the good of my people and my country. I never doubted for a moment that there would be opposition,” he said.

He was however confident that after the general election, the world in general and ‘our friends in New Zealand and Australia in particular’ will understand that it was always his intention to establish the institution of democracy firmly in Fiji.

Singapore in Pacific

“I want Fiji to be known as ‘the Singapore of the Pacific’ with a clean and efficient Government, with the basic needs of the people satisfied and a modern and world class infrastructure firmly in place. We cannot achieve any of these without reforms at all levels. The starting point to all these was unification of people under a dynamic, new Constitution that guaranteed equal rights for every Fijian. We cannot move forward if people are discriminated on the basis of their ethnicity or religion,” he said.

Mr Bainimarama claimed that he had an acceptance rate of 80%, which he said would see his Fiji First emerge with absolute majority to form a democratically elected Government. According to the new Constitution, the Fijian Parliament, comprising 50 seats, will have a four-year term, at the end of which elections will be automatically held, unless otherwise required to be held earlier.

Frank & Mary Bainimarama with Robert & Prakashni Khan, Charles Pandey and Jacob Mannothra at the Fiji First Dinner on August 9 in Auckland (Picture by Dinesh Chand)

Changing mindset

According to him, about 99% of Fijians accepted the need for a change, move towards democratic principles and systems including a popularly elected Government but was concerned with the remaining miniscule minority that opposed him.

There was genuine concern in the man who believed that ‘all the hard work done and the achievements made on several fronts should not go in vain.’

“The greatest challenge since I took charge almost eight years ago was to change the mindset of these people who clung to their old ways of life. Fiji cannot be a true democracy unless we looked beyond race and religion and embraced all people as one large family. We cannot allow such divisions anymore,” he said.

Bainimarama at the Fiji First Festival on August 9 in Auckland (Picture by Hemant Parikh)

Busy schedule

Mr Bainimarama was in New Zealand on a private visit to campaign for ‘Fiji First,’ a political party that he established recently to contest in the election. New Zealand is home to about 70,000 people of Fijian origin and it is understood that apart from more than 1500 persons (holding Fijian passports) registered in this country to vote in the general election, a substantial number of people have listed their names in the electoral rolls in Fiji over the past few months.

During his visit, Mr Bainimarama addressed more than 1500 of his supporters at the ‘Fiji First Festival’ held at the Vodafone Events Centre, attended a cocktail and dinner hosted by his Party and went on air Radio Tarana (1386 AM) answering questions from listeners.

Read more about Mr Bainimarama and other leaders and their political parties in our 13-page Special (Focus on Fiji) beginning on Page 15 of print edition.

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