Chance for a reset

Chance for a reset

By fijivillage
Tuesday 18/06/2024

As Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka reflects on his position post the extraordinary events of the last two weeks his options may appear intoxicating, but it would be wise to take a moment for a little sober reflection.

First, let us discuss potential outcomes assuming the deregistration of FijiFirst plays out as expected June 28th. As has been stated, the former FijiFirst parliamentarians (let’s call them FFP) will have the option of either remaining as Independents or join one of the remaining parties in Parliament.

As they review their options YB imagines they will be weighing immediate opportunities in Government against longer term ambitions. It is important to remember that they are no longer a cohesive group splitting at a very minimum eighteen supporting Inia Seruiratu vs eight Faiyaz Koya. We say minimum as there are a number who could jump separately, Mosese Bulitavu being the most likely.

For those hoping for a position in Government, a move to either PA or NFP are the most obvious options, but that Cabinet is looking pretty crowded already! We understand there have been talks with both parties. Some of the more far-fetched speculation i.e. a mass jump to NFP providing the numbers to topple the current Coalition is highly unlikely due to the split in FFP outlined and NFP’s longstanding commitment to the Coalition.

Talk of a Government of National Unity also seems a bit far-fetched, assuming this means all the twenty-six moving into Government. For the PM this would be a nightmare to manage and with the conflict already amongst the opposition this seems unlikely.

Another option is to remain in opposition with a view to creating a new party aiming at the 2026 elections, but YB suspects for many that may appear a long way off and more immediate benefits of joining Government could prove too tempting.

With pay rises for the Leader of the Opposition and backbenchers approved, staying where they are may appear attractive with a commitment to support the Government on budget and confidence motions. This is not an uncommon approach and for Rabuka would provide stability and an opportunity to release the Coalition from the grip of the opportunistic elements of SODELPA without disrupting his current Government.

BUT that is not the only option for Rabuka. He could focus on picking off at least eight of the FFP so People’s Alliance can rule in their own right. Tempting as this may be, and there will be more than a few in PA pushing this, YB feels this is unlikely and out of character. The Prime Minister may at times confuse with his apparent indecisiveness, but he has consistently been loyal to his political partners, and it would take quite a bit to ditch the NFP, less so SODELPA.

Whatever his call is he needs to make his position clear and quickly. Public confidence in Government, both the politicians and the public service, is extremely low. Frustration over inaction and indecision is undermining investor confidence and as the RBF revealed this week dampening economic growth.

Fiji needs action and a stable coalition out of the hands of the opportunists who have held them hostage, would be a great start. It would mean true accountability across public positions starting with Cabinet and hopefully rippling down to the boards of various public enterprises where some dubious but politically necessary appointments have been made.

Step one in this process should be rescinding the recent parliamentary pay rise and starting again with a publicly accountable review driven by “the people’ rather than the politicians. YB is not holding its breath, but this would be an excellent start.

As a side note a repercussion of not rescinding the pay rise will be massive pressure to increase public service salaries starting with the teachers. The RBF is already reporting inflation at 7%, and this could blow out further due to these pressures.

Step Two. Appoint a Police Commissioner and Director of Public Prosecutions and enact the proposed changes in law enforcement outlined by the Minister of Home Affairs in his recent Straight Talk interview. In particular, real action on the Narcotics Bureau.

Step Three. Fast track outstanding judicial appointments starting with the Chief Justice.

Step Four: If you want immediate economic growth, sort out the continuing mess surrounding work permits. The Fiji economy is stuck, there is no shortage of liquidity and there are plenty of potential infrastructure projects that could kick start the economy, but we need skilled labour!

Step Five: Put a clamp on overseas travel but our politicians are too addicted so no point discussing this.

At YB we try to be fair and like to remind the many gloom and doom merchants hunched over their café lates at the various coffee shops of Suva, that the Coalition Government inherited a mess, particularly when it came to the public service. Competent appointees in a number of areas of the bureaucracy are starting to have an impact but the political reality is that public patience is wearing thin as seen in the vicious outcry over the pay increases and the grounding of the RFNS Puamau.

It is year two and this next budget must outline a clear and specific plan of ACTION that needs to be conducted with HASTE. The political fiasco that has been the implosion of FijiFirst presents the Prime Minister with an unexpected and unique chance to reset his Government.

It truly is a rare opportunity that won’t happen again so ………….????????

For more Yellow Bucket opinion pieces click: HERE

Opinion Note

Long time fijivillage users may remember the Yellow Bucket opinion column that ran in the years leading up to the 2006 coup. Well following the repeal of the MIDA Act we are delighted to announce that YB is back!

The Yellow Bucket is something of a Communications Fiji Ltd institution…. Yes it exists…. A real Yellow Bucket that the CFL team and visitors gather around after work to drink grog and discuss the day. Legend has it that every Fiji Prime Minister has at some stage enjoyed a bilo from the bucket.

The YB column ran from 2003 to early 2007 when it was shut down under extreme pressure from the military government. Later the MIDA Act specifically forbade any use of nom de plums or pseudonyms requiring every published article to have a named author.

So why the pseudonym. The YB column was and will continue to be a product of group thinking and discussion, so it would be impossible and a little unfair to attribute it to a single author.

It will continue to provide fact-based opinion offering context to the complex and constantly unfolding story, that is our home Fiji. We stress, FACT BASED…. No rush to judgement here ….. Our aim will be to run weekly but that could change depending on the situation.

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