The Prime Minister has given an astonishing interview to the Fiji Times in which he says the reinstatement of Aseri Radrodro as Education minister “may take six months, a year or the end of the four-year Coalition government term”.
How about until hell freezes over? Because that’s what Sitiveni Rabuka seems to be implying – that any hope that Radrodro had of being reinstated quickly is a fantasy and he may never be reinstated at all.
In the Fiji Times interview, the Prime Minister also doubles down on his insistence that Radrodro disobeyed him. Which is effectively a repudiation of SODELPA’s position that it was all a “misunderstanding” that the ousted minister didn’t comply with Rabuka’s instructions over Council appointments at the FNU.
It is an extraordinary “eff you” to the SODELPA hierarchy, which had asked the PM to reinstate Radrodro, triggering a wave of community revulsion and raising the prospect of a second humiliating backdown for Rabuka in his attempt to prise the man who almost killed his daughter out of the Education Ministry.
What happens next? Well for a start, Aseri Radrodro is going to the backbench of the parliament indefinitely. He forfeits his ministerial salary, the fancy car and a whole lot of entitlements and becomes just another face in the chamber on an ordinary MP’s salary. He is going to be mightily pissed off but are his SODELPA colleagues in the mood to do anything about it?
We will soon see the reaction of the SODELPA leadership to the Prime Minister’s comments. But he appears to have taken the advice – from Grubsheet included – to call their bluff and face down their demands for Aseri Radrodro to be reinstated. Where do they go now? They made the mistake of taking any threat to do a deal with FijiFirst off the table. So responding to the PM’s comments by saying ” well, if that’s the case, off we go”, carries with it the prospect of a devastating backlash from the community, including a lot of their supporters.
Is the Prime Minister legally entitled to kick the whole issue into touch – to defer making a decision on whether to reinstate Radrodro down the months and even down the years until the government’s term runs out? The answer to that is “yes”, according to the estimable Mary Chapman, the former secretary-general to the parliament. So how’s that for a classic check-mate, Fiji?
If the Prime Minister holds firm, Grubsheet will be the first to congratulate him on a masterful tactical performance. As readers know, I have been very harsh on him and especially for betraying Fiji’s minorities by breaking his promise not to disadvantage them and presiding over overt lawlessness and racism in the government’s ranks.
- If he refuses to be held to ransom by SODELPA over Aseri Radrodro, he will have proved himself far more wily – and worthy – than I have given him credit for.
- If he sends Lynda Tabuya to the backbench for her affair with Radrodro – which has damaged both the government and Fiji’s reputation abroad – that will be another plus.
- If he ends Siromi Turaga’s naked assault on the Constitution and accedes to the Fiji Law Society’s request to reverse the illegal appointments of John Rabuku and Alipate Qetaki, then that will be yet another plus.
- And if he finally keeps his promise to those who put their trust in him and end the institutionalised racism that has become a dominant feature of the Coalition government, then he might just have taken the first steps along the path to redemption.
It may be a vain hope. Yet hope springs eternal for anyone who cares about the nation’s future. And it is the only way that Sitiveni Rabuka can rebuild the credibility of this government.