Fijian Parliament to appoint new President

Venkat Raman

Fiji’s Parliament is to hold a special meeting on Friday, August 31, 2018 to elect its next President.

Parliamentary Speaker Dr Jiko Luveni said in an official notification that the meeting will commence at 930 am to elect the next President of the Republic of Fiji.

“In pursuance of Section 85 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Fiji, ‘The President holds office for three years, and is eligible for re-appointment for one further term of 3 years, but is not eligible for re-appointment after that.’ Major-General (Retired) Jioji Konusi Konrote was appointed by Parliament on 12 October 2015,” the notification said.

Significance to New Zealand

The Office of the President of the Republic of Fiji is largely ceremonial like that of Republic of India with all executive powers vested with the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers.

However, the President serves as the titular head, balancing power and holding the office without political lenience.

The office of the President is significant in maintaining international relations.

The Presidential election is of importance to New Zealand, which has to foster its diplomatic and bilateral ties with Fiji.

This was emphasised during the meetings that the then Prime Minister John Key had with his Fijian counterpart Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama during his first (and last) official visit to Fiji on June 9 and 10, 2016. This reporter was a part of the Prime Minister’s media delegation.

Improving relations

During his discussions, at a public meeting and during a media briefing, Mr Key said, “Let us focus on what should be done to improve our relations. A progressive and strong Fiji with a well-rooted democratic tradition. I look forward to constructive discussions during my stay in Fiji,” he said.

After ten years of strained friendship and frosty diplomatic relations New Zealand and Fiji agreed to work together to build bridges of understanding between the two governments and peoples, setting new goals of partnership and progress.

That was the gist of the visit of Mr Key to Fiji, the first for a New Zealand Prime Minister since 2006, prior to the military coup on December 5, 2006 that brought Mr Bainimarama to power.

Mr Bainimarama extended his hand of friendship saying, “Let bygones be bygones,’ but not before letting Mr Key have an earful of his anger, frustration and even threat over the ‘way New Zealand acted at a time when Fiji wanted the best understanding of its neighbours.’

Tough Speech

At a no-nonsense, no-holds-barred speech that he delivered at the State Banquet that he hosted in honour of Mr Key at Grand Pacific Hotel on June 9, he reminded Mr Key of his own earlier comment that ‘what has happened in the past is ancient history.’

“Fiji seeks a new political relationship with New Zealand that is more equal, more rooted in mutual respect, more understanding on New Zealand part of our own priorities – whether it is on the trade front with the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus negotiations or our desire to reform our regional architecture to give Pacific Islanders a bigger voice,” he said.

We understand that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Labour-led Coalition government are keen to foster better relations with the Fijian government. A right step in the right direction would be to host a visit by Mr Bainimarama and his officials, since relations between the two countries have thawed after a democratically elected government is in place in Suva after the September 14, 2014 general election.

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Photo Caption:

John Key (the then Prime Minister of New Zealand) with Jioji Konusi Konrote at the Presidential Home in Suva on June 10, 2016.

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