Venkat Raman (Indian Newslink)
Auckland, September 27, 2018
Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama with India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj
at their meeting in New York on September 25, 2018 (Picture Supplied)
Fiji’s Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama has exalted his country’s relationship with India, saying that the world’s largest democracy has always been a friend and supporter.
Following a meeting held with India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in New York on Tuesday (September 25), he acknowledged ‘India’s many contributions to Fiji’s development, culture and people-to-people exchanges.”
Mr Bainimarama, who is also Foreign Minister of Fiji, praised Ms Swaraj, saying that she is only the second woman to hold the high office of External Affairs after Indira Gandhi (who was also Prime Minister), overseeing the foreign policy of 1.3 billion people under the Cabinet of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Election in Fiji
“We discussed Fiji’s extensive national election preparations,” Mr Bainimarama said, referring to the ensuing general election in his country.
“We thank the Indian government for its assistance (past and present), supporting and overseeing the electoral process. India is taking a lead role in this year’s elections as Co-Chair, with Australia and Indonesia, of the Multinational Observation Group. I have stressed the importance of free and fair elections,” he said.
Mr Bainimarama described the Indian government as ‘a generous supporter’ of Fiji’s COP 23 Presidency and the country’s national defence and disaster relief efforts.
“India has also been particularly generous in its backing of Fiji’s micro, small and medium enterprises, lending its vast technical expertise and contributing over F$ 5.9 million to the government’s highly successful Micro and Small Business Grant (MSBG) Programme. This Programme has helped thousands of entrepreneurial Fijians who have used the grants to grow their businesses and by extension, the Fijian economy,” he said.
Ms Swaraj discussed with Mr Bainimarama her proposed visit to Fiji in February 2019, where she plans to follow up on India’s commitments from the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation and other development assistance programmes.
As mentioned in our recent editorial, people of Fiji are beginning to evince more interest in the ensuing general election as days roll, there is increasing certainty that the polling day would be sometime in November.
No one is however making any guesses as to the outcome.
While followers of the FijiFirst Party believe that Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama will return, albeit perhaps with a decreased majority, parties in the opposition camp seem to be too weak to be formidable.
Incessant to sanctions and ultimatums to restore parliamentary democracy from the developed world including his powerful neighbours Australia and New Zealand, Mr Bainimarama and his Government have worked over the past twelve years to make Fiji a more inclusive polity and economy. They have given the country a new Constitution, which promises the long-cherished political and economic equity, making all Fijians eligible for equal treatment.
Australian government has expressed its satisfaction that Election 2018 would be free and fair, based on the experience of the 2014 exercise. New Zealand has expressed its view on similar lines, while India, the largest democracy in the world, has been the only country that has continuously stood by Fiji, offering its support and assistance. While Delhi has desired Fiji to follow democratic ideals, it has always respected the country’s right to choose its own form of Government through its own processes.
There is no template for democracy as the concept and practice differ between countries. That said, Fijians in Fiji and elsewhere with the eligibility to vote, must exercise their franchise in the coming election, which would steer the country towards calmer seas and progressive future.