SUVA, Fiji (March 8) - Once again the chiefs of Fiji have demonstrated that they are quite capable of putting the interests of the nation before those of politics and factional interests.

Before yesterday's appointments of the President and Vice President, the chiefs had been showered with advice on who should or should not be preferred. There had been moves to nominate coup convict and former vice president Ratu Jope Seniloli, whose appointment would have sparked a confrontation with the military. Then there were overtures suggesting that Adi Samanunu Talakuli Cakobau might be a suitable candidate.

However, her association with the 2000 coup would almost certainly have provoked an equally robust reaction by the military.

Meanwhile, the serving incumbent, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, aware of the potential for division and confrontation had he stepped down, quietly let it be known that he was ready to serve another term. Again, Ratu Iloilo showed great strength, despite his failing health and advancing years, as well as care for the people of his country. He has put nation before self and we can all learn from him.

However, the heavier portion of the burden of state will now fall on the shoulders of reappointed Vice President, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi. As the president's health demands more and more attention Ratu Joni seems destined to be acting president for at least as long as he is Vice President. His is likely to be the hand that will steer the ship of state in the immediate future. For the position of president is far more than ceremonial.

For example, it was Ratu Joni who, as acting president, convened the meeting between himself the Prime Minister and the army commander in an effort to defuse the explosive relationship that existed between the two men.

That the potential for conflict continues to exist is no fault of the Vice President's and he may well be needed in the near future to prevent further instability in the country.

The constitution also stipulates that the president appoint a range of very senior people including, critically, the commander of the country's armed forces.

Ratu Joni, like Ratu Iloilo, can be counted on to approach such decisions with a clear vision of what is best for the country as a whole. Like his immediate and only earthly superior, he will not let Fiji down.

The chiefs would have considered all of this and more in making their decision yesterday. Once again they have acted with clarity of vision, logic and great good sense. Fiji salutes them.

[PIR editor’s note: The Fiji military spokesman stated last month that the Fiji military will not support anyone nominated by the Great Council of Chiefs who was associated with the 2000 coup in Fiji (read the story).]

March 9, 2006


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