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Fijian analyst says Fiji lacks clear leader

Fijian analyst says Fiji lacks clear leader

Date -- 6 March 2001

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Fijian Analyst Says Fiji Lacks Clear Leader From Any Grouping

A leading Pacific affairs analyst says political instability will
continue in Fiji - as long as a serious "leadership vacuum" exists.

Teresia Teaiwa, senior lecturer in Pacific Affairs at Victoria
University in Wellington says those with aspirations to lead Fiji
lack the political acumen to succeed.

Ms Teaiwa told Mike Woods of the ABC's Asia-Pacific programme
deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry
had the chance to regain power and unite Fiji, but his actions of
recent weeks have ensured his political demise :

TEAIWA: He hasn't built up or rebuilt a level of trust across the
board in Fiji since he's been travelling around - being seen to be
getting support from foreign countries - and visiting India more
than once. I think he really needed to be much more grounded in
Fiji and show a committment to people at home.

WOODS : Several people have now put up their hands saying that they
would like to be the leader - that they would like to be Prime
Minister - one of them is Doctor Tupeni Baba and the other the
former Agriculture Minister in Mr Chaudhry's government - Poseci
Bune. Which one of them do you believe would be the more successful
candidate ?

TEAIWA : I think both of them would be problematic, you know any
Fijian who takes leadership now will be thought of as compromising
and perhaps being a puppet to what people still see as so-called
"Indian interests". I suppose Tupeni Baba as an academic and long
time Labour Party member would have more support from within the
party. Poseci, although he has a long careeer as a civil servant
and was the High Commissioner to the United Nations for Fiji, his
reputation's been tarnished by several "events".So I think both
Poseci Bune and Tupeni Baba have great challenges ahead of them if
they rise to take a lead in this situation.

WOODS : There's been a lot of talk in recent days about a
Government of National Unity. I gather that that would have to
include some of those involved with George Speight's attempted coup
- and that would not sit well with many ?

TEAIWA : No, no I think the principles behind a Government of
National Unity - although good, under these circumstances when
there have been criminal acts that have been comitted - when we are
not even sure about the level of treason - or who is culpable for
the events of May 19th, I think a Government of National Unity
while good in principle - is impractical in a lot of ways and is
falling into the category of "reconcilliation before justice" kind
of equation.

WOODS : The Great Council of Chiefs meets later this week, what
sort of influence is that meeting - and indeed what sort of
influence does it have on the political landscape in Fiji ?

TEAIWA : I think the Great Council of Chiefs suffered greatly
during these past few months in terms of its reputation - its
reputation has been called into question, its capabilities, its
conpetence have been called into question and so this meeting on
Thursday will also be an opportunity for the Great Council of
Chiefs to sort itself out - to do some house cleaning. But there is
very much a leadership vacuum in Fiji - whether we are looking at
the chiefly system - or whether we're looking at the political
parties - there is a dearth of leaders of leaders that have
credibility across the ethnic divides, across class divides, across
the rural-urban divide and that's really the country's dilemmna, is
not having leaders that can bridge all these differences.

WOODS : The Chairman of the Great Council of chiefs is Sitiveni
Rabuka - do you think he still has political ambitions ?

TEAIWA : I'm sure he does but I imagine he has taken a big blow in
the last few montsh and I think he has lost the confidence of a lot
of people and in the end you know its precisely because Rabuka was
never held accountable for the first coup - it's because of his
never having been called to account for 1987 that we've got the
problems that we have today.
(first broadcast, Tue 6 March, 2001)


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