By Naveel Krishant in Suva
Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka says he is the prime minister for the whole of Fiji and all of its people.
In an interview with Fijivillage News, Rabuka said he would like everybody to have a happy New Year and not worry too much about the changes that they think this new government would bring in.
He said the biggest change was that they could have a “happy new year”.
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Rabuka said the legacy of his previous leadership was his ability to work with opposition parties to formulate the 1997 constitution.
He added that this time he would like to continue that effort to work across the floor of Parliament and across the political divide in Fiji.
Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka’s interview with Fijivillage News.
The multicultural makeup of Fiji’s 903,000 population is about 65 percent iTaukei Fijians, 30 percent Indo-Fijians, and 5 percent “others” including those of other Pacific Islander ethnicities and Europeans.
‘Citizens’ assembly’ plan
FBC News reports that Rabuka announced in his national address that a “citizens’ assembly” would be convened for consultations on a coalition manifesto review.
Rabuka said this would involve Fijians from all walks of life to add to the manifesto and vision statements of the ruling People’s Alliance, National Federation Party, and the Social Democratic Liberal Party (Sodelpa) coalition.
He said the assembly would seek ideas and concepts from delegates to complement the government’s plans for building a better, more prosperous, and happier nation.
Rabuka said the coalition government intended to establish specialist reviews in four key areas:
“The constitution and legal reform, the economy, defence, and national security and a forensic examination of the spending of the FijiFirst government.
“Each review team will include people with expert knowledge. The teams will report to the appropriate cabinet member, Of course, a looming issue is the state of Fiji’s public finances.
“The government debt may be now above $10 billion.”
The citizen’s assembly is part of the coalition government’s plan for the first 100 days.
Promise of ‘united Fiji’
RNZ Pacific reports that Rabuka’s inaugural address to the nation was delivered to the people of Fiji via the state’s social media channels.
Rabuka, the instigator of two military coups in 1987, has assumed the role of head of government for the second time in his political career, after being prime minister between 1992 and 1999.
Fijian voters voted out Voreqe Bainimarama’s FijiFirst after two terms in power, signalling their appetite for change. He was also a coup leader, in 2006.
Rabuka’s message to his fellow citizens was one promising a better and united Fiji for all.
“Our country is experiencing a great and joyful awakening,” he said.
“It gladdens my heart to be a part of it. And I am reminded of the heavy responsibilities I now bear.”
Apart from being prime minister, Rabuka is also responsible for foreign affairs, climate change, environment, civil service, information and public enterprises, and leads a cabinet made up of 19 ministers, as well as 10 assistant ministers.
He accepts that his cabinet is “larger than I initially planned.”
Parliamentarian pay cuts
“Some of you [Fijian people] will be concerned about the cost,” he said.
But he offered his assurance to the people that he would take the necessary actions to cut costs, beginning with cuts to parliamentarians’ paycheques.
“In a democracy, the people are in charge,” Rabuka said.
“Elected representatives like me, and my parliamentary colleagues, do not lord it over you. We are your servants. We are here to listen to your concerns and respect your views.”
In his speech he set out the direction the Rabuka’s People’s Alliance-National Federation Party-Social Democratic Liberal Party coalition government will be headed.
Naveel Krishant is a Fijivillage News reporter. This article drawing on Fijivillage, FBC News and RNZ Pacific is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.