Fiji President Ratu Wiliame: Voters deserve better


Fiji’s next general election should not become a battle of dividers, of people who pit province against province, religion against religion, or ethnicity against ethnicity, says newly-appointed President Ratu Wiliame Katonivere.

While opening the 2021-2022 session of Parliament Monday, he said voters deserved better.

“We should not only ignore candidates and party leaders who engage in that sort of politicking, but condemn them, loudly and together,” he said.

Ratu Wiliame said elections were an opportunity to choose who was best to lead, who had sound philosophies and policies that created stability, that built confidence, and ensured equal treatment and equal opportunity was provided for every Fijian, as outlined in the Constitution.

He said every Fijian voter must understand clearly and specifically what vision different parties represented, what ideas and plans they would bring to the table, and how they planned to finance their socioeconomic policies and legislative ambition.

Ratu Wiliame said those who sought office must approach the campaign with compassion, with dignity and understanding, and they must “stay high” by adhering to principles of ethical conduct rather than “go low” by seeking votes at any cost.

“Merit must matter in our elections, just as it does across our civil service and for the boards that govern our companies.

“I have personally served on a number of boards, including Tropik Wood, Fiji Pine, Fiji Airports, FSC, Fiji Coconut Millers, and Fiji Rice, where I have been privileged to work alongside well-qualified, merit-appointed colleagues.

“I cannot stress how impactful, merit-based leadership can be in steering our industries toward success, better jobs and greater prosperity.

“Without merit-based selection, our companies, our civil service, and even our government would serve the interests of a privileged few rather than serve the Fijian people as prudently managed, sustainably profitable, and service-delivery-centric organisations.”

Ratu Wiliame saId while he is the youngest person to become President, he has been in leadership long enough “to see the difference between the genuine democracy we share today and past systems that fell short of delivering true equality for our people”.

He said he would “protect the flame of young democracy from any and all who seek to extinguish it, for personal or political purposes”.

Ratu Wiliame said he would use his leadership to support the highest possible functioning of the State and the work of the executive to realise the objectives of Fiji’s Constitution.

“I thank the members of Parliament for their vote of confidence in me to assume this high office, and to my immediate predecessor, Major-General Jioji Konusi Konrote,” he said.

“The democracy created under our Fijian Constitution will wither with our complacency, but comes alive with the public’s participation, as do its values and principles.

“So, wherever you are watching, listening to, or reading this address, I thank you for your participation in the vital national business of our democracy,” he said.