16 Apr 2017

Former top aide to Bainimarama moves to opposition

9:36 am on 16 April 2017

A former right hand man to Fiji's Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, has joined the opposition, complaining of a climate of fear and intolerance of dissent within the governing party.

The Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama at Government House in Auckland

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama. Photo: RNZ/ALEX PERROTTET

Lieutenant-Colonel Pio Tikoduadua resigned as a minister in the Fiji First government in May 2015 saying he had an advanced form of cancer and wanted to spend time with his family.

At a press conference on Saturday he announced his health had improved and he would stand as a candidate for the National Federation Party at the next election, which is due next year.

Mr Tikoduadua served as the Aide-de-Camp to Mr Bainimarama when he was military commander and later headed the prime minister's office during military rule.

He served just eight months as Minister of Infrastructure and Transport and Leader of Government in Parliament after Fiji returned to democratic rule in 2014, resigning in May 2015.

On Saturday he revealed his resignation was not only due to health reasons, referring to his rejection when he had supported a backbench MP who'd voted with the opposition.

"Fiji's biggest problem at the moment is not that my opinion does not matter. It is that nobody's opinion matters, except those of the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General," he said.

"No-one else's views are sought. No concession is made to any person with a different opinion. Nobody else can ever be right and they can never be wrong."

"This approach is deeply destructive of democracy and national unity. It divides Fiji. It means that we lack a common vision and we operate in a climate of fear and restrictiveness.

"This is no way to run a country. This is no way to solve Fiji's problems."

He said he had become convinced the aspirations for democracy and the people had been cast aside.

The website Fiji Village reported Mr Bainimarama had described the comments as "rubbish".

In a statement the NFP leader Biman Prasad said the party was proud Mr Tikoduadua was joining, saying he was no ordinary politician to have given up his perks and privileges.

"Many Fiji First Party MPs are unhappy with the government's direction, but they stay silent. On the other hand, Lt-Col Tikoduadua gave up his position in 2015 as a matter of principle."

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