14 May 2018

Fiji's first coup leader promising democratic freedoms

1:40 pm on 14 May 2018

Fiji's first coup leader is promising to restore democratic freedoms to the country if elected Prime Minister later this year.

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Sitiveni Rabuka Photo: AFP

Sitiveni Rabuka is the leader of the opposition SODELPA party and came to prominence in 1987 when he overthrew the elected government of Timoci Bavadra.

Mr Rabuka has apologised for his role in Fiji's coup culture.

He said if elected he would repeal decrees which he said gave the current government unfettered authoritarian power.

Mr Rabuka cited the government's limiting of media freedom, the stifling of people's right to peaceful protest and the repression of Fijians' ability to openly criticise the government.

"The sedition law is still there, while most other countries have decided to do away with sedition laws because it demonstrates real freedom, to objectively criticise governments."

Mr Rabuka said he was waiting for the government to announce the election date, which must happen by 22 November.

Rabuka eyes closer relationship with Australia and NZ

Sitiveni Rabuka said he would also restore a strong regional relationship with Australia and New Zealand if elected as prime minister.

Mr Rabuka said the country's geopolitical tilt towards China over the last decade was due to wavering support the various Fiji governments had received from its two traditional partners.

He said Fiji had fought alongside Australia and New Zealand to maintain strategic common interests, including a region that was free from foreign influence.

He said what Fiji tried to defend against in war, the current government was embracing in economics and politics.

Mr Rabuka said this would change with him as prime minister.

"I would like to restore a stronger regional relationship with our traditional partners.

"We are more certain of how to walk with our traditional partners than walking with someone big and new," he said.

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