Critics, politics and patience

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Deputy Speaker and Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, Lenora Qereqeretabua during break between sessions at the Parliament complex in Suva on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

On July 6, 2023, the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Lenora Qereqeretabua posted on her Facebook page: “As I said to someone recently when he criticised the new government for what he saw as a lack of speed in righting wrongs. In 7 months, no one can expect miracles after what we’ve been through in 16 years. Please be patient. We have a wholesale correction of course to make; take CWM, our roads, our mortuaries, other infrastructure…”.

She makes a valid point. It seems that we now have a “microwave generation” which expects things to change instantly. Well, in a democracy, things do not work that way.

After coming into government, the Coalition Government has displayed a great zeal of inclusiveness. They have allowed peoples voices to be included in the decisionmaking process, unlike the previous administration.

We are well aware of how they put in place mechanisms to fulfil their own agenda. However, the current government is determined to provide a new sense of democracy for Fiji.

Everyone has now been accorded the power to speak and write freely. Again, this is very new for the present generation after living the last 16 years in oppression, intimidation, fear and silence.

But what critics do not consider is that good things take time. Lawyer, Richard Naidu last December represented the National Federation Party in a talk show prior to the 2022 General elections.

He stated that in order to make changes they would have to look at the books. He explained that when they (NFP) got into power, an audit of the accounts would need to be done to verify what is there and what is not.

That is exactly what started to unravel and we found that CEOs were being paid astronomical sums in salary. Bonus pay-outs were being “causally” approved by a particular minister (no points for guessing who) without any due processes in place.

If it wasn’t for the new government, the previous administration would have carried on with business as usual, while continuing to blind citizens of their misdeeds. So, what is that critics actually want apart from staying in the limelight?

Are we saying the new government should not have any critics? No, positive criticism plays a pivotal role in any society, but we are bringing up some forms of child’s play in the political arena currently being displayed.

Let’s look at another example, earlier this year a first time Youth Opposition MP pointed out in Parliament that people were calling him up and asking when the Deputy Prime Minister and Minster for Finance, Professor Biman Prasad was going to reduce the price of lambchops.

The MP is definitely oblivious of other pressing issues such as roads, medical care, and access to water. We are to assume from his outcry in Parliament that people have a lot of time to discuss this petty issue with a first-time politician.

This is utterly “kindergarten” style of politics one that is not expected from someone, who is supposed to represent the youth population in Fiji.

In the latest budget the price of lambchops has been reduced, media ought to get comments from this Opposition MP if he has relayed this information to the concerned citizens who were calling him.

We do not even wish to begin to describe the childish behaviour of another first time Youth MP in the Opposition. That would just take undeserving space in this article. The only publicised consultations that took place with the previous government was that of the national budget.

Again, apart from free handouts that added on to our $10 billion debt, there was nothing else that the budget offered.

And now that the government has started consulting people on various Bills and issues such as the GCC review, fiscal review consultations, nightclub opening hours among many others, critics have a problem with that too.

It simply implies that the same people were happy that without consultations so many Bills were passed or decisions made by the power of one man only.

Where were critics then? The answer is simple, they could not voice their opinion due to fear of being arrested for criticising the regime. But currently, with new democracy in place, we are privileged to be able to write and speak of issues.

Instead of embracing this freedom, some are hell bent on demeaning the work of the Coalition Government.

Just a few days ago, the Assistant Minister of Woman, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Sashi Kiran, brought to light how children have been eating glue on bread. She was also appalled that families left their loved ones in the morgue for as long as six months without burial.

What does this demonstrate? It is an example of how this government is seeking to address issues within their ministries. Did we ever see ministers in the previous regime discussing their shortfalls?

Well, we were lucky if any ministers spoke apart from the one and only – again, no points for guessing who. Everything was being glorified in the last 16 years, as if there were no problems in Fiji.

Now that the people’s coalition has taken office, it is evident that they are following due processes to make significant changes that will be for the betterment of our island nation.

It is very clear, some of the critics strongly feel that the Coalition Government came into power with some unique magic wand which is supposed to solve the disasters of 16 years within days.

No doubt, people who were accustomed to quick fix and patch work solutions are yet to familiarise themselves how democratic processes actually work.

Let’s allow some breathing space for the new government, be patient and trust the path that they are leading us to.

•PRASHNEEL GOUNDAR is a PhD candidate in linguistics in New South Wales, Australia and RAVNIL NARAYAN is a PhD candidate in Applied Linguistics at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China. The views expressed in this article are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of this newspaper.

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