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Only two opinions matter in the Fiji First Party, former Cabinet Minister Colonel Pio Tikoduadua claimed Saturday.
Announcing his defection to the National Federation Party, Tikoduadua said he resigned as Infrastructure Minister in 2015 when told by Prime Minister, Rear-Admiral Frank Bainimarama, that his opinion did not matter.
This was after then Health Minister, Dr Neil Sharma, was forced to resign after voting with the NFP for better medical services.
“This was courageous and principled, even if it was politically unwise,” Tikoduadua said.
“Some of my fellow Ministers called for him to resign. I was not one of them.”
Tikoduadua - Leader of Government Business in Parliament at the time - advised Prime Minister, Rear-Admiral Frank Bainimarama - to show flexibility and forgiveness.
“For me, this was an opportunity for the Government to listen and learn about why one of its MPs had felt so strongly about an issue that he would vote with the Opposition," Tikoduadua said.
“The Prime Minister initially accepted and was agreeable to my recommendation. I told the MP the matter was resolved.
“Unfortunately, the PM then took advice of the Attorney General and changed his mind. I went back to argue my case again. He then informed me that my opinion did not matter.”
Tikoduadua said he took that statement as an order that his services were no longer required and left the Government.
“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,” Tikoduadua 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.”
He described this approach as 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,” Tikoduadua said.
Meanwhile, Colonel Tikoduadua said the original intentions of the army in conducting the 2006 coup have been lost.
The soldier-turned farmer said the coup was designed to bring about democracy for the people.
“I am convinced that most, if not all, the aspirations we in the Republic of Fiji Military Forces had stood for together for democracy and the people have been cast aside today,” Tikoduadua said at a press conference.
Leading up to the 2014 election, Tikoduadua was a close aide to Prime Minister, Rear-Admiral Frank Bainimarama.
But he said the prime minister and Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, had consistently failed to listen to the opinions of Fiji First members.
“I am urging and encouraging all Fijians to stand tall and stand free. Let's take this walk and let’s stand up for the truth, for honour, justice, and democracy and for our voices,” Tikoduadua said.
“Let’s stand up for the life that each one of us, our children, and generations to come, deserve. Let's demand nothing less. Let's not take a back seat but choose to define our destiny.”
Tikoduadua, says he cannot escape the fact that he was part of the military government of coup leader, Rear-Admiral Frank Bainimarama.
He said he joined the military government after the 2006 coup.
“At the time of the 2006 coup, I was studying in Canberra at the Australian Command and Staff College. I joined the RFMF-ledGovernment, initially as Permanent Secretary for Justice and later serving the Commander RFMF and Prime Minister as Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister from 2008 to 2014,” Tikoduadua said.
But the former soldier said he continued to serve Bainimarama out of a sense of loyalty which he described as the essence of soldiering.
“I was part of the military government. I cannot and do not ignore that fact.” Tikoduadua said.
“I believed, rightly or wrongly, that the military could help to create an effective and sustainable democracy in Fiji. And whether I was right or wrong, I must accept responsibility for that fact.”
Bainimarama has described Tikoduadua's comments as rubbish.
Tikoduadua said he would defend the aspirations of the NFP and the values that were instilled in him from his youth.
SOURCE: ISLANDS BUSINESS/PACNEWS
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