Fiji Pol: Howard Politini Jnr and Ratu Jone sworn in as new MPs

Newly sworn-in Fijian Parliamentarians, Fiji First’s Howard Politini Jnr and SODELPA’s Ratu Jone Seniloli made promises to serve Fijians for the remainder of the term before the 2022 General Elections in their maiden speeches today.

In his parliamentary speech, Politini Jnr took a jibe at former Fijian Prime Minister and The People’s Alliance Party (PAP) leader Sitiveni Rabuka whilst Ratu Jone insisted that Fiji reverts to the multiple communal constituencies electoral system.

Politini Jnr, who was also part of the FijiFirst Government parliamentary make-up in 2016, dismissed Rabuka’s media statements that his government instituted free education. A local radio newstation quoted Rabuka saying that his SVT government started the tuition-free education for primary schools in the 90s and planned to expand it to other levels progressively.

“On education during my boarding school days in Tailevu under the leadership of the Rabuka Government, there was no such thing as a free education as we hear Rabuka mention in the media today that he started free education. I remember back then busloads of mostly my fellow students who were sadly sent home because they could not afford their school fees. This could have been Rabuka’s interpretation of the so called free school fees,” Politini Jnr said.

He then turned his focus to the FijiFirst-led Fijian Government, speaking highly of its contributions to the country’s infrastructure in the context of his involvement in civil construction works over the last three years, praising government for ensuring maintenance projects continued to date amidst the coronavirus pandemic. He also highlighted the progress made in the ITC sector all of which he said has been possible because the FijiFirst Government put in place the building blocks. Politini Jnr also thanked the party for keeping the faith and in considering him a suitable candidate to contest the two previous elections under the FijiFirst banner.

His SODELPA counterpart, Ratu Jone called for Fiji to reinstate the multiple communal constituencies as opposed to the one national constituency electoral system established by the country’s 2013 Constitution which has been followed since the 2014 Elections.

The Open List proportional Representation system has been touted as one that ensures a legislature that reflects both minority and majority groups.

However, Ratu Jone described the current system as unfair saying it allows candidates with small number of voters to be elected into parliament on the back of a few popular candidates.

He maintains that voting along the lines of a multiple constituency electoral system “connects elected representatives directly to the members of the constituencies.”

“We know their needs, their strengths, their struggles it allows us to be accountable to the people who have elected us. In addition, the election would be easier to manage and more relatable.”

Ratu Jone also spoke about the need to bridge the gap between rural and urban development pointing to the findings of the 2019-2020 Household Income and Expenditure Survey as testament of the need to uplift the lives of Fijians in the rural sector by way of providing them with the same quality of services provided to those who reside in the urban sector.

“There is a real need to invest in our rural communities to ensure equitable provisioning of resources so that all people meet and have equal access to much needed human basic rights regardless of where they live. This include clean water for all, quality education for all, regular supply of electricity for all, and quality of health services and reliable transport and communication services for all.”

Ratu Jone also paid tribute to his family, his supporters, his predecessor Lynda Tabuya and the frontliners for their efforts and sacrifices during the height of Fiji’s coronavirus outbreak and through the third wave the country is experiencing, expressing his condolences to families who have lost their loved ones to the pandemic to date.

Ratu Jone replaces Lynda Tabuya who resigned from SODELPA to link up with PAP whereas Politini Jnr makes a return to the August House, his second since the 2014 Elections, joining the FijiFirst Government bench in place of the former Minister for Forestry Osea Naiqamu who died this year.

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