Filimoni Vosarogo has confirmed that he is still the Minister for Lands, and Siromi Turaga remains the Attorney General, but he maintains that he will go where he is reassigned by Fiji’s Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka, who is expected to return to the country this weekend.
Vosarogo maintains that as the Prime Minister, Rabuka has the authority to reassign cabinet ministers, and they are expected to comply, even if it involves taking on the Attorney General position, as he was reassigned last week, despite concerns about the appointment’s legality.
Since the cabinet reshuffle was announced last week, including Vosarogo and Turaga swapping ministerial portfolios, there have been concerns raised and criticisms regarding the legality of his appointment as Attorney General.
Among those who have expressed concerns are the Fiji Law Society and Fiji’s opposition party, FijiFirst, who insist that Vosarogo does not meet the criteria or standards outlined in the 2013 Constitution for the role of Attorney General, given his cases with the Independent Services Legal Commission.
“It’s a legal argument. But right now I think what we do is we wait for the PM to come back and he will then make the call when he does arrive back into the country. And when he makes the call, that I stay, I will stay. And if he makes the call that I go then I will go. I signed up for this when I signed up for election, and I’d bleed for this country any day,” Vosarogo said.
“I was informed late Friday afternoon, again I reiterate when you sign up for a cabinet position, I also sign up with the understanding that the PM can reassign your portfolio, if he does the reassignment, and as a responsible minister in cabinet, your job is to make sure that this is carried out.”
When asked why he could not decline the appointment, given the concerns raised about his qualifications and as a legal professional, Vosarogo stated that the reassignment, in his view, is a matter within the Prime Minister’s prerogative. He argues that accepting the position is a duty-bound obligation when it comes from the head of the government, even if there are unresolved issues concerning its legality.
“This is a cabinet matter where the PM has made the reassignment, I view it differently. If the PM does that, you’re duty-bound to take on the responsibility. Legality issues yet to be resolved there. I am new in parliament, in cabinet, I don’t know of any precedent before where a cabinet minister has been offered something and turned it down. It may have happened, but I am not aware of it. But, like I said, all of these all awaiting the PM when he gets back.”
In the same vein, he also acknowledges legal concerns and the importance of a functioning democracy, encouraging people who are dissatisfied with government decisions to use the courts.
“There are legal opinions, and of course, that constitutional provision has not been tested. A lot of the 2013 constitution has not been tested. A litigious society is a very healthy democracy, when people aren’t happy with how things have turned out, the courts and the doors of the courts should be open for those issues to be litigated. When that does happen, it shows that democracy is flourishing, and I think that is an aspect of national development that we have not seen in the reign of the past government. That’s the thing that this government wants to encourage, if they are not happy with government decisions, there is the courts, and you should utilise it because we have a very independent judiciary.
“It is what it is, but the good thing is that differences in views have a forum, an avenue where they can be heard, and the court doors are open. If the PM comes back and if his position remains the same then it may gravitate towards that, but if the PM come back and says, ‘Fili, you remain where you are,’ that is where I will remain.”
Vosarogo acknowledges that while the 2013 Constitution has provisions for amendment, that is not a priority for the coalition government at the moment focusing instead “on delieverables that we need to deliver because we made promises that we would deliver certain key aspects of our policies.”
SODELPA’s two cabinet ministers, Aseri Radrodro and Ifereimi Vasu, also exchanged roles in the recent ministerial reassignment. This change has prompted the party to bring forward its management board meeting, bringing it forward to address it for compliance purposes.