Pacific Media Watch

20 September 2016

FIJI: PM 'doesn't understand secularism', says Rabuka

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Fiji Prime Minister and 2006 coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama (left) and former prime minister and 1987 coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka. Image: Newswire Fiji

Peni Shute
SUVA (Newswire Fiji/Pacific Media Watch): Former Fiji prime minister and coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka says Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama does not understand the meaning of secularism.

He was speaking at a recent thanksgiving service held at the Imanueli Methodist Church in Nadera organised by a committee of the SODELPA party.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama reportedly said that Rabuka had continued to use the Methodist Church for political purposes.

The general secretary of the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA,) Adi Litia Qionibaravi, told Newswire that the service was held to give thanks for the recent appointment of former Major-General Rabuka as the party leader.

RABUKA: “I think he just does not understand the meaning of secularism. I am a member of the Methodist Church, that was a Methodist Church…I was invited to attend it was okayed by the committee of the church, and it was a party organised thanksgiving service and we had the right to ask for a venue and the owners of the venue had the right to refuse.”

RABUKA: “If I am irrelevant as he said, then he should not be monitoring my movements. That service was a service one for the Annual General Meeting and it should have been held on the Sunday immediately following the AGM. But because the church was not available, we had to differ it and the church was free Sunday so the organisers managed to get a booking in and have the service organised.”

Rabuka clarified that he did not preach at the service.

RABUKA: “No, the talatala from the Methodist Church preached. I only responded to the welcoming address…the dolei ni vosa…that’s the response to the welcome.”

The Methodist Church secretary of communications, Reverend James Bhagwan, told media that his church associated with every Methodist in Fiji, whether it was the party leader of SODELPA or the Prime Minister.

BHAGWAN: “The Methodist Church of Fiji is associated with every Methodist in Fiji, whether it is the party leader of SODELPA or the Prime Minister who is also a member, the church is not of 1987, 2000, or 2006 as many of our members and the public in Fiji know as of 2014 we began our new exodus of the church, we have as of January 1st this year a new code of conduct which clearly spells out the separations of involvement of party politics, standing for elections, supporting politics.”

Rev Bhagwan said the other political parties, government departments, statutory bodies, various communities, and organisations that want to have special services which they make the request to the local minister and if the church is available with no clash of times then the church is usually given.

BHAGWAN: “If you don’t want the church involved don’t bring the church into the equation the first place by talking about it, no political party has complained about any government departments having worship services or thanksgiving services in any of our churches or any of our ministers come to do devotions at events just recently the Police Commissioner was inducted into his position, the General Secretary of the Methodist Church was the one who inducted him along with the Anglican Arch Bishop, and so the church is involved in all aspects of Fijian life in Fijian society and to pick on only one area is actually to be quite narrow-minded in focus.”

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