Fijian Parliament voted on Friday to terminate former Prime Minister and incumbent opposition leader Frank Bainimarama from parliament for three years. Bainimarama was accused of breaching parliamentary privileges after making “seditious” remarks and insulting the president in a speech to parliament on Monday.
Bainimarama, Fiji’s longest-serving PM and leader of the FijiFirst party, was defeated by People’s Alliance party leader Sitiveni Rabuka in December. In his speech, Bainimarama accused the new government of “setting out to destroy constitutional democracy” and urged for military action. He also alleged that Fji’s president Ratu Katonivere, “failed to protect the constitution, the rule of law and failed to halt the resultant chaos that is insidiously and rapidly creeping in.” Katonivere was formerly the president of FijiFirst.
After a three-day meeting, the Privileges Committee concluded that Bainimarama’s speech was an abuse of parliamentary privilege. They ordered the opposition leader to issue a written apology to the Fijian president within 14 days and apologise to the public within 48 hours. Bainimarama was also subject to an immediate suspension from parliament. Home Affairs Minister Pio Tikoduadua described the Bainimara’s comments as “highly seditious and disrespectful while dishonouring the dignity and bringing parliament into disrepute.”
FijiFirst MP Jone Usamate defended Bainimarama’s speech, saying on Friday, “you cannot apologise if you have done nothing wrong.” FijiFirst MP and former trade minister Faiyaz Koya said they “did not find any guilt” in Bainimarama’s speech.
The Pacific island nation has seen four recognised military coups since its independence in 1970. It assumed a leadership role in the Pacific island region and a crucial part in the region’s stance in the geopolitical competition between the US and China. After coming to power, Rabuka said on Jan. 26 that the Fijian security force would cease working with personnel from China, signalling the end of a policing agreement that was signed between the two nations in 2011. The newly elected president deemed it unnecessary for the Pacific Island nation to continue its policing agreement with China, given the “differences” in their respective systems.