11 Feb 2016

Fiji PM stands strong on flag issue

11:54 am on 11 February 2016

The Fiji prime minister Frank Bainimarama wants a new flag by July this year and it seems he'll get it.

Despite delays and mounting resistance to the move Mr Bainimarama has refused to entertain the idea of a referendum.

Just before Christmas the government put off a decision on the country's new flag.

Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama speaking to disciplined forces in January 2016

Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama Photo: Supplied

That came after Frank Bainimarama extended the consultation period by six months in June amid growing opposition to the move.

The prime minister had to explain again in parliament this week, why the country should have a change.

Mr Bainmarama said the government believes that Fijians share an aspiration to have a national symbol that reflects their present state as a nation, something that has indigenous and truly Fijian symbols of identity, that people can honour and defend as an authentic expression of the nation, now and into the future.

The plan to change the flag was first floated in February last year.

A flag design competition resulted in 23 designs that could replace the existing flag.

A selection of the finalists of Fiji's new flag

A selection of the finalists of Fiji's new flag Photo: newfijiflag.com

In March five designs will be chosen through the prime minister's office and then the public will have three months to select one.

Frank Bainimarama told the response had been overwhelmingly positive.

But the opposition Whip, Ratu Isoa Tikoca, said that was not the case.

Ratu Isoa said the opposition had visited the country too and they said otherwise.

"The only thing that comes up with them are [is the country's] drive towards autocracy", he said.

Ratu Isoa questioned why are the government wasn't including other alternatives.

He asked why people had not been given the right to choose.

Another opposition MP told parliament that the prime minister was contradicting himself.

He said just last week the honourable prime minister was saying that he respects the noble banner blue and has served proudly under it and those are sentiments that resonate with the vast majority of the people in Fiji.

Fiji's parliament resumes on Tuesday with three empty seats after the suspension of the opposition National Federation Party MPs last week.

Fiji parliament in session. Photo: Fiji Parliament

The MP said the Prime Minister projects himself as a man of the people but how can he then take away something so highly revered and dear to the people of Fiji?

The opposition leader, Ro Teimumu Kepa, the Prime Minister to have a referendum on the flag but Mr Bainimarama is not flinching.

He said the union flag, the British Lion, and the cross of St George are British symbols, not Fiji's.

"As an independent nation Fiji has the right to covet their own identity in the world", he said.

Mr Bainimarama said Fijians can still submit feedback under the consultation process until February the 29th.

The government said it expects to announce the new flag on July the 1st and it will be raised on Constitution Day in September.

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