27 Apr 2017

Methodist stance worries Fiji military

11:55 am on 27 April 2017

The Fiji military has issued a warning that recent statements by the Methodist Church could lead to ethnic tension and instability.

It has released a statement saying it's concerned a prominent religious organisation is vocalising the supposed marginalisation of indigenous Fijians.

The Fiji Sun reported it was the first time the Republic Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) had issued a statement over a political issue since the return to elected government.

The military's chief of staff Colonel Ratu Jone Kalouniwai told the paper it was because the church had an influence in political events from 1987 to 2006.

"The RFMF, given its constitutional role to ensure the safety, security and well-being of Fiji and all Fijians, is concerned that a prominent religious organisation such as the Methodist Church of Fiji is vocalising the supposed marginalisation and agitation of the iTaukei in its five-point submission," said the statement.

"These we strongly feel have the potential to influence and breed suspicion, distrust, heightening ethnic tensions and potentially lead to conflict."

The military was referring to the Methodist Church's submission on proposed village bylaws which includes calling for Fiji to be made a Christian state, the review of the constitution and certain decrees and the addressing of indigenous people's concerns.

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The Methodist Church has given its submission on proposed village bylaws Photo: Fiji Methodist Church

The military said people should not be swayed by what it called rhetoric.

"The RFMF wishes to advise the people of our beloved country not to be easily swayed and manipulated by the various rhetoric's that are using communal divisions through ethnicity, race and religion to push a specific agenda to achieve political gains," the statement said.

In parliament this week the Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama complained the Methodist Church was among groups spreading lies that Fiji's iTaukei were being victimised under the constitution.

He also accused the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA), the largest opposition party in parliament, of being a mouthpiece for the Methodist Church.

The church's general secretary Reverend Epineri Vakadewavosa said the church was trying to solve the matter and was "talking with the government" over the issue.

"It's just a matter of talking and good discussion," he said.

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