Rabuka expected to put the heat on Fiji's leader
Observers say Fiji's Sitiveni Rabuka will give the government of Frank Bainimarama a run for his money at the next election but others are disturbed by his return to politics.
Observers say Fiji's Sitiveni Rabuka will give the government of Frank Bainimarama a run for his money at the next election.
But others say the former coup leader's election as leader of the country's main opposition party has reopened old wounds.
Sally Round reports.
An observer of Fiji politics Emeritus Professor Brij Lal says Mr Rabuka's emergence from the political wilderness has an element of opportunism.
But he says there aren't too many alternatives to counteract the FijiFirst party led by Mr Bainimarama which won nearly two thirds of the parliament in the last election.
Mr Rabuka, who's a former military commander, was later elected prime minister and helped orchestrate a new more ethnically inclusive constitution for Fiji in 1997.
Professor Lal says he will have appeal within the military and across ethnicities.
BRIJ LAL: He is a man who is very intelligent, he's articulate and he's also realistic. He changes when he sees the need to change. He also has a history of working cooperatively. He has the experience, he has the talent, he has the knowledge to participate in politics in Fiji at this very critical moment.
Another Fiji watcher Steven Ratuva says Mr Rabuka has evolved from a coup leader into a very smart politican and he has the political nous to come up with the necessary strategies.
STEVEN RATUVA: Rabuka has the experience and also has the mindset to be able to do that and to counter Bainimarama. Remember these are both former military officers and they are able to read each other's mind and they would strategise in relation to what the other is doing. So it will be a very interesting tussle between them.
Professor Ratuva says the past still haunts Mr Rabuka despite his numerous apologies including to the Queen but he says there are many in Fiji who are ready to move on.
But Mr Rabuka's appointment has led to resignations within the party and a human rights lawyer in Fiji Aman Ravindra-Singh has described it as disturbing.
He says the 87 coup led to the gross violation of human rights and people fleeing Fiji for asylum in countries like New Zealand and Australia.
Mr Ravindra-Singh says the apologies have been half-hearted and calculated and he must make genuine apologies directly to the many people who suffered at the time.
AMAN RAVINDRA-SINGH: There was a lot of blood flowing in the streets of Fiji due to the brutality of his troops which involved long periods of detention, people being beaten up by the military and the police. people being tortured. Rabuka is now being glorified by making a comeback and if anything old wounds are being opened up.
Mr Rabuka made another apology at the weekend, this time to the women of Fiji.
He describes the job ahead as daunting.
SITIVENI RABUKA: What we have to do is to heal and consolidate what we have left and also try and widen the support base. We cannot hope to develop Fiji focusing only on indigenous rights. We must understand that we are a multi-ethnic society and whatever we do for one race will benefit all the other races. We have to take everybody forward together.
Professor Ratuva said if Mr Rabuka can generate support from other ethnic groups and forge alliances with other parties, as he did earlier, that would ring alarm bells for Mr Bainimarama's FijiFirst.
STEVEN RATUVA: In terms of their poltical and ethnic positions, he's really no different from Bainimarama now. They both believe in mutli-racialism and they both believe in bringing all the ethnic groups together.
Fiji is due to go the polls again in 2018.
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