I have not stopped smiling since I listened to the bucket tipped on Bainimarama by his supporter Ratu Timoci Vesikula.
He reminded Bainimarama that the Vanua is his power base and the Vanua was already there when the church and government, the others pillars of iTaukei society, arrived.
And the Vanua demands answers: “you talk of royalties, what about our qoliqoli and our land which is entrusted to you” and “why have scholarships for iTaukei been taken away?”
If Bainimarama thought all his campaigning would be like a visit to villages where overwhelmed villagers sit by and give their big-shot visitor the royal treatment, he has been rudely awakened from that dream.
He is dreaming if he thinks assurances that land is protected and in a the constitution will fool someone like Ratu Timoci, who was a Valuer by profession. He understands very well that a 99 year lease without proper provision for rents to be re-assessed in line with inflation is no different theft and is exactly what the Land Use Decree allows for.
Most important of all: Ratu Timoci is a supporter of Bainimarama. When the Charter was the issue in the early days of the regime Ratu Timoci put his hand up in support. He is not one of the supporters who turns up out of nowhere to mouth words of support on the day. He is a long-standing supporter who is now potentially facing a prison sentence of up to 10 years for simply telling Bainimarama what the ordinary iTaukei voter is thinking.
But what Bainimarama has still not appreciated is that it is his control of the media which gave rise to this problem. The intimidated media toned down Ratu Timoci’s words, attempting to gloss them in a way they thought would be acceptable to the regime.
Then the truth became clear and MIDA made its on translation of Ratu Timoci’s blunt declaration: “we’ve lived together for a long time but the water and kerosene have never mixed”
Bainimarama will hit the media hard, without understanding that self-censorship is the root cause of this blow-up. If he also hits Ratu Timoci hard, he will make matters even worse. His attempt to silence Ratu Timoci will be the focus of discussions around yaqona bowls all over the country, not to mention the barracks.
If long time rivals SODELPA and the FLP can discuss their competing policies freely Bainimarama and his supporters should be able to do likewise.