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Fiji: President announces retirement

Forum posters and bloggers are reacting to the announcement that Fiji’s president will step down.

Ratu Josefa Iloilovatu Uluivuda, known as Josefa Ilolio, announced his retirement after nearly nine years in office. At 88, he leaves office as the world’s oldest statesman.

His rule has been punctuated by three separate constitutional crises. Josefa Ilolio became president in the aftermath of Fiji’s 2000 coup when indigenous Fijian nationalists and members of the military held an elected government headed by an Indo-Fijian hostage for 56 days. He served until December 5, 2006 when military leader Frank Bainimarama declared a national emergency and assumed presidential powers before dissolving Parliament. A month later, the military commander then restored Ilolio to power. The President then named Bainimarama interim-Prime Minister.

On April 9, 2009, a court of appeals ruled Bainimarama’s takeover was illegal and ordered Iloilo to name a caretaker government until elections could be held. However, the President declared he had no constitutional authority to name a new government. So he annulled the country's 1997 constitution, discharged the entire judiciary and appointed himself head of state. The following day he nominated Frank Bainimarama to a five-year term, pushing out elections until 2014.

Some bloggers marked the passing.

From Babasiga

From radio fiji is the news that Ratu Iloilo will, at last, be living the pleasant life of a retired man, to spend time with his family in Veseisei. He is a frail gentleman and deserves time in his senior years with his kin and his vanua.

From a comment by True Pale Blue at the Real Fiji News site.

What an outstanding example of service to a Nation! Comparable to that of HM Queen Elizabeth II and worthy of such comparison. Our thoughts, our prayers and our deepest respect go out to the retiring President.

“Well done, good and faithful servant”

Gospel of St Matthew (25:23)

As stated in Fiji’s now abrogated 1997 Constitution, Fiji’s president is appointed by the hereditary indigenous Fijian group the Great Council of Chiefs for up to two five-year terms. While the President's power is largely ceremonial, the position does have certain reserve powers that have proved powerful during Fiji’s four coups and constitutional crises.

Vice President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau will assume presidential powers until a new president can be appointed. Frank Bainimarama has stated the Great Council of Chiefs, which he suspended, will not choose Fiji's next president. Instead, his cabinet and the recently re-appointed Chief Justice will do so. Bainimarama has claimed he will begin working on a more equitable and racially balanced constitution in three years. Josefa Ilolio may well be Fiji’s last President appointed by the Great Council of Chiefs.

Critics have long claimed that Ilolio was deeply under Bainiarama’s influence. Supporters contend Ilolio attempted to save indigenous Chiefly system by attempting to modernize the entire government.

From Fiji Board Exiles, gdevreal calls Ilolio’s retirement “long overdue,” and wonders what is next for the Bainimarama regime without its man in Government House.

Frank was pretty dependent on a rubber stamp president.
What happens now? With these sons and daughters of chiefs coming back into power, what do they need Frank for? He is definitely a liability on the international front, and knows phuck all about running an economy or a nation.

Staying at Fiji Board Exiles, real jack argues through a troubled decade, Ilolio was a stabilizing force.

the regime will have to find someone with similar standing and blood credentials who will be able to hold that pivotal role in itaukei [indigenous Fijian] society as the Turaga Tui Vuda has had since 2001 – we tend not to think about the pivotal role this chief has played in stabalising itaukei politics in this country since 2001 – his cheifly status and blood ties has been central to that stabalising influence – he has saved the itaukei race and held it together after the upheavels of 2001 and till todate – his Mana has held this country together.

The international press has painted the retirement as providing Bainimarama a chance to further consolidate power. A few of Fiji’s anti-government bloggers concurred.

Coup Four Point Five suggests that to tighten his grip Bainiarama had to force Ilolio out of office.

Contrary to the announcement this afternoon by the interim regime’s head, Frank Bainimarama, that President Ratu Josefa Iloilo has announced his retirement, sources have told us that Iloilo was forced into early retirement by the regime.

We have confirmation that the Tui Vuda’s retirement as President and Commander in Chief of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces was planned by the regime soon after the appointment of Ratu Epeli Nailatikau as vice president in late April after the abrogation of the Constitution on April the 10th.

Sources have told us that the regime has been discussing a retirement package for Iloilo for more than two months.

From the Soli Vakasama blogsite.

The recent maneuverings resulting in getting rid of incompetent Josefa Iloilo to make way of useless Epeli Nailatikau and news that liumuri, veivolitaki Epeli Mataitini or no hoper Tui Wei Talemo maybe in the running for VP post. The recent postings of Leweni, Naupoto and now Tikoduadua into PS [Permanent Secretary] positions only confirms Bainimarama’s real Road Map for Fiji folks and it ain’t towards democracy, but to the full militarization of Fiji!

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