The fortunes of our national team in the international rugby arena seems to mirror the national fortunes.
In 2007 our national fifteens came within a hair’s breadth of winning a place in the Rugby World Cup semi finals, losing to the eventual World Champions in extra time. They reached the end of normal time at 20/20 with only 14 men on the field. The world sat up and took notice. South Africa back Jaque Fourie who before the game said our boys did not merit the respect of the Springboks was forced to eat his words.
In 2007 Laisenia Qarase did something no leader before him had done. He formed a government of national unity, following the spirit and the letter of the 1997 constitution. This is the only truly representative government we’ve ever known. To his eternal shame Mahendra Chaudhry failed to live up to the trust placed in him, seeking only to undermine the Government and his FLP colleagues who entered the multi-party government in the spirit that was intended.
How far we have travelled from those days. From a power-sharing, multi-party government we have gone to a power-grabbing, no party, unelected dictatorship. Over the same period, our rugby teams have gone from a rising force to sad lost cause. At the root of both declines is the Bainimarama style – government by gossip and tantrum. Anyone he doesn’t like is banned and the basis for likes and dislikes is nothing more than gossip behind closed doors by tale-bearing flunkies inside his little court.
Land Force Commander Mosese Tikoitoga was forced on the FRU as President, in place of Bill Gavoka, only to be replaced himself by Filimoni Waqabaca, well known for his service to the regime by keeping the lid on the looting of the FNPF. Keni Dakuidreketi, never on Frank’s Christmas card list, was sacked and then replaced by Manasa Baravilala, who got the chop himself in quick succession.
Who wants to take a job in these circumstances, knowing that it would make them a target for gossip and back-stabbing?
Since 2011 the regime has decided it has to control everything the FRU does, just as it tries to control every act of government. The IRB has cancelled the payment of funds to the FRU “until the Union adopts key financial reporting, administration and governance reforms.” All of the regime’s words about good governance amount to nothing. There is no Annual Report after 2011 on the FRU web-site, so everyone is being kept in the dark, not just the IRB.
Bainimarama’s aim is simple: to keep the FRU poor so it can remain under his control. It’s the same tactic with Provincial Councils. He stole the shares in FHL granted to them by the Qarase Government and he’s grabbing the dividends they should be getting, calling it repayment of a loan. He wants to keep them poor.