Former Fijian PM and Coup Leader Frank Bainimarama Resigns From Parliament, Opposition Leadership

Former Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama resigned from parliament and as opposition leader on Wednesday, March 8, just under three weeks after he was suspended from parliament.

“Given the need to maintain our numbers in Parliament over the next three years, and the need for FijiFirst to be on the ground at all times, following discussions with our General Secretary, our Parliamentary Caucus, and most of all our supporters, I have tendered my resignation from Parliament, with immediate effect,” Bainimarama said.

He said he would stay on as party leader of FijiFirst.

Bainimarama was suspended from parliament for three years over comments he made against President Ratu Wiliame Katonivere, the Fiji Times reported. Credit: FijiFirst via Storyful

Video transcript

FRANK BAINIMARAMA: My fellow Fijians, [NON-ENGLISH] and a very good morning to you all. Firstly I wish all Fijians celebrating Holi, in particular, our Fijian Hindu brothers and sisters, a very happy Holi. Holi colors symbolizes our power and promise of our national unity. Through all-- through such festivals we celebrate family, friendship, community, nationhood, and the religious freedom enshrined in our Constitution. As you're aware, FijiFirst is the largest single political party in Parliament. We have 36 seats. The People's Alliance has 31, the National Federation Party has five, and the Social Democratic Liberal Party has three. It took all three of them to come together as a coalition to form a government.

You're aware that two weeks ago, I was suspended from Parliament for three years. My suspension means that FijiFirst numbers in Parliament will go down to 35. In a little over three years, the next elections can be held. Given the precedent that has been set, the suspension of three years was, in my opinion, unwarranted and most certainly unjustified.

I did not swear, nor did I make any racist or divisive comments. In fact, the so-called offensive words could have been objected to by points of order as provided for under the standing orders. However, the decision has been made by Parliament through vote, and I have complied with the decision. Whatever you or I may think of the decision here now we need to bear with it and respond in a positive and strategic manner.

From FijiFirst perspective, and also for the nearly 43% of voters in the 2022 general elections, it is important that we maintain at all times our 36 seats in Parliament. This is to ensure that we keep the three uneven [INAUDIBLE] government in check in Parliament at all times. It is imperative that FijiFirst does it to always prevent the three uneven legged stool government from running roughshod over our Constitution, bridges of which are taking place almost on a daily basis. And to highlight the lack of adherence to basic fundamentals of due process and procedural fairness.

It has also become evident in 24 December, 2022, 73 days to date, that the three uneven legged stool is not so stable nor does it subscribe to the modern ways of running a government in the 21st century. Given the need to maintain our numbers in Parliament over the next three years, and the need for FijiFirst to be on the ground at all times, following discussions with our General Secretary, our Parliamentary Caucus, and most of all, our supporters, I have tendered my resignation from Parliament with immediate effect.

However, please be assured that I will still continue to be the leader of FijiFirst. FijiFirst will nominate honorable [INAUDIBLE] Ratu in the next sitting of Parliament to be the leader of opposition. My work as leader with the general secretary will be to guide a Parliamentary caucus so that they can continue to fight inside Parliament while we engage more actively outside Parliament with our FijiFirst supporters and the growing number of unsatisfied Fijians who are now questioning their decision to vote for parties that seem to be not delivering on their promises.

I want to assure all our supporters and all Fijians that you will be seeing more of me on the ground as I engage with you to listen to your needs, your wants and your concerns. I am personally concerned about the increase in the casual reference to racism, to bigotry, and statements of discrimination on social media. As a leader, I truly believe that if not stopped, such behavior could lead to a disenfranchised society. I, again, urge the relevant authorities to address this issue.

Finally, I would like to encourage our [INAUDIBLE] team not to lose hope despite recent setbacks. I know it has been tough. I encourage them to focus on the next leg with a positive mind because, as you all know, the seventh [INAUDIBLE] in our leadership symbolizes unity and nationhood that was and can still be achieved. [NON-ENGLISH]. Thank you. God bless you, and God bless Fiji.