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A leading opposition MP from Fiji is delighting new social media followers with his wide-eyed discovery of Twitter, even as the country is experiencing heightened political tensions.
Pio Tikoduadua, who is the president of the National Federation Party, announced on Monday that while his Twitter account had been created a while ago, it had been run by his staff until now.
“This is my first week of actively using it,” he wrote. “I have discovered what a ‘retweet’ and a ‘quote tweet’ is. I hope to engage with you more! God Bless Fiji.”
Since then, Tikoduadua has been documenting his parliamentary engagements, as well as his faltering attempts to use the platform, bringing joy to followers, despite the political ructions that have come to the fore in Fiji this week.
Tikoduadua and eight other opposition figures were arrested over the weekend and questioned by police for statements made about a contentious land bill that is set to be debated by parliament on Friday.
There are fears that tensions over the bill could lead to political protests and civil disobedience, leading to an increased police presence in major towns and cities across Fiji.
In a video shared on Twitter late on Wednesday, Tikoduadua said he was going back to continue his interview with police. “I don’t know how long I’ll be,” he said and invited people to “at me” with questions about the investigation which he would look at when he got back.
Tikoduadua’s tweets, which include questions to followers about how notifications work on Twitter, as well as courteous replies to criticism, have offered respite from the political tension, as well as considerable amusement.
On Tuesday, ahead of the Rugby 7’s Olympics quarter-final which saw Fiji trounce Australia 19-0, he tweeted: “Bula friends, I hope that your evening is going well as we all wait for Fiji’s game. Today I learn that ‘FFS’ does not mean “‘Fiji First Supporters’. God Bless Fiji.”
Fiji First is the name of the country’s ruling party.
In another tweet, Tikoduadua responded to a follower whose Twitter handle is KitKat who wrote that “You may be new here sir, but tweeting like a real OG!!!!!”
“Bula KitKat,” came the MP’s formal reply in a quote tweet. “Please explain what ‘OG’ means. I’m assuming it means ‘Old Girl’?”
When another user – whose handle is “Mama Dragon” – explained it meant “Original Gangster” and was a compliment, he replied: “Bula Mama, thank you for that important clarification. These terms are confusing!”
Confusion was a common theme in the politician’s tweets over the last three days, with Tikoduadua writing: “I’m trying hard to respond to everyone. The notification structure here is a bit hard to understand. This has caused me much confusion.”
Upon learning that the acronym “TL” meant “timeline” and not “Tailevu” – a province in Fiji – he wrote “this has caused me much anxiety”.
“Hello Friends,” he tweeted late on Monday. “Sorry if I’m keeping you up. I’ve just been asked to incorporate hashtags on my posts. I only know ‘#FijiNews’ because I saw the NFP youth account use it. Are there any more I can use? Do I have to ask for permission? God Bless Fiji.”
Tikoduadua’s honesty about his unfamiliarity with the platform and the authenticity of his posts have endeared him to followers, who have offered praise and encouragement, as well as advice.
His courteous, serious engagement with their responses to him are striking, given Twitter’s reputation for being a hothouse of anonymous abuse and snark.
After posting a picture of the prime minister and attorney general, a follower tweeted him to ask whether it was necessary for him to include the picture given the country’s current political divisions, fuelled by the land bill and the government’s handling of a Covid outbreak that is currently devastating the Pacific nation.
“Bula,” Tikoduadua replied. “I’ll keep that in mind when I look for photos next time. Thank you for your kind suggestions, I appreciate it.” And he signed off, as he has in every tweet: “God Bless Fiji.”