Voreqe Bainimarama can go around spending millions of dollars on vote buying sprees but this is not going to assure him the support he needs to win the next general elections.
Vote buying techniques have not worked in the past. Nor is it going to work this time.
Bainimarama was out in the Nasinu area last week reportedly handing out brush cutters, chain saws and sporting equipment. Not surprisingly, this event was not reported in any of the local media.
His Minister for Women, and announced candidate for his long-awaited political party, Dr. Jiko Luveni was distributing sewing machines in the Lau Group two weeks ago, and in the North a couple of months back. Several homes are now being donated to families who lost their homes in floods last year.
A government team (civil servants) is currently holding a roadshow in the North to advise on rural housing, initiate self-help projects, provide water and engage in poverty alleviation activities. These are all vote buying efforts using public officials and funds.
In 2009, at the time the 1997 Constitution was abrogated, he announced that elections would be held in 2014. This was, he said, to allow the first three years of his administration to be devoted to reviving the economy, developing infrastructure and dealing with chronic social issues such as poverty, housing and unemployment. Having done this, the administration would then begin work on the constitutional process in 2012, with elections in 2014.
In actual fact, this agenda was not followed. The economy has remained stagnant since 2009, key exports such as sugar, gold and fisheries products have declined drastically, Fiji’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure were left to deteriorate to appalling conditions and social services such as health and welfare were grossly neglected.
Beginning in the second half of last year, a frantic effort began by the regime to correct this neglect. Millions of dollars of borrowed money is now being used to repair main trunk roads, revamp water works, upgrade villages, improve hospital facilities, provide free education and set up internet centres in rural areas – all in an effort to impress voters.
Mr Bainimarama needs to be reminded that such vote-buying tactics do not fool our people. They are the wiser lot.
28 March 2014