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Fiji PM ignores flag change resistance

Thursday 11 February 2016 | Published in Regional

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SUVA – The Fiji prime minister Frank Bainimarama wants a new flag by July this year and it seems he’ll get it.

Despite delays and mounting resistance to the move, Bainimarama is refusing to entertain the idea of a referendum.

Just before Christmas the government put off a decision on the flag after Frank Bainimarama extended the consultation period by six months in June amid growing opposition to the move.

And the prime minister had to explain again in parliament this week, why the country needed to have a change.

“ We believe that Fijians share an aspiration to have a national symbol that reflects our present state as a nation,” he said.

“That has indigenous and truly Fijian symbols of identity and that we can honour and defend as an authentic expression of our nation, now and into the future.

“The plan to change the flag was first floated in February last year. A flag design competition resulted in 23 designs that could replace the existing flag.

“In March five designs will be chosen through the prime minister’s office and then the public will have three months to select one.”

Frank Bainimarama told parliament the response had been overwhelmingly positive. But the opposition Whip, Ratu Isoa Tikoca, says that’s not the case.

“We also visit our country too and they say otherwise – the only thing that comes up with them are is the country’s drive towards autocracy. Why give the people the right to choose.”

Another opposition MP told parliament that the prime minister was contradicting himself.

“Just last week the honourable prime minister was saying that he respects the noble blue banner and has served proudly under it – and those are sentiments that resonate with the vast majority of the people in Fiji.

“He projects himself as a man of the people, how can he then take away something so highly revered and dear to the people of Fiji?” Tikioca says.

The opposition leader, Ro Teimumu Kepa, asked the prime minister to have a referendum on the flag but Bainimarama is not flinching.

“The union flag, the British Lion, and the cross of St George are British symbols, not ours,” the prime minister said.

“As an independent nation we have the right to covet our own identity in the world.

Bainimarama says Fijians can still submit feedback under the consultation process until February 29. The government says it expects to announce the new flag on July 1 and it will be raised on Constitution Day in September.

- Dateline Pacific