The ugly strongarm tactics of the military government of Fiji has surfaced again.
The call for the Tugaue and Waqairatu to relinquish their positions follows yesterday's meeting between Methodist Church leaders and Bainimarama, where it was made clear the church had no place in politics and had to change its ways.
In sweetly-packaged niceties, the government spokesman, Neumi Leweni, yesterday urged church leaders in a statement after the meeting to "review the leadership and refocus on their core role and responsibilities."
Leweni said Bainimarama and the government were not anti-church but the church needed to focus on the spiritual development of its members, instead of politics.
FBC says acting general secretary Reverend Tevita Nawadra says the two reverends can't be constitutionally removed because they haven’t done anything wrong. The only option is for them to willingly resign.
Nawadra is quoted as saying: "I think they will be posted elsewhere. There’s nothing to charge them for misconduct. If you are removed from the church it means you’ve done something wrong as per the constitution of the church but as I am saying there is nothing as such like that. What the church would do is relocate them elsewhere, that’s my understanding of it.”
And there was a steer in Leweni's comment: “Prime Minister Bainimarama said the Government’s concern has always been with the few leaders of the church who have been and continue to be fully engrossed with politics."
But it may not end with Tugaue and Tuikilakila. It’s highly likely church ministers deemed ‘politically tainted’ such as Reverend Manasa Lasaro and Reverend Tomasi Kanailagi could also go.
FBC quotes Nawadra as saying Tugaue and Wanqairau have been asked to step down for the sake of the church.
“The only option for the church now is for them to willingly resign from their position. They were told of this last night and they requested that we give them time. They will go and pray about it, think about the consequences, and they will come back to the church and tell of their stand.”
Reverend Tugaue was elected president in 2008 after taking the most votes ahead of Rev Manasa Lasaro and Tuikilakila Waqairatu, to succeed Reverend Laisiasa Ratabacaca.
Editor's Note: Bainimarama pictures from Fiji Village (top) and Fiji Sun (bottom). The Atu Rasea picture under Tugaue shows Waqairatu (far left) in happier times - the swearing in of President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau last year. An earlier picture was not that of Waqairatu.