Fiji's system of patron-client politics must end if the Pacific nation is to resolve its coup culture and facilitate a path towards democracy, says the Archbishop of Suva, Peter Loy Chong, reports The Australian.
Archbishop Chong said the interim Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, used the patron-client political strategy to gain support, particularly with the grassroots iTaukei (indigenous people).
In an unexpected warning from a Church long seen as supportive of the regime, Archbishop Chong (who was appointed this year) said there would be little hope of building a democratic Fiji if patron-client politics was not displaced.
The Catholic prelate told a World Association of Christian Communications workshop in Suva that the Church must address the question of how to remove the current political system. 'I propose that our key messages must include the removal of patron-client politics and the education and empowerment of peoples so that they can participate responsibly in the political affairs of our country,' Archbishop Chong said.
His predecessor, Petero Mataca, and two priests - social activist Kevin Barr and language expert Father David Arms - joined Commodore Bainimarama's National Council for Building a Better Fiji in 2007.
The council formulated a policy that led to Fiji's new constitution, which became law last week. Father Barr has since been threatened with deportation after highlighting continuing poverty while Mr Mataca has expressed disillusionment with the regime.