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FijiFirst founders former prime minister Frank Bainimarama and ex-attorney general Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum have resigned from the political party.


Pacific Region

Top officials quit Fiji political party

Tension is brewing in the FijiFirst party after its founding members, including former prime minister Frank Bainimarama and attorney-general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, resigned.

Christine Rovoi
Christine Rovoi
11 June 2024, 8:28pm
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Once the country's dominant political party, FijiFirst is on the brink of dissolving following the resignation of several key members.

In a shock move, founding figures including former prime minister Frank Bainimarama and ex-attorney general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum quit the party last week.

Registrar of Political Parties Ana Mataiciwa has confirmed that eight FijiFirst members handed in their notice to her office on 7 June.

Bainimarama, the country's longest-serving PM, founded FijiFirst in 2014 with a vision of ethnic inclusiveness.

He is serving 12 months in prison for obstructing a police investigation into corruption at the University of the South Pacific's headquarters in Suva.

Watch PMN News coverage of the 2018 Fiji election which Bainimarama's FijiFirst Party won.


In 2006, Bainimarama then a military commander, overthrew the elected government of the late Laisenia Qarase, who was also jailed for a year on corruption charges.

The latest fallout is believed to have stemmed from parliament voting to give themselves a pay rise last month which 16 FijiFirst MPs agreed to the increase.

Seventeen of the party's 26 members were sacked including one who had abstained from the vote but had recommended the raise.

Opposition leader Inia Seruiratu is among those fired and he told parliament before the salary vote that MPs also had "wants and needs and church commitments" to justify the pay increase.

The parliamentary secretariat confirmed to PMN News it had received a letter from FijiFirst informing the Speaker Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu that the MPs were expelled for not following a party directive on 24 May to vote against the motion for the salary hike.

FijiFirst acting general-secretary Faiyaz Koya signed the termination letters.

According to the 2013 Fiji Constitution, the seat of an MP becomes vacant if the member votes or abstains from voting in parliament, contrary to any direction issued by the party in which he or she was a candidate at the time they were elected to the House.

Happier times: Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and Frank Bainimarama led FijiFirst for 16 years. Photo/supplied

This included MPs who acted above without obtaining the prior permission of the political party.

Head of parliamentary law at the University of Tasmania, Richard Herr, said Fijian politics was already suffering from a risk that the governing coalition could fall apart.

But he said the country faced further danger now that the opposition party, which could hold the government to account, was also suffering a "severe split".

"A dispute over the pay rise threatened the three-party coalition led by Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and his People's Alliance Party," Herr said.

"His treasurer and deputy prime minister, Biman Prasad, who leads the National Federation Party, opposed the rise."

The Alliance, which also includes the Social Democratic Liberal Party (Sodelpa) needs Prasad’s party, but Rabuka’s uncompromising dealings with it are raising the risk of a split, he said.

Herr said FijiFirst was well placed to take over since, with 26 MPs, it was only two short of a majority in parliament, "but the same issue splits it".

One of the sacked MPs, who did not want to be named, told PMN News the group had received their dismissal notice from Koya, informing them that their seats in parliament were vacant.

A dispute over a pay rise for members of parliament is threatening the three-party coalition led by Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and his People’s Alliance Party. Photo/supplied

The MP said they were disputing the legality of the termination letter and would await the "full process of the law" to take its course.

The group met with Ratu Naiqama and parliament's secretary-general Jeanette Emberson.

It is not clear what Ratu Naiqama has done - whether he has notified the Electoral Commission, which has received a copy of FijiFirst's letter to the speaker - of the vacancies.

Herr said if the speaker declared their seats vacant and they appealed to the High Court of Fiji as the Court of Disputed Returns, they would be deemed suspended from parliament, not expelled, until the case was resolved.

"That would take up to three weeks," he said. "If they are ultimately not expelled, FijiFirst will be permanently split, with only nine remaining MPs acting as part of it.

"And if Rabuka’s coalition falls apart, no one in parliament is likely to have a clear way of forming a stable replacement government."

FijiFirst president Ratu Joji Satakala supported the expulsion, but he didn’t sign the termination notice.

The Electoral Commission has been contacted for comment.