Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama (Fijian: [tʃoˈsɛia βoˈreŋɡe
mbɛiniˈmarama]) CF, MSD, OStJ (born 27 April 1954), known commonly
Frank Bainimarama and sometimes by the chiefly title Ratu, is a
Fijian naval officer and politician who has been Prime Minister of
Fiji since 2007. He was the
Commander of the Fijian Military Forces
from 1999 to 2014. While holding the office of Prime Minister, he
has temporarily held various ministerial portfolios: Information, Home
Affairs, Immigration, Public Service, Indigenous and Multi-Ethnic
Affairs, Finance, and Foreign Affairs.
On 22 September 2014, he was sworn-in as the
Prime Minister of Fiji
Prime Minister of Fiji by
Epeli Nailatikau after his
Fiji First Party won the
2.1 Pre-2000 coup
Fiji coup of 2000
2.3 Post-2000 coup
3 Political controversies
3.1 Bougainville security situation
3.2 Fijian political unrest and coup d'état, 2006
3.2.1 Explaining the coup
3.3 Essential National Industries Decree
4 2009 constitutional crisis
7 Personal life
8 See also
10 External links
Bainimarama has taken power twice in Fiji's history, the first time as
Head of the Interim Military Government of
Fiji from 29 May to 13 July
2000, after organising a counter-coup to neutralise the ethnic Fijian
putsch led by George Speight. He handed power over to the newly
Ratu Josefa Iloilo. He was instrumental in the
rise to power of the government of the Prime Minister, Laisenia
Qarase, but his intense criticism of the government's policy of
showing leniency towards persons implicated in the coup later strained
his relations with the regime, and on 5 December 2006, he overthrew
the Qarase government and announced that he had "reluctantly" assumed
the powers of the presidency. He restored
Josefa Iloilo to the
Presidency on 4 January 2007, and was formally appointed
Interim Prime Minister by Iloilo the next day. The appointment
was declared lawful by the Supreme Court of
Fiji in October
2008. Bainimarama stepped down on 10 April 2009 as interim
prime minister, after the country's court of appeal ruled the removal
of the democratic government during his 2006 military coup was
Josefa Iloilo then announced that he had
abolished the constitution, assumed all governing power and revoked
all judicial appointments. He reappointed Bainimarama as prime
minister. The media has dubbed
Fiji a "Bainimarama
republic", a play on banana republic.
Bainimarama's naval career spans three decades. He has received a
number of honours for his service. He has been made an Officer Brother
in the Order of St John of Jerusalem, and has received the Meritorious
Service Decoration, the Peacekeeping Medal for United Nations
peacekeepers, the General Service Medal, the
Fiji Republic Medal, and
the 25 Anniversary Medal.
Following his education at Marist Brothers High School, Bainimarama
enlisted with the Fijian Navy on 26 July 1975 and rose smoothly
through the ranks, becoming an Able Seaman in August 1976, a
Midshipman in December the same year, and an Ensign on 1 November
After completing the Midshipmen's Supplementary Course in Australia,
he was appointed Navigation officer of
HMFS Kiro in August 1978. At
the end of that year, he was promoted to Sub-Lieutenant. In January
1979, Bainimarama embarked on the Chilean naval training ship, the
Buque Escuela Esmeralda, which spent six months circumnavigating South
America. On his return to
Fiji in August, Bainimarama was appointed
Executive Officer of HMFS Kiro.
After a brief Navigation Course in HMAS Watson in March 1982,
Bainimarama underwent Search and Rescue training at the United States
Coast Guard Centre in New York City. On his return to Fiji, he was
appointed commander of HMFS Kikau, his first command post. He went on
to command HMFS Kula, and spent four months in 1984 in the markings of
the Exclusive Economic Zones of Tonga, Tuvalu, and Kiribati. After
being promoted to
Lieutenant Commander in February 1986, he departed
for Sinai where he served for eighteen months with the Multinational
Force and Observers.
Bainimarama returned to
Fiji in September 1987. He took charge of the
delivery of two naval ships, the Levuka and Lautoka, from
the United States. He became
Commanding Officer of the Fijian Navy in
April 1988, and was promoted to the rank of
Commander on 4 October
that year. He held this post for the next nine years.
Bainimarama underwent further training at the Malaysian Armed Forces
Staff College in 1991 and at the Australian Defence Force Warfare
Centre at RAAF Williamtown, Newcastle, New South Wales, where he
studied Maritime Surveillance Training. This was followed by Disaster
Management training at the
Asian Institute of Technology
Asian Institute of Technology in 1993, and
Exclusive Economic Zone Management training at Dalhousie University,
Canada, in 1994. He was promoted to the rank of Captain in October of
that year, and went on to attend the Australian Joint Services Staff
College (JSSC). He attended the Integrated Logistics Support Overview
course of the Australian Defence Co-operation Program on 23 September
1996, and the Chief of Army Conferences in
Singapore in 1998 and 1999,
as well as the Chief of Defence Conference in Hawaii.
Bainimarama was appointed Acting Chief of Staff on 10 November 1997,
and was confirmed in this post on 18 April 1998. On 1 March 1999, he
was promoted to the rank of Commodore and was named
Commander of the
Armed Forces, to replace
Ratu Epeli Ganilau, who
resigned to pursue a political career. It was in his capacity as
Commander of the Armed Forces that Bainimarama assumed command on 29
May 2000. He relinquished command on 5 March 2014, to
Brigadier-General Mosese Tikoitoga.
Fiji coup of 2000
Main article: 2000 Fijian coup d'état
A group led by George Speight, a businessman who had been declared
bankrupt following the cancellation of several contracts by the
government, entered Parliament buildings on 19 May 2000 and
disaffected elements of the Fijian population rallied to his side. For
56 days Prime Minister
Mahendra Chaudhry and most of his cabinet,
along with many parliamentarians and their staff, were held as
hostages while Speight attempted to negotiate with the President, Ratu
Sir Kamisese Mara, who denounced the coup and declared a state of
Believing that President
Kamisese Mara was not dealing effectively
with the situation, Bainimarama apparently forced Mara to resign on 29
May 2000, in what some politicians have since called "a coup within a
coup," and formed an interim military government, which negotiated an
accord under which the rebels would release all hostages, including
the deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, and would surrender
without penalty. The government later reneged on the last part of the
agreement and arrested Speight on 27 July 2000, with Bainimarama
saying that he had signed that part of the accord "under duress."
Bainimarama attended a Leadership and Change Management course with
the Public Service Training and Development program in February 2002,
and a Policy Planning Analysis and Management course at the University
of the South Pacific in
Suva the following month. He went on to attend
the Defence and Strategic Studies Annual Conference at the Australian
Defence College in
Canberra on 2 August, and the Program for Senior
Executives in National and International Security at Harvard
University in the
United States from 18 to 30 August. In November that
year, he was promoted to Rear Admiral, but this promotion was reverted
to Commodore on 1 February 2003.
On 4 September 2003, Bainimarama attended the Pacific Armies
Management Seminar XXVII in Seoul, South Korea, and went on to attend
the PKO Capacity Building Seminar in the Philippine capital of Manila.
Despite his deteriorating relationship with the government,
Bainimarama was reappointed
Commander of the Republic of
Forces on 5 February 2004. That month, he attended the Pacific Area
Special Operations Conference. This was followed by the Seminar
Executive Course at the Asia Pacific Centre for Strategic Studies in
Hawaii in April. In May and June, he attended the South East Asia
Security Symposium. In September, he attended both the PAMS XXVII in
the Indian capital of New Delhi, and the 7th Chief of Defence
Conference in Tokyo, Japan.
On 14 December 2005, Bainimarama began an official visit to China, at
the invitation of the People's Liberation Army.
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2005–06 Fijian political crisis
2005–06 Fijian political crisis and 2006 Fijian coup
Bainimarama, who initially kept a high profile after the coup, later
became embroiled in constant controversy. He repeatedly entered the
political arena to criticise government policy – especially its
policy of leniency, as he saw it, towards persons responsible for the
coup. Politicians countered with charges of inappropriate interference
in political affairs, and some accused him of hypocrisy, saying that
he himself had a case to answer for his role in
Ratu Sir Kamisese
Mara's resignation from the presidency.
Bainimarama condemned the early release of persons imprisoned for
their involvement in the 2000 coup, including former Vice-President
Jope Seniloli and
Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, the Paramount Chief of
Tovata Confederacy. He spoke out against the organising of Fiji
Week, a week of religious services and cultural ceremonies, in which
persons could apologise for their participation in the coup, that was
held from 4 to 11 October 2004. On 13 May 2005, he announced his
implacable opposition to the government's proposal to establish a
Reconciliation and Unity Commission, with the power to grant
compensation to victims of the 2000 coup, and amnesty to perpetrators
of it. He agreed with detractors who called it a sham to grant amnesty
to supporters of the government who had played roles in the coup. His
attack on the legislation, which continued unremittingly throughout
May and June and into July, further strained his already tense
relationship with the government.
On 11 July, Bainimarama issued one of his strongest-worded challenges
yet to the government, saying that it was forcing the country into the
same anarchy as in 2000. In an eight-page statement, he warned that
the Military would take decisive action against any "destabilisers"
– among whom he named Attorney-General Bale and Ministry of
Reconciliation Chief Executive Apisalome Tudreu. "The military will
dish out the same fate we dealt
George Speight and his group to anyone
whom we think deserves this treatment," Bainimarama said. He said that
he would arrest and put on trial anyone who threatened the stability
of Fiji. The next day, it was revealed that a draft document signed by
Bainimarama had originally contained a direct threat to overthrow the
government if the bill went through. "The RFMF must stop the Bill from
passing or get rid of the Government if it is passed. We can recover
without this government, we cannot recover from this Bill," said part
of an emboldened paragraph, which was edited out of the document, part
of the Military's draft submission to the parliamentary committee
considering the bill, before publication. The document accused Prime
Minister Qarase and Attorney-General Bale of playing the race card
deliberately for political reasons.
Home Affairs Minister Vosanibola finally admitted on 13 July that the
government was constitutionally powerless to do anything to discipline
the Military commander. He said that the government was very concerned
about Bainimarama's behaviour, and accused the media of exacerbating
the tensions. "You (the media) can play a major role and come to us
first instead of coming to us after highlighting what he (Bainimarama)
has said," Vosanibola told the
Fiji Times. On 20 July, however,
Bainimarama claimed that Vosanibola had attempted to dismiss him in
June. Vosanibola had presented a letter of termination to the
government, which they had discussed, he claimed.
On 24 August, Bainimarama went public with allegations that Senator
Apisai Tora and other politicians, whom he did not name, had asked him
to depose President Iloilo in 2000. Tora angrily denied the
accusations, and was supported by Prime Minister Qarase, who claimed
to have attended the meeting where the topic of removing President
Iloilo was alleged to have come up. No such topic was discussed,
Qarase said. Bainimarama reiterated his allegations on 1 September,
and police spokeswoman Sylvia Low said that a file had, in fact, been
opened as far back as 2001, when Bainimarama had made a statement to
the police naming individuals he said were involved in the plot. That
file was still open, Low said.
On 5 September, a team of Criminal Investigation Officers interviewed
Bainimarama about his allegations. The details of the discussion were
not disclosed, except that Bainimarama had filed an official
statement. He told the media after the meeting that he was willing to
testify in court. Earlier, Kevueli Bulamainaivalu, the police officer
heading the investigation, had said on 29 August that until Commodore
Bainimarama had filed an official report and signed it, the police
could do nothing.
Bainimarama's detractors accused him of hypocrisy for vehemently
opposing what he saw as the government's policy of leniency towards
perpetrators of the 2000 coup, when there were unanswered questions
about his own role in it.
On 25 April 2004, then-Opposition Leader
Mick Beddoes called on the
army to answer for its failure to protect President Mara while the
country was in crisis. He called this "a fundamental failure" on the
part of the army. On 5 January 2005, Joji Kotobalavu, a spokesman for
Prime Minister Qarase, reminded the public that Bainimarama himself
was currently under investigation for his role in the apparently
forced resignation of President Mara.
On 2 May 2005, Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes announced that
Bainimarama had volunteered to make a statement about his own role in
Mara's resignation. To lay any charges, Hughes had earlier said, it
would have to be proven that Bainimarama actually forced the President
to resign.
Bougainville security situation
Main article: Fijian mercenaries in Bougainville
Bainimarama told the
Fiji Live news service on 13 December that Noah
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea businessman who once ran a failed pyramid
scheme and has since been involved with an armed separatist movement
on the island of Bougainville, had contacted him several months
earlier, offering F$35 million for his cooperation with respect to
"security work" in Bougainville. Bainimarama recognised the scheme as
an obvious "con job", he said, and did not reply to the
Fijian political unrest and coup d'état, 2006
Main article: 2006 Fijian coup d'état
On 31 October 2006, while Bainimarama was in
Egypt visiting Fijian
forces on peacekeeping duties in the Middle East, President Iloilo
moved to terminate the appointment of Bainimarama, appointing instead
Meli Saubulinayau who declined to take the
position. Senior Fijian military officers backed Bainimarama, who
quickly called on the Government to resign. The governments of
Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and others called for calm, and asked
for assurances that the Fijian military not rise against the
In late November 2006, Bainimarama handed down a list of demands to
Qarase, one of which was the withdrawal of three controversial bills,
Qoliqoli Bill (which would have transferred ownership of
maritime resources to the Fijian people) and the Reconciliation,
Tolerance, and Unity Bill, which would have offered conditional
pardons to persons convicted of involvement in the 2000 coup. Despite
further talks in
Suva and in Wellington, New Zealand, Bainimarama gave
the Prime Minister Qarase an ultimatum of 4 December to accede to his
demands or to resign. In a televised address, Qarase agreed to put the
three contentious bills on hold, review the appointment of Andrew
Hughes as Police Commissioner (Bainimarama had demanded his
dismissal), and give the police the option of discontinuing
investigations into the Commander's alleged acts of sedition. He
refused further concessions, saying that he had conceded all that was
possible within the law.
Military manoeuvres followed, including the seizure of government
vehicles and the house arrest of Prime Minister Qarase. On 5 December
Josefa Iloilo was said to have signed a legal order
dissolving Parliament after meeting with Bainimarama. The President
later issued a statement categorically denying having signed any such
decree, however, and the exiled Commissioner of Police, Andrew Hughes,
implicated Iloilo's secretary in the fabrication of the decree at the
As of 9 December, there were reported arrests of members of the media
and open dissenters, as well as incidents of intimidation and
violence committed against political figures. Stuart Huggett,
Chairman of the Public Service Commission, was reported to have been
Bainimarama told a press conference on 15 December that he would agree
to attend a forthcoming meeting of the Great Council of Chiefs, the
feudal body empowered to choose the country's President,
Vice-President, and fourteen of the thirty two Senators, only in his
capacity as President of the Republic, the
Fiji Sun reported.
Told that the Great Council still recognised
Josefa Iloilo as
President, he said that in that case he would boycott the meeting. He
also condemned the Great Council's invitation to deposed Prime
Minister Laisenia Qarase, saying that Qarase would not be allowed to
Suva to attend the meeting.
On 6 September 2007, Bainimarama imposed a renewed state of emergency
for one month, alleging that Qarase and his spokesman were spreading
lies and attempting to cause destabilisation, following Qarase's
Suva after having been confined to the island of Vanua
Balavu since his ouster. Bainimarama said that Qarase and his
spokesman should return to Vanuabalavu and that they could "talk from
Bainimarama became acting Minister of Finance on 18 August 2008 after
Chaudhry and the other Labour Party ministers withdrew from the
Explaining the coup
The immediate cause of the military coup was Prime Minister Qarase's
refusal to withdraw the Qoliqoli Bill. Bainimarama stated that his
main reasons for overthrowing the Qarase government were that it was
corrupt, and that it was conducting racially discriminatory policies
against the country's Indo-Fijian minority. In a speech publicly
announcing the coup, he stated that Qarase's policies had "divided the
nation now and will have very serious consequences to our future
generations". He added that "the passing of the Reconciliation,
Qoliqoli and Land Claims [Bills] will undermine the Constitution, will
deprive many citizens of their rights as guaranteed under the
Constitution and compromise and undermine the integrity of the
Constitutional Offices including the Judiciary". He explained that he
would amend the race-based electoral rolls, so as to "lead us into
peace and prosperity and mend the ever widening racial divide that
currently besets our multicultural nation".
United Nations General Assembly
United Nations General Assembly in September 2007, he
Fiji started its journey as a young nation on a rather
shaky foundation, with a race-based Constitution, one which rigidly
compartmentalised our communities. The 'democracy' which came to be
Fiji was marked by divisive, adversarial, inward-looking,
race-based politics. The legacy of leadership, at both community and
national levels, was a fractured nation. Fiji's people were not
allowed to share a common national identity.
Of the two major communities, indigenous
Fijians were instilled with
fear of dominance and dispossession by Indo-Fijians, and they desired
protection of their status as the indigenous people. Indo-Fijians, on
the other hand, felt alienated and marginalised, as second-class
citizens in their own country, the country of their birth, Fiji. [...]
Fiji's overall situation by 2006 had deteriorated sharply, heightened
by massive corruption and lawlessness [...].
[P]olicies which promote racial supremacy [...] must be removed once
and for all. [...]
Fiji will look at making the necessary legal
changes in the area of electoral reform, to ensure true equality at
the polls. [...] [E]very person will be given the right to vote for
only one candidate, irrespective of race or religion."
This was to be achieved, he declared, through a People's Charter for
Change, Peace and Progress, the stated aim of which was to "rebuild
Fiji into a non-racial, culturally-vibrant and united, well-governed,
truly democratic nation that seeks progress, and prosperity through
merit-based equality of opportunity, and peace".
In April 2009, he told The Australian's Graham Davis:
"My vision for
Fiji is one that's free of racism. That's the biggest
problem we've had in the last 20 years and it needs to be taken out.
It's the lies that are being fed to indigenous
Fijians that are
causing this, especially from our chiefs who are the dominating factor
in our lives. And the politicians take advantage of that. We need to
change direction in a dramatic way. We need to get rid of Qarase and
everything associated with the 2000 coup and begin entirely on a new
Davis noted that Bainimarama had introduced greater ethnic diversity
into senior positions, and suggested that "maybe that's what drives
Bainimarama most of all; the notion, however quixotic, of a
multiracial meritocracy belatedly fulfilling the great promise Fiji
had in its early post-independence years, when a visiting pope John
Paul II famously described it as a model for the developing world.
Before the greed, the racism and the gun."
Essential National Industries Decree
Main article: Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree 2011
In September 2011, the Bainimarama government introduced a decree
severely curtailing labour rights, so as to "ensure the present and
continued viability and sustainability of essential national
industries". In particular, the decree banned strikes in all but
exceptional circumstances, subjecting them in addition to government
authorisation on a case by case basis. It also curtailed the right for
workers to take their grievances to courts of law. The
Union Congress said the decree "offers major weapons to the employers
to utilise against unions [...] It outlaws professional trade
unionists, eliminates existing collective agreements, promotes a
biased system of non-professional bargaining agents to represent
workers, severely restricts industrial action, strengthens sanctions
against legally striking workers and bans overtime payments and other
allowances for workers in 24-hour operations". Attar Singh, General
Secretary for the
Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions, said: "We have
never seen anything worse than this decree. It is without doubt
designed to decimate unions [...] by giving [employers] an unfair
advantage over workers and unions".
Amnesty International said the
decree threatened "fundamental human rights [...], including the right
to freedom of association and assembly, and the right to
2009 constitutional crisis
Main article: 2009 Fijian constitutional crisis
In April 2009, the Court of Appeal ruled the removal of the democratic
government during his 2006 military coup was illegal. Bainimarama
stepped down on 10 April 2009 as interim prime minister.
Josefa Iloilo then announced that he had abolished the
constitution, assumed all governing power and revoked all judicial
After abolishing the constitution and sacking the judiciary, President
Josefa Iloilo reappointed Commodore
Frank Bainimarama as prime
minister only 24 hours later. On 24 April, the President made him
Companion of the Order of Fiji
Companion of the Order of Fiji in recognition of his "eminent
achievement and merit of highest degree and service to
Fiji and to
humanity at large".
On 3 November 2009, Bainimarama banished the envoys of
New Zealand giving them 24 hours to leave the country.
The controversy stemmed from Bainimarama's move to appoint Sri Lankan
judges to replace the country's judiciary, which he ousted in April
Minister for Economy, Public Enterprise,
Civil Service and Communication
Minister for Industry, Trade, Tourism, Lands & Mineral
Minister for Youth & Sports
Laisenia Bale Tuitubou
Minister for Local Government, Housing and Environment, Infrastructure
Minister for Women, Children & Poverty Alleviation
Minister for Forests
Minister for Agriculture, Rural & Maritime Development and
National Disaster Management
Minister for Immigration, National Security and Defence
Ratu Inoke Kubuabola
Minister for Immigration, National Security and Defence
Minister for Employment, Productivity & Industrial Relations
Minister for Education, Heritage & Arts, National Archives of
Dr. Mahendra Reddy
Hon Minister for Fisheries
Hon Minister for Health and Medical Services 
Rosy Sofia Akbar
Bainimarama displays above his office desk portraits of Elizabeth II,
former Queen of Fiji, and of her consort, Prince Philip, Duke of
Edinburgh. He has said of himself: "I'm still loyal to the Queen. Many
people are in Fiji. One of the things I'd like to do is see her
restored as our monarch, to be Queen of
Fiji again." However, in
2012 Bainimarama's government abolished the Queen's Official Birthday
holiday in Fiji and replaced the Queen's image on Fiji's banknotes
and coins with the Fijian coat of arms (themselves granted by royal
Bainimarama hails from the village of Kiuva in the Kaba Peninsula,
Tailevu Province. He is the brother of
Meli Bainimarama and Ratu
Timoci Bainimarama, both senior civil servants. He was Roman
Catholic-educated and graduated from Marist Brothers High School
in Suva. He is married to Maria Makitalena; they have six children and
several grandchildren. He is a sports enthusiast, with a particular
passion for rugby union and athletics; he became president of the Fiji
Rugby Union on 31 May 2014. He takes a keen interest in military
history and in current affairs.
People's Charter for Change and Progress
List of foreign ministers in 2017
List of current foreign ministers
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Rear Admiral (Ret) Voreqe Bainimarama is the new president of
Fiji Rugby Union. [...] He was elected unopposed at the
Union annual general meeting in Nadi yesterday.
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Republic of Fiji Military Forces
Republic of Fiji Military Forces website
Bainimarama's speech, 5 December 2006: the stated reasons for the coup
Commodore Bainimarama's address to the 62nd session of the United
Nations General Assembly, 28 September 2007 (video)
Commodore Bainimarama's address to the 63rd session of the United
Nations General Assembly, 26 September 2008
Frank, Uncensored, ABC documentary by Philippa McDonald, 3 August
Commander of the Military Forces
President of Fiji
President of Fiji
Prime Minister of Fiji
Frank Bainimarama (2014–present)
Current Members of Parliament
Howard Politini Jnr
Former Members of Parliament
2006 Fijian coup d'état
2009 Fijian constitutional crisis
Fijian general election, 2014
Presidents of Fiji
Prime Ministers of Fiji
* interim † military