A sex scandal involving allegations of an extramarital affair between two ministers, leaked intimate photos and drug use during a ministerial trip has drawn attention Fijiunnerving the government and raising questions about the alliance’s survival.
The conservative Pacific nation of about 1 million people is alarmed by the saga, which centers on women’s minister Lynda Tabuya’s relationship with married former education minister Aseri Laderodero (Aseri Radrodro). Radrodero was also a son-in-law. Law by Minister Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka. Discussion of the allegations has flooded social media in recent weeks, with some Fijians calling for resignations while others want the Fijian government to take responsibility and explain. A coalition that has been in power for just over a year.
Dr Tess Newton Cain, director of the Pacific Center at the Griffith Asia Institute, said: “The ‘new’ halo has worn off and people are more focused on what governments are doing and how they are acting.”
“This extends to the way ministers behave.”
Both ministers have denied any romantic relationship, which allegedly occurred during a ministerial delegation’s visit to Melbourne, Australia, in August 2023.
Earlier this month, screenshots of intimate photos, messages and drug advice allegedly shared by ministers on the messaging platform Viber were posted online. Tabuya, also a lawyer and former beauty queen, said the obscene images were “fabricated” and the screenshots were “fake”. Radrodero said he had not seen the screenshots and declined to comment. Rabuka was embroiled in the scandal and faced calls for him to speak out on the issue.
While the authenticity of the images and screenshots is unclear, Tabuya has filed a complaint with Fijian authorities to have the photos removed from the online site. Last week, Fiji Police Acting Commissioner Juki Fong Chew said police were working with Australian detectives to investigate the minister’s conduct. complain.
How did the scandal unfold?
The allegations first came to light in September 2023, when images and screenshots appeared online. At the time, Rabuka said he was satisfied with the two ministers’ assurances that the allegations were not true.
The scandal resurfaced in January after private photos resurfaced on social media. Public concern over the incident intensified and debate spread across Fiji about the incident and what it meant for Rabuka’s future. The Prime Minister has yet to comment on the incident this year.
Then in January, Radrodero became embroiled in another political drama.
On January 22, Rabuka terminated Ladrodero’s ministerial duties for insubordination and disobedience to his appointment to the Fiji National University Council in May 2023.
A day later, Ladrodero publicly apologized for insubordination and said it was a matter of poor communication. He asked Rabuka to reverse his dismissal, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.
Days after Ladrodero was sacked, People’s Alliance Party (PAP) deputy leader Tabua confirmed to local media that she was under investigation within the party after a PAP member lodged a complaint against her. Be clear about what the complaint involves. The investigation by the People’s Action Party, which makes up the majority of the Fiji Alliance, is likely to be concluded in February and Tapua could be expelled from parliament.
The Guardian contacted Radrodero, Tabua and Rabuka for comment.
What might happen next?
Sexual scandal allegations and the political turmoil that followed Radrodero’s sacking threatened the stability of the league.
Radrodero is a member of the Social Democratic Liberal Party (Sodelpa). The party was angry at his dismissal and called on Rabuka to resign as prime minister. Sodelpa officials also threatened to join the opposition Fiji First party, which had been in power for 16 years under Frank Bainimarama.
Newton-Kane said the incident highlighted the alliance’s reliance on Sodelpa, which holds just three seats. She said if Sodelpa switched allegiance to Fiji First it could mean the end of the alliance and a change of government.
Fiji Fine Gael Party leader Savenaca Narube said the fate of the alliance would be determined by “leadership”. Narube, who is also a former governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji, said many in Fiji hoped the alliance would survive the turmoil.
“The survival of the alliance depends on leadership, consistent leadership, decisive leadership and principled leadership,” Narube said.