The New President of Fiji is an Adventist
From APD/ANN, October 23, 2015: Jioji K. “George” Konrote has been elected president of the Pacific island nation of Fiji. He will take office early in November. Under the constitution of Fiji, the president is head of state while the prime minister and cabinet constitute the government in a system much like the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth nations.
Konrote is was elected to parliament in 2006 and currently serves as cabinet Minister for Employment, Labor Relations and Productivity. He is a retired Major General in the Fiji military and has been the nation’s ambassador to Australia and to Singapore. He has also served with the United Nations as commander of the peace-keeping mission in Lebanon and as an assistant secretary general.
Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama described Konrote as “a paragon of loyalty, courage and devotion to duty in his performance as a military commander, honesty and dedication as a senior civil servant … and tact and perseverance as a diplomat,” in the official nomination to parliament. The president is elected by parliament in Fiji.
Konrote’s nomination is historic not just because of his Adventist faith but also because of his minority Rotuman ethnicity and his lack of chiefly ancestry. Rotuma is a small island group within the larger set of islands that make up the nation of Fiji and Routuman people make up an ethnic minority group.
The nomination of Konrote is the first under Fiji’s 2013 constitution which dispenses with the Council of Chiefs and opens the position of president up to non-chiefs. When this change was made it was a topic of political debate.
Given Fiji’s delicate political situation, Adventist denominational leaders have been cautious in their public statements. Konrote is a local elder in the Rotuman congregation in Suva.
His appointment came as “a bit of a surprise” although Adventists serve in many key government positions. The Adventist faith is widely respected in Fiji. About four percent of the population identified themselves as Seventh-day Adventists in the 2007 national census, according to the Fiji Bureau of Statistics.
The denomination’s Annual Statistical Report indicates 23,896 members in the Fiji Mission out of population of 864,000 or nearly three percent. This gap between official denominational statistics and the number of people who identify themselves as Adventists is typical of most countries in part because the adherents number (the larger number) includes children who are not yet baptized members as well as adults who attend but are not baptized members and former members.
The denomination’s Fiji Mission includes 154 local congregations. It operates Navesau Adventist High School, a boarding secondary school in Wainibuka and Suva Adventist College, as well as a Christian book store in Suva, the capital city.
Adventist Press Service (APD) is the denomination’s news service in Europe. Adventist News Network (ANN) is the official news service of the denomination’s world headquarters in Washington DC.