Sitiveni Ligamamada Rabuka was elected Prime Minister of Fiji on the floor of Fiji’s parliament on 24 December 2022 following the country’s general elections 10 days earlier.
He became Fiji’s 7th elected Prime Minister, but the first to be elected in parliament.
He is the first elected leader to serve twice in the high office since independence from the United Kingdom in 1970.
He first served as Prime Minister of Fiji for seven years between 1992 and 1999, having served earlier as Co-Deputy Prime Minister with the late Mr Josevata Kamikamica in the interim government of the late Prime Minister, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara from 1991 to 1992.
He hails from the village of Drekeniwai, in the district of Navatu in the province of Cakaudrove, located on Fiji’s second largest island of Vanua Levu in the north of the country. He was born in Cakaudrove and completed his intermediate education in Bucalevu, on the island of Taveuni.
Prime Minister Rabuka was accepted into the prestigious Queen Victoria School (QVS), located on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu, in the north-eastern province of Tailevu. He excelled in sports, donning the school colours in athletics, cricket, hockey and rugby union. He was elected Head Prefect in his final year at QVS in 1967.
He then joined the Fiji Military Forces where he retired as Major General 23 years later. He served as commander of the RFMF from 1987 to 1991 and among the leadership roles he assumed through his rise up the ranks were Commanding Officer of the Fiji Batallion with the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) from 1980 – 1981; Chief of Staff of the RFMF in 1981-1982; Commanding Officer of the Fiji Battalion with the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in Sinai in 1983 – 1985; SO1 Operations & Training at RFMF HQ in 1985 – 1987.
He trained at the New Zealand Army School in Waiouru in 1968, India’s Defence Services Staff College in 1979 and the Australian Joint Services Staff College in Canberra in 1982. His military secondments included the New Zealand Army in 1972-1973, and the 6th Queen Elizabeth’s own Gurkha Rifles (6QEO GR), the 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery (3RHA) and the 48 Infantry Brigade HQ at Sek Kong Military Camp of the British Army in Hong Kong’s northern territories in 1974.
His exceptional bravery in Lebanon in was recognized in 1980 for rescuing a senior French officer while under hostile enemy fire earned him the distinguished Legion D’Honneur 3rd Class. This was later upgraded to 2nd Class of Grande Officier by the then French President Jacques Chirac in 1997. He was also honoured with the Order of the British Empire (OBE – Military Division); Officer of the Order of St John; and Meritorious Service Decoration as a commissioned officer of the Fiji Military Forces.
He holds a Masters Degree in Military Science from Madras University in India in 1979, and a Honorary Doctorate from the Central Queensland University in 1998.
Not only did he serve as Deputy Prime Minister (1991–1992) and Prime Minister (1992–1999), he also assumed high profile roles as the Commonwealth Secretary General’s Special Envoy in Solomon islands (1999 – 2000), Chairman of Fiji’s Great Council of Chiefs (1999- 2001), Chairman of Cakaudrove Provincial Council (2001 – 2009), Chairman of Cakaudrove Provincial Holdings Company Limited and Leader of Opposition (Nov 2018 – Dec 2020).
Following Fiji’s political upheavals in 2000 and again in 2006, Mr Rabuka did not contest any general election until November 2018 as Leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA). When he resigned as Leader of Opposition in December 2020, he went on to form a new political party in September 2021 called The People’s Alliance which won 21 seats in the 55-seat parliament.
With the ruling FijiFirst Party unable to win an outright majority, Mr Rabuka’s The People’s Alliance was catapulted to national leadership with the support of its coalition partners, the National Federation Party which won five seats and SODELPA’s three seats.
Mr Rabuka is married to retired school teacher Mrs Sulueti Tuiloma Rabuka. They have two daughters and two sons, seven grandchildren and five great grandchildren.