Seasonal Workers ad hoc blacklist ban inhumane- NFP President

MEDIA RELEASE

June 8, 2017

The President of the National Federation Party, Lieutenant-Colonel Pio Tikoduadua has called on the Employment Minister, Jone Usamate to make public all details of the seasonal workers scheme including the plight of those workers in New Zealand that warrants such an inhumane approach to blanket blacklisting.

Mr Tikoduadua said Mr Usamate’s statement where whole villages and settlements are being imposed with penalties of a 4-year ban from the seasonal workers scheme is discriminatory, inhumane and a goes against the principles of international labour practices.

“Why in the interest of balance and fair play, is this Government penalizing a whole village for four years, for the supposed action of a fellow villagers on an overseas scheme? This reeks of provincialism and political sanctioning on areas that the Fiji First government may have discovered as not friendly to them. ”

“Now we have some 25 whole villages being penalized by this Government for four years. How many more villages will be put on this blacklist?”

Tikoduadua said that Minister Usamate’s handling of the recent New Zealand seasonal workers case is symptomatic of the sheer arrogance that is the usual mode for of Fiji First where there is no empathy nor a balanced regard for redress for the worker.”

“The way that the seasonal workers scheme is being implemented needs to be investigated, as we know that this also being used as a vote-buying scheme for our rural communities.”

“What we are now witnessing is the disempowering and demeaning treatment of our citizens, many of them who have been taken straight from their villages to a foreign country for work without much a thought for their care and their support in that country.”

“The fact that that the minister states that this ban is not sudden or a new decision but was “explained” during ministry consultations and recruitment, is exactly what makes the scheme’s implementation untenable.”

“This outcome is simply a knee-jerk reaction from the bad publicity that the current government has received from media reports abroad that highlighted the gross inhumane conditions that our people are subjected to.”

 “A responsive, responsible and ‘equality driven’ Government does not take their decision and “explain” this to the community. It is indicative of an ill thought out policy, devoid of consultation with almost no thought to the wider impact of this on the community, such as travel expense debts that these workers may be worrying about.”

“An ‘equality driven’ government would also ensure that initiatives like this take care of all our communities. At present the current selection criteria of passing physical fitness tests, passing RULA (Rapid Upper Limb Assessment) & an acceptable BMI (Body Mass Index: <29) automatically rules out the vast majority of indo-Fijians and the numbers who have gone on this initiative validate this gross discrimination based on stereotyping. Granted that this particular line of work is labour intensive, there should be a similar initiative that allows for less rigid demands that are not neocolonial in approach.”

“The NFP has stated many times before that employment creation in the country is critical and abdicating our national employment obligations to New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Island countries under seasonal worker schemes and similar initiatives like for teachers is commendable but it is a short-term band-aid solution to the national unemployment and low wage issue.”

“This is now further aggravated if the current scheme results in negative consequential results not just for the worker but for whole communities back in Fiji.”

Lieutenant-Colonel Pio Tikoduadua – President

Mobile: 7196802 Email: viotikoduadua@gmail.com

Lt-Col Pio Tikoduadua Statement on joining NFP NFP President seasonal worker blacklist inhumane media release June 2017

“CHANGE IS COMING”

Address by NFP Leader at NFP Convention Saturday 3rd June Girmit Centre, Lautoka By Hon Professor Biman Prasad

 The Party President, Vice Presidents, General Secretary, Party Executives, Party Elders and Stalwarts, Convention Chair Mr Selwa Nadan, Master of Ceremonies Mr Jagannath Sami, our small but extremely powerful parliamentary caucus of Hon Parmod Chand and Hon Prem Singh, Members, Supporters Ladies and Gentlemen

 I am mightily delighted and privileged to be among you today and to be hosted by our gracious Lautoka Branch. I gratefully acknowledge the hardworking efforts of Mr Nadan and his team ably assisted by our Branch President Mr Frederick Work, Mr Michael Brown, Mr Jagannath Sami and other Branch officials and stalwarts. I also acknowledge all other Branches in ensuring that our members and supporters who wanted to be participate in this significant Convention are here. I am sure that many of us who travelled far and wide to congregate today are enthused and invigorated to be met by such a well-organised and festive atmosphere for today’s AGM and Convention. It is indeed a telling omen of how #TheFeds approach to leadership and governance.

That, many hands and heads make light work if we are all pull together in the same direction. This is testimony to the fact that we are more than ready to overcome challenges facing our nation for its lasting social, political and economic advancement. Friends and colleagues, before the Convention we had the official proceedings which is the AGM. I would also like to commend our party branches who also spoke with one accord and made resolutions on the continuing evolution of our party workings. I am sure we are all honoured by the election of our new office bearers, who will be ably led by our new President Lieutenant-Colonel Pio Tikoduadua. He succeeds one of our Vice Presidents Mr Semi Titoko, who set the ball rolling with his team last September by hosting our AGM and Convention in Rakiraki. Despite the district being ravaged by Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston, the Convention was attended by 700 people. This is a step forward from last September and we can only grow in leaps and bounds from here. And of course, he takes over from our former President Roko Tupou Draunidalo who resigned in January this year after being ousted from Parliament through a lengthy but unreasonable and unfair suspension. Lieutenant- Colonel Tikoduadua has outlined his reasons why he firmly believes in NFP. One of the reasons that he clearly stated when he made the announcement in April was that the NFP never shirked its principles in its 54 years of existence. He also emphasized that the NFP has always been ably led by leaders who were statesmen and always put national interest above everything else. And those leaders were our founding father Mr Ambalal Dahyabhai Patel, Mr Siddiq Moidin Koya, Mr Harish Sharma and Honourable Justice Jai Ram Reddy. They were giants of their time in ability, understanding and perception of the problems facing the people of Fiji. Their achievements are monumental and despite efforts of the current Fiji First and the military governments to distort or change history, these milestones can never be erased. Before quitting his job as Permanent Secretary in the PM’s Office in 2014 to contest the September 2014 elections, Lieutenant-Colonel Tikoduadua, when he called me to inform of his decision said if he would have preferred to contest the elections under the NFP banner. Less than three years after that call, his wish of joining NFP became a reality after having displayed ethics and political morality to resign as a senior Cabinet Minister of the current Government, after only less than 9 months into the job for reasons outlined by him. That is hallmark of the man. He could have stayed on, shirked his principles and meekly succumbed to the trappings of power and a lucrative $200,000 annual salary. But he did not. Friends and colleagues, Lieutenant-Colonel Tikoduadua leads a highly capable and truly multiracial team of dedicated and committed team of office bearers in a year that we want to be a defining moment in Fiji’s history. And you all know what I am talking about. Friends and colleagues, the last time we gathered in Rakiraki for the AGM we were directly immersed into some very dire realities of life after 3 TC Winston. The sight of Penang Sangam School with its roof still crudely covered with blue tarpaulin which was, even then, a telling indicator of the slow and almost lax attitude of the Government on prioritising the basic needs of its voters. Yet, the Government is quite content to take an international coterie of advisors and Public Relations consultants to the climate change meetings. But we do not need Qorvis or any other PR consultant. We do not need spin doctors to camouflage the painful realities facing our people. At times I wonder whether Qorvis is working for Government or Fiji First. Probably for the first time in our history we have an overseas PR firm being paid millions of dollars of taxpayers funds ever since they were hired. But spin doctors do not provide sound and sensible solutions. Friends and colleagues, many of you would have seen and heard the parliament debate last week. I want to pay particular note to the debate on the “civil service reforms” that I posed a question on, on Thursday, 25 May. The response to that question was both juvenile and obfuscated, but you civil servants listening in, will know that already.

The NFP therefore extended an official invitation to FICTU General Secretary, Mr Attar Singh and veteran Trade Union Mr Pramod Rae to present to share their expertise on the issue. Because we regard the rights of our workers as extremely important. I am aware that many are keen to understand some of our policy positions leading up to the election campaign. I do not intend to disappoint you and the people of Fiji. As much it is ideal to reveal policy details in an election manifesto, it is the wish of the people, expressed during our listening campaign throughout the country to reveal some broad policies of what an NFP Government will do after the elections. We had already announced both in and outside Parliament what we will do to either reverse or repeal anti-people Government policies and new initiatives. Some of these have been namely: –

1. Building a new sugar mill in Penang, Rakiraki

2. Implementing a minimum guaranteed price of $100 per tonne of cane for the next four years to revive our sugar industry and 4 improve the livelihood of 200,000 people directly and indirectly dependent on the industry

3. Reversing the Village By Laws if it is implemented because it is designed to control the lives of our village i-taukei community. Similarly, we will repeal the Rotuma Land Bill if it is enacted.

4. Reduce the salaries of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers by 25% and through Parliament appoint an independent emoluments committee to review salaries to bring relativity in salaries

5. Remove contract based employment in the civil service and ensure employment is permanent in nature

6. Hold elections for the Sugar Cane Growers Council so that growers as largest stakeholders in the industry have a legitimate voice

7. Repeal Bills 19 and 20 – The Reform of the Sugarcane Industry and Sugar Cane Growers Fund (Amendment) Bill which have been thrice rejected by growers, should they be forced down the throats of growers

8. Hold local government elections and elections for advisory councils Like I stated earlier, details will be outlined in our manifesto. However, today I will make three major policy announcements. They are on wages, cost of living and health. Our firm position is that Fiji needs a living a “Living Wage”, which in our view cannot be taken as a stand-alone approach, but rather as a suite of measures that are all necessary and synergetically necessary to alleviate poverty and hardship, among our people who need the “leg up” more. We cannot rise as a nation, if those where the need is the greatest, are not cultivated first as part of the equation. The “rise” must begin from the ground up.  The poverty trends that we have, are distressing. The triggers cut across the board our races. It has particularly doubled for our i-taukei community. For better or for worse, those cultural obligations are not for anyone to pass judgment on, but rather are for our iTaukei brothers and sisters to negotiate, and to attempt to socially engineer what is appropriate, for example what is happening with the Village By-Laws will be an exercise in futility.

The best made regulations and laws, require ratification — hearts and minds — of those who are directly involved. A legal or regulatory imposition in any form, like the Constitution, will always waver in terms of mandate. Our “Living Wage” suite of measures, is for a minimum of $200/week OR $5/hour NET for those on a minimum wage. These are not ideas just made up on a whim. We have analysed the trends, and the figures and it is very, very possible. Grant the NFP the social contract to make it happen, and we will. The current minimum wage rate of $2.32 an hour is simply insufficient for a livelihood of a family of four. This rate means our workers on minimum wage earn 104.40 for a 45 hour working week. Even if the wage rate is increased to $2.68 it will be $120.60. Recently the Minister for Economy justified the minimum wage during his budget consultation by saying the rate was for unskilled workers like house girls and grass cutters. He is demeaning our unskilled workers and non-unionised workers. The unionized unskilled workers are paid far more. For example the Suva City Council pays $4.29 an hour to unskilled workers who are engaged in performing labour work. This is because the workers are unionized and their wage rates are negotiated. But do not worry. We will outline detailed policies on this in our manifesto. The second brief policy announcement that I want to make is that an NFP Government will increase the number of basic food items to 15 from the current 7 items plus medicine. Our low income families deserve more than 7 items. And all 15 items in the food basket offered by an NFP Government will be zero-rated, meaning there will be no VAT payable on them. 6 The current government betrayed its election promise by imposing VAT of 9% on 7 basic items plus even prescription medicine when their manifesto clearly stated they would remain zero-rated. This means that the reduction of VAT to 9% was a gimmick and betrayal of the trust placed on this Government. By imposing VAT on these 7 items and prescription medication, Government is raking in $108.6 million in revenue. The food basket of all 15 zero rated items will be listed in our manifesto. And you will not be disappointed. Friends and colleagues, the third policy announcement is that an NFP Government will establish a National Health Service to look after our public health system. We have seen that political bureaucracy has failed. The state of our health and medical services have become a blight on the nation. It has deteriorated to such an extent that our people have lost confidence in our health system. We have seen: –

• Deaths of newborn babies in our major hospitals this year due to an outbreak of virus inside the hospitals

• Lack of facilities like even beddings, beds and cutlery

• Poor quality of food

• Lack of doctors and specialists

• Lack of diagnostic equipment and deteriorating state of equipment that is available

• Malfunctioning equipment

• Lack of medication and medicines

• Lack of chemicals like x-ray processing agents

• Deteriorating infrastructure including even hospital toilets The list can go on and on but there has been no solution in sight.

At least under this government. It even cannot allocate more funding towards kidney dialysis. It only allocates $300,00 annually while we have been asking for a minimum of two million dollars. But our motions in parliament get defeated. We hope this Budget at least allocates more funding towards dialysis. But do not despair friends and colleagues. We have the solution.  In a major reform to our health and medical system, we will: – Create a National Health Service (NHS), which will be an independent entity tasked with managing the Hospitals in the country. The NHS will be given the necessary resources, and very specific KPIs for achievement. All hospital infrastructure will be transferred to the NHS, all doctors, nurses, etc will become employees of the NHA which will realign their salaries and working conditions, and ensure that the best of the services possible are delivered to the people of the country, Fiji wide, even in the smallest village in the country; even in the remotest island where our people stay.

1. The major KPI (key performance indicator) of the NHS would be quality national health coverage. There must never be any citizen who goes without the best health consultancy and treatment ever. The days of people being unable to see a doctor, traveling great distances to the hospital and then after hours of wait being told that there is no chemicals for x-rays, must become a thing of the past. It will become a thing of the past under NFP Government.

2. NFP will build a Top Quality Tertiary Hospital facility in the Country, which will carry out most of the procedures relating to core ailments people have here. The current government is incapable of doing so. NFP will work with top hospitals of the World, like Apollo, and ensure that we build a top tertiary hospital in Fiji of international standards.

3. The NHS will be responsible for all hospital and medical services like recruitment of doctors and nurses, purchase of essential drugs and medication, improve procurement policies to eradicate drug shortage in hospitals and identify and purchase latest diagnostic equipment. This will be a four year project with substantial funding from Government. Political bureaucracy will be non-existent. Ladies and gentlemen, friends and colleagues the rules governing the elections right now leaves much to be desired. As a member of very concerned Opposition political parties we are petitioning the Electoral Commission that the “laws as they are” need urgent revisions and we anticipate that as a collective, we will commence a nation-wide campaign on the changes required.  We all know that electoral integrity is vital to a truly credible free and fair elections. That is why the Multinational Observer Group (MOG) made several pertinent recommendations that necessitates a change in our laws. The MOG was an international group. It was made up of reputable personnel. MOG recommended changes to the Media Decree, Political Parties Decree and the Electoral Decree. Most importantly it recommended that the design of the ballot paper be changed as a priority. But this government has ignored the recommendations until now. We also want the balloting and counting process to change. We want police presence outside of every polling room and not 50 metres away as was the case in 2014. We want the ballot papers to have serial numbers and to be stamped and signed by the presiding officers – not a voter signing that he or she has received a ballot paper. We want the counting procedures to change. What is the use of counting votes at every polling station if it is not the final result? Why are final results tabulated at the national count centre after being fed into a computer system that we do not know about? Friends and colleagues, today is the start of our national campaign to make all of you aware of what difficulties we face with an unfair and lopsided electoral system. We will also tell the international community of our concerns and how their recommendations through MOG have been ignored. I said lopsided and how this system is not transparent and doesn’t create a level playing field. This is why. This is related to electioneering. We understand that on Tuesday this week, there was a meeting arranged by the Fiji Roads Authority in Namaka Road, Nadi where they invited 4 roadwork contractors namely: Fairdeal, Pratap Chand, MR Dayal and Flametree to submit URGENT quotations by Friday (yesterday), for about 4km of roadworks to be carried out in Ba. The quotations sought were for 4 specific areas of roadworks for Ba: (1) Rarawai Feeder Road, Cemetary Road: 980m x 6m width (2) Veisaru Road: 360m x 7m width (3) Valele Road: 800m x 6m width (4) Navatukoula Road: 1,400m x 6m width 9 Now, the most pressing question to be answered by the Minister is this: Why is Ba being prioritised in such an untransparent manner like this? Why are other roadwork contractors being excluded from tendering by such an exclusive group? FRA Board must come out an explain why this is happening right under their noses. They are ultimately accountable to the taxpayers of Fiji and have been since 2012 enjoying the largest slice of the national budget. I turn now to an issue, that is at the heart of deep concern in our Party so much so that we spend much time deliberating and talking through solutions with our iTaukei colleagues, for our Landowners around our yaqona bowl. It is not political point-scoring for the NFP to speak about this. Our esteemed party elders, had laid that standard down many years ago. I’d like to quote from Justice Jai Ram Reddy’s historic speech that he made on Friday, 06 June 1997 to the Great Council of Chiefs, in presenting the 1997 Constitution. He said to the Great Council of Chiefs: “Let me reaffirm that we honour your place, and the place of your people, as the first inhabitants of Fiji. We recognize, and have always recognized, the unique and special role of this council. We seek not domination, indeed we cannot dominate – we are not the majority ethnic group in this multicultural nation. You are. What we seek is partnership. We seek a country whose children of all races grow up with a deep understanding and respect for each other’s cultures languages and traditions. We seek a country which encourages the best and the brightest – indeed, encourages all its people, of all races – to work together. We seek not to threaten your security, but to protect it. For in your security lies the basis for our own.” In a speech that I made titled “Fiji Vision 2030” at a Rotary Club meeting on 12 June 2014, I shared some thoughts on my vision for Fiji by 2030. I had detailed then that my vision for an i-Taukei at Ease with Modernity and Tradition, is one where our i-Taukei community in 2030 is supremely confident and secure of its place at the heart of Fiji and its unique place in the world. Collaborating with other parties, I had committed to, in my Vision 2030 for Fiji, to work through the NFP to ensure that needed laws are in place, and controversy with respect to protective elements of such laws long made redundant. My commitment to our the i-Taukei peoples has not wavered in the least. In fact, it has only strengthened my resolve., for it is under our mango 10 tree, where we will all find liberation and self-determination, just as our party founders did in 1963. To that end, our policy position on our i-Taukei landowning communities that will be released much later, is that we will also develop a suite of measures that position our i-Taukei landowners on a platform whereby their native land can be developed with their free, prior and informed consent, insulated by Government incentives just like what we have already proposed for the sugar sector, where they receive what is long overdue in terms of fairness and is sustainable.

This will be far above the pittance that they receive from land leases. The suite of measures, akin to our package of measures announced today, will be structured with our i-Taukei communities, with them in the driver’s seat. That is our promise. Recognising land as i-taukei identity and place, we will also ensure among others that their traditional and cultural concerns are addressed – which any responsible, empathic Government would do. On this issue also, we are advised that the debilitating burdens placed on our iTaukei communities for whom the Soli Ni Yasana, levied to all iTaukei males over 21 annually, now foots the bill for 100% of the operational costs for the provincial offices. The provincial offices are now run by Provincial Administrators who are government appointees. If this situation is happening – it is sad day for our iTaukei males who are taxed three times: Tax, VAT and the soli ni yasana levy. We need clarification of this from the Ministry of i-Taukei Affairs. We do not question the wisdom of the levy. That is a conversation for the iTaukei governance structures to discuss through their traditional processes, but what we do question is the almost non-existent returns to our iTaukei communities who meet this annual soli ni yasana levy, if it is not generating returns in initiatives that escalate their own selfdetermination aspirations. The soli ni yasana cannot be treated as an additional ATM for the Government’s running of its affairs. So, working from the ground up — akin to I have laid out earlier in our “Living Wage” suite of measures is the way forward. We have consulted widely. We know that this too, is very, very possible. 11 Friends and Colleagues… Our 54 years strong party history of making things happen politically, even from the sideline seats of Opposition, is testament to our capabilities. And now – be assured that the NFP will provide to you the most competent, effective, fearless, and ethical set of candidates. Every single one of our candidates will be able to stand on their own feet and be able to greatly contribute in either Parliament or Cabinet where we will be governed by a set of democratic rules that respects each other’s voice, Because, it is as I had stated earlier in my speech, the ethos of the NFP that was born under the magnificent mango tree that many hands and heads make light work — all pulling together in the same direction. There is no space in the NFP ship for self-centred egos. We all keep each other in check. Even I, as Party Leader, am accountable to our Management Board. Friends and colleagues, please join me in this journey for change. Join me in spreading our message to every corner of the country. Change is coming…. Change is Inevitable. Let us march in unison to realise and fulfill our vision for Change. May God Bless NFP May God bless Fiji

NFP LEADER 2017 NFP Convention Speech June 2017 (1) (1)

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Address by NFP President- By Lt-Col Pio Tikoduadua

NFP Convention 2017

Girmit Centre, Lautoka

3rd June 2017

Ladies and Gentlemen, Ni sa bula vinaka, Namaskar, Asalam Malekum, Ni Hao, Noaia ‘e Mauri, and a very Good morning to you all. 

I am deeply honored and privileged to address you today, as an Itaukei that is a proud member of the National Federation Party. My spirit is humbled at the expressions of confidence in me to co-lead the charge with you to CAUSE CHANGE at the helm of our national leadership in 2018. 

Change that will put the people back at the centre of our national heartbeat. Change that will put Fijians back at the helm of decision making in Fiji. Changes that will help us accept that the true measure of our national pride are not derived from the lights that brighten up our towns and cities at night, but are from the flickering flames of candles and kerosene lamps that light up the darkest corners of our land. 

Change that recognize that whilst we are one, we are also many. Change that recognizes that being different is healthy and that one size does not fit all.  Change that will demonstrate that the sum of our national will to grow, is determined by the people and not by two people only. Change that recognizes that whoever or whatever is the loudest may not necessarily be best for Fiji

Change to demonstrate that throwing money at a problem does not necessarily solve it.  CHANGE IS COMING….FIJI.  Change is here and it is coming to your homes and to homes near you. And the driver for that change is Team NFP. We The FEDS are geared to make that change for you. 

The changes we demand is a change in the national leadership from party’s that have had a chance to make a real difference for our people and have failed to unite us, to a breed of new leaders in a party backed up by more than half a century of experience, in Team NFP.

Since joining the Fiji Public Service in 1985, I have spent 30 years of my adult life serving the people of Fiji in more ways than one. 25 of those years in the Republic of Fiji Military Forces.  The most memorable of those years in the force were when I was a peacekeeper for the United Nations in Lebanon and in East Timor. I have also served in Multinational Peacekeeping Forces in Sinai, Egypt and in the Solomon Islands under the Regional Assistance Mission. Throughout these peacekeeping missions I encountered the face of human suffering and death. Conditions that were brought about by human conflict that resorted to violence to address their grievances.

Also during my service in the RFMF I was involved in the political upheavals of 2000 and in 2007, contributing in ways that I could to restore civilian rule and true democracy. Similarly to my experiences in peacekeeping I witnessed how violence broke down the very fabrics that held our communities together. These were some of the saddest moments of my life. I witnessed how members of the same family were pitted against each other. I saw how people of different races living in the same communities waged violence on each other. At the same time, I witnessed many acts of courage displayed by many people that came to the aid of those who were victimized. I promised myself that I would do whatever it takes to stand up against discrimination, intimidation and violence. That I would propagate for understanding, tolerance, love and forgiveness.

These principles have influenced my decisions in the past and have contributed in a major way to my joining the National Federation Party.

Unfortunately for Fiji, I have witnessed how our governance today is slowly sliding Fiji back into that space where the darkness that led to 2000 and 2006 prevailing and rearing its ugly head again. Fiji needs bold, genuine, selfless leadership that will fairly address the grievances of all communities and compassionately consider issues on their merits. We have all experienced or witnessed  the suppression of rights of the people to be heard. The nation in my view has been held to ransom by a dictatorial rule exploiting the very democratic process of parliament.

The time has come for all of that to change. The Indo-Fijian communities should no longer be duped into believing that their security is only guaranteed by a Bainimarama in power. The actions of the Itaukei in our history of upheavals must no longer be used as an excuse to building a physical security environment that will deter them from expressing their rights under the constitution. 

It has been almost 20 years since 2000 and it has been 10 years since 2006. The same excuses to suppressing the itaukei interests cannot be used to protect the rights of Indo-Fijians. Under the 2013 constitution we are all apparently equals and our rights to self- determination are protected. Any government elected by the people must stand on its own two feet defending its own position without having to resort to employing or influencing the security forces to protect its interest. 

With us in the crowd today are close to 300 people from Wainibuka in Tailevu. People that were branded as rebels from 2000. They are law abiding people who believe in the power of democracy, who believe in the power of the people and in the democratic process. They have not resorted to violence in a bid to have their voices heard. There concerns in 2000 remains true today. However they have lost confidence in the government of the day and of those that exploited their good will in 2000 to protect their interest. 

They have taken that bold first step to turn to the party they had once defamed, believing that their voices will be heard fairly with us, with a willingness  to compromise on their hardened political views.

The itaukei and indo Fijians today must now take that first bold step to meet each other beyond half way. Fiji needs us to take these steps. Our government must do more beyond expressions in the law to build our society to one that is truly accepting of,  and accommodating to our differences. Ultimately, our national security is guaranteed in each other. Our security is not guaranteed in expressions of equality and in the law that forces it down our throats. They need to come from the heart and our deep conviction and faith that all men are created equal.

Fiji is big enough to accommodate all our people. It is big enough to encourage respectful but honest debate and discussions on our unique situation. There is the political will in NFP to lead the charge to rebuild and change the views of our people. But first we must take that bold step to leave our comfort zones and walk the talk. We need to believe that there is enough good will out there amongst our people to make it work. 

The NFP through its leadership is committed to making it work. We have leaders who genuinely believe and trust in the goodwill of our people to accommodate and accept each other genuinely.

I have witnessed many an occasion where current and past political leaders use the race card for political gain. They speak one thing and do the exact opposite.  Political leaders that exploited their powers and influence in the security forces to further their own personal ambition. The RFMF is a force for good and has a huge tonne of responsibility to protect all our people – from external threats. These powers should not be used by anyone as leverage to remain in power, or to suppress the human rights of our people. Therefore we must not be afraid to live our rights, to express our rights as guaranteed in the constitution. The media must be free of hassle to report freely on the sentiments of the people. The media must not take sides and deal and report on issues with fairness. They must represent the will of the people on government.

Fiji is a society of many different communities. None of these communities have rights that are more equal than others. All deserve to be heard fairly and to be treated fairly under the law. Therefore no one should intimidate indo-fijians anymore by proclaiming that they are their only guarantee of security. Your security lies squarely on the good will of all our people particularly the itaukei. The itaukei must be free to live their cultures and their traditions without being dictated upon. They need the space and the enabling environment  to make all feel at home in Fiji – we are after all a very accommodating people.

We at NFP are committed to making this work. We have the will to make it work. I have the will to make it work.  We will be hampered greatly if we are not in a position of power in 2018 to make it work. So I call on the electorate of Fiji, VOTE NFP to achieve this outcome for our people and for Fiji.

 Thank you, Dhaniyavaad and Vinaka vakalevu.

 NFP President 2017 Convention Speech June 2017

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POLITICS OF PANIC

May 16, 2017

MEDIA RELEASE

The $10 million assistance package announced by the Fiji First Government’s Minister for Economy to help cane farmers is not a
new initiative but part of Government’s rehabilitation programme
after the devastating effects of Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston.
Minister for Economy Honourable Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s
announcement can be likened to politics of panic following the
overwhelming rejection for the third time of the Reform of the
Sugarcane Industry and Sugar Cane Growers Fund (Amendment)
Bills (Bills 19 & 20).

Had Government not picked up the deductions as promised
earlier, farmers would have ended up with only $4.586 million
dollars from the total of $14.586 million paid out to them as 4th
cane payment of $10.57 per tonne. This confirms our long held
view that majority of our farmers are in debt in perpetuity.

Most importantly, 70% of farmers’ income has already been
deducted as debt, fertilizer, harvesting expenses and land rent in
the previous three payments for the 2016 season. So for most
farmers this help, which should have been implemented when
announced last year as part of Government’s post-Winston
rehabilitation package, has come too late.
The announcement also vindicates the National Federation Party’s
call for the implementation of a minimum guaranteed cane price of
$100 a tonne to ensure all our cane farmers, especially 70 percept
who produce an average of 150 tonnes of cane, earn decent
income. On Saturday a Fiji Times opinion poll showed that the Fiji First Party’s popularity has fallen by 10 percentage points in two
months. By Monday, the Economy Minister has suddenly found
$10 million for cane farmers. This announcement has come from nowhere. No thought has gone into it. It offers no long-term solutions for farmers. It is not budgeted for in the national Budget. It is driven by the politics of panic.

Honourable Sayed-Khaiyum is the man who, at the same time as
he spends public money for blatantly political purposes, attacks
other political parties for “using” cane farmers. Running around offering to pay their deductions for one cane payment, he must really think that the farmers are ignorant. There are at least four more cane payments before the election. Will he just throw more money at the farmers to save his political skin? After 10 years in power, this Government has no vision and no plan for the sugar industry. It refuses to listen to farmers and their representatives. It has taken away their democratic voice in the Cane Growers’ Council. The Prime Minister is the Minister for Sugar, but he spends more time overseas than in the cane belt. Only now, because elections are coming, has the government started to panic.

NFP says to farmers – these payments are like the Prime
Minister’s “small enterprise grants” and “Help for Homes”. So take
the money Government is throwing at you. It comes from our taxes
after all.
Nobody will be fooled by this vote-buying gimmick.

Professor Biman Prasad
NFP Leader

NFP Leader Politics of Panic Media Release May 2017 (2) (1)

Police intimidation sabotages NFP Talanoa Session 

Media Release. May 3, 2017

Police intimidation through repeated inquiries about the purpose and agenda of a National Federation Talanoa session led to the Management of Khemindra Primary School in Savusavu withdrawing its permission and approval to the Party for use of the school resulting in cancellation of the Talanoa session on Tuesday evening.

We regard this as sabotage because of instilling of fear into the public by police.

Police has no right whatsoever to interfere in any meeting to be held by a political party. The Public Order (Amendment) Act gives freedom to political parties and other organisations to hold meetings without the need to obtain a permit from police except when the venue is a public place like parks and roads.

The presence of plain clothes police officers at political meetings and even informal Talanoa sessions like the one the party held with the youth in Suva last Saturday, and grilling members of the public and those giving their venues for such meetings is detrimental to the conduct of free and fair elections.

The nation being governed like a Military and Police State should have ended with the resumption of parliamentary democracy in October 2014. But it is clear that police doesn’t understand and respect fundamental rights and freedoms of our citizens and the need for political parties to operate in a free and fair environment where our people are unafraid and totally free to ask questions, raise issues and express dissent against any policy of Government.

The Khemindra Primary School Manager had earlier given permission for the Talanoa session to be held at the school at a cost of $150. It was to be hosted by the NFP Leader, Hon Parmod Chand, Mr Pio Tikoduadua and other management board members of the party. Notices of the session to be held between 5.30pm-7.30pm on Tuesday were distributed to the public.

However before midday Tuesday, the School Manager informed the Party to find another venue because they felt intimidated by police who were making queries as to the purpose and objective of the Talanoa/meeting, as well as who would be in attendance.

The Manager stated that they feared the school would not get funding for a school project if the Party held its meeting at the school. The intimidation plus the presence of Education Minister who was in Savusavu conducting a workshop led to the school management taking the decision to cancel the use of the venue.

It is worth noting that the School’s head teacher and manager were with the Education Minister when the NFP Leader questioned the Minister as to whether he influenced them to take such a decision. This is after the Minister failed to reply to a message by the NFP Leader on the issue.

The climate of fear and intimidation is still prevalent despite resumption of parliamentary democracy. We demand that police and other State agencies diligently perform the duties required of them, instead of trying to find out what political parties are doing.

They should stop becoming law unto themselves because it only erodes efforts to have free and fair elections by preventing political parties from amplifying the voice of 
the ordinary people.

Authorised by: –

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

 

 

 

NFP will repeal Media Decree

Media Release. May 2, 2017

WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY – 3 RD MAY

An NFP Government will repeal the Media Industry Development Decree because we believe the media should not be regulated in any way by the State or any Government.

An NFP Government will also: –

1. Ensure taxpayer funds are justifiably used by spreading advertisements by Government and Statutory organisations across all media outlets and end the exclusivity enjoyed by one newspaper as is currently the case

2. Ensure funding for Public Service Broadcast for all mainstream broadcast and television media and not exclusive to Fiji Broadcasting Commission

3. Ensure Fiji Airways provides both daily newspapers to its passengers instead of providing only Fiji Sun

NFP upholds and promotes media freedom at all times despite falling victim to biased and unfair reporting by some media outlets.

We do not blame the journalists but those leading those organisations using exclusive access to taxpayer’s funds to trumpet only Government’s view.

As we observe World Press Freedom Day tomorrow (3 rd May), we also remember Individual journalists who were either removed, or re-assigned other duties when they tried to uphold media ethics.

In this regard we once again call upon Fiji Television Limited to re-instate journalist Shanal Sivan to the Fiji TV newsroom. Mr Sivan was removed from the Fiji TV newsroom by the Group CEO of Fijian Holdings Limited for amplifying the voice of ordinary citizens  who expressed their disappointment over Government’s broken promises.

This is the kind of State interference in newsrooms through management of news organisations that has seen Fiji ranked the lowest of Pacific Island nations of Samoa, Tonga and Papua New Guinea, in a recent report released by Reporters Without Borders.

Generally, the media industry in this country has been under siege since the military coup of December 2006. The last 8 years, especially after the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution on 10th April 2009, have been turbulent and devastating for journalists and the media industry.

While the promulgation of the Media Industry Development Decree in 2010 ended State’s presence in the newsrooms and direct censorship, self-censorship is being practiced in most newsrooms with journalists awaiting responses from Government before publishing and broadcasting any statement by the Opposition.

Only cosmetic changes were made to the Decree in July 2015 with fines against journalists removed but heavy penalties against

Editors, Publishers and the media organisations remain like a noose around one’s neck.

Media throughout the world is generally regarded as the Fourth Estate – the last line of defenders of democracy, human rights, dignity and justice.

Article 19 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights states,  “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through the media regardless of frontiers”.

This freedom and right is reposed in the people, which the State and politicians must respect at all times.

The Media Industry Development Decree is regressive and suppresses Media Freedom.

A free, fair and unregulated media is absolutely vital for true and genuine democracy as well to amplify the voices of not only Government but also the Opposition, without fear.

Authorised by: –

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

Privileges Bill suppresses freedom of speech

Media Release. May 1, 2017

The people of Fiji must know that Clause 24 of the Parliamentary Privileges Bill, if it became law, would allow the Government to jail and fine people if they “defame, demean or undermine the sanctity of Parliament.”

It goes without saying that we oppose it. An NFP Government will ensure clause 24 of the Parliamentary Privileges Bill will never see the light of day.

Parliamentarians are the people’s servants. The people elect them and the people pay them. The people are also allowed to criticise them, even if we as Parliamentarians think the criticism is unfair. Freedom of expression is also the freedom to differ with the government.

There is no democratic country in the world where such a law exists.

The Fiji First Government has become arrogant and out of touch. Its Ministers are surrounded by bodyguards and drive around in motorcades (and NFP will ban those too). Now Fiji First is so scared of criticism that it would put people in jail and fine them up to $100,000 if they spoke up against Parliamentarians.

Politicians who cannot accept criticism should leave Parliament – or the voters should throw them out!

Authorised by : –

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

PETITION BY CANE GROWERS SEEKING MINIMUM GUARANTEED PRICE

POINT OF ORDER  – PETITION BY CANE GROWERS SEEKING MINIMUM GUARANTEED PRICE

Madam Speaker I rise on a Point of Order seeking clarification on  why I was not allowed to move a petition that I submitted to your good self as required under Standing Order 37, on Tuesday 25th April.

I respectfully submit the fact that I was not allowed to move a motion for a petition to be referred to the relevant standing committee is violation of the Standing Order 37 of Parliament, as well as breach of Section 72 of the 2013 Constitution.

The provision on presentation of petitions is extremely clear. A petition must be in conformity to the Constitution and must not create ill-will and hostility.

The Petition that was submitted to you Madam Speaker is about cane growers seeking parliamentary intervention to help them achieve a minimum guaranteed price for a tonne of cane. The petition, signed by 404 registered cane growers throughout the Western Division cane belt from Rakiraki to Sigatoka, doesn’t violate this provision, nor any other provision of the Constitution and the Standing Orders.

Madam Speaker, the merits and de-merits of this or any petition can only be determined after it is moved in Parliament.

Standing Order 37(5) and 37(6) lays out the procedure of what happens when a petition is moved.

There is nothing that overrules it once the Speaker decides a petition is in order. It is the Speaker’s call because a petition is sent to the Speaker. I am surprised that you have not made any decision, based on your previous rulings of 8th July 2015 and again on 23 rd March 2017.

No aspect of it clashes with Bills No. 19 and 20. Bills 19 and 20 before the parliamentary standing committee on economic affairs do not address the issue of implementing a minimum guaranteed cane price. It is all about amending the Sugar Industry Act.

Neither has the issue been raised and voted upon in any motion, previous petition or question that was asked in the last six months.

In any case your rulings of 8 th July 2015 and 23 rd March 2017 make it extremely clear why petitions are important. On 23 rd March you re-iterated your ruling and I quote: –

“The right of citizens to petition their Parliament and the power of Parliament to deal with petition is an ancient right and was affirmed by the House of Commons in 1669. It is a fundamental right of the citizen, which is preserved in our Standing Orders. It is the only means by which individuals can directly place grievances before the Parliament on matters which the Government has jurisdiction”. – Unquote

Madam Speaker, Section 72(b) of the Constitution says Parliament must facilitate public participation in the legislative and other processes of Parliament and its committees. Section 72 of the Constitution relates to Petitions, public access and participation.

Denial of a petition, more so, if it complies with Standing Order 37 is a breach of the Constitution.

In any case, Government under Standing Order 37 has the right to reply to the petition and also vote either for and against it.

Essentially Madam Speaker, this Petition is in order and I once again respectfully submit that it should be moved in Parliament without delay, based on your previous rulings and in conformity to both Standing Order 37 and Section 72 of the 2013 Constitution.

Any delay in determining the future of the petition (when there is no need to since it conforms to every provision required for acceptance and moving of a petition), will deny the cane growers who signed the petition their right to be heard by Parliament and constitute a breach of Section 72 (b) of the Constitution.

It concerns their livelihood and future before the start of the crushing season.

I await your ruling Madam Speaker.

NFP response to Health Minister’s statement on medicine shortage

RESPONSE TO MINISTER AKBAR – Ministerial Statement

By Hon Parmod Chand (Tuesday April 25, 2017)

Madam Speaker, I thank the Minister for her statement. At the outset, let me say that we are thoroughly disappointed with her explanation. Like many other issues affecting our nation, this Government is paying lip service to the fundamental issue of providing basic health care to our citizens in our health centres and public hospitals.

Madam Speaker two months ago, we highlighted the shortage of chemicals used to process x-ray films were denying patients the right to get x-rayed and diagnosed.

This problem remains unresolved. The Minister has to be reminded what she said in Parliament when this issue was raised by Hon Prem Singh on 10th February 2017.

And what transpired in the last two months is relevant to what was said by the Minister regarding the issue of medicine. I will demonstrate how this will be another one of the same old story – they call it NATO Madam Speaker – No Action Talk Only.

The Honourable Minister had said only wet film processing, which is processing a film after an x-ray is done was not being conducted but dry film processing and digital imaging were being conducted.

She said wet film processing was being phased out but chemicals would be arriving at the end of the month (which is February).

February has come and gone. The situation hasn’t changed.

I want to ask the Minister: –

Does the Minister know what is happening in her Ministry?

For example, despite her assurance to this Parliament two months ago– the major hospitals don’t have chemicals to process X Ray films? Patients incur costs to come to hospitals only to be told they cannot get x-rayed.

Last week a patient from Nadi who has a fractured femur (thighbone) hired a taxi and came to Lautoka hospital on his designated day of review and x-ray. He was told x-ray could not be done and he had to pay $100 as taxi hire charges. Will the Ministry compensate him because it is not his fault that x-ray could not be done. The Hospital did not even have the decency and courtesy of informing him and the public through the media that x-ray service was out of order.

Again last week a woman who is a cancer patient was taken for review and x-ray at the CWM Hospital. She could not be x-rayed because there were no chemicals to process the film.

Is this the kind of treatment that our citizens deserve?

They don’t want handouts, they want access to fundamental and basic service, Madam Speaker.

The 2013 Constitution has been much talked about as the savior of our nation and providing common and equal citizenry through its Bill of Rights.

Section 38 (1) of the 2013 Constitution (Right to health) states, and I quote, “The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realization of the right of every person to health and to the conditions and facilities necessary to good health care services…”

38(3) of the Constitution states “…if the State claims that it does not have the resources to implement the right, it is the responsibility of the State to show that resources are not available”.

Does the State have sufficient resources to provide access to health care for all? If it has then shortage and lack of medicine and medical supplies should not be an issue. We ask what has happened to allocation of a quarter million dollars in the last two budgets to hire consultants to streamline procurement procedures of medical supplies.

If private pharmacies can be sufficiently stocked with the list of medicines being listed as being in short and nil supply, why can’t the Fiji pharmaceutical service, which has millions of dollars at its disposal, or that is what is shown in the budget, be in a state of preparedness at all times?

And even when there is a shortage, why cannot it swiftly order medicine instead of the health ministry saying there is no estimated time of arrival when we have flights into our country daily and goods and services by the private sector are air freighted within a week?

Madam Speaker where there is a will there is a way. The Minister should know that cosmetic solutions and changes couldn’t be implemented to improve the fundamentals in the health ministry. Health is not about applying cosmetic and band-aid solutions.

It is about getting fundamental rights because health is wealth. Unfortunately the state of our public health has become blight on our nation.

Thank you Madam Speaker

Drug shortage not urgent, Speaker rules

 

On Monday 24 April, 2017, the NFP leader, Professor Biman Prasad, filed an urgent question in Parliament about medicine shortage.
Here is the question that was filed and the response from the Speaker of Parliament (The Fiji Times, 25 April, 2017) who ruled that the shortage of medicine in hospitals was an ongoing issue and therefore did not qualify to be raised as an urgent question.

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=398009