Land of Hope, Freedom and Glory

 

The evening of 10th October 1970: Celebrations at Albert Park  to mark Independence earlier that day: Pictured are Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, Mrs Amina Koya and Leader of the Opposition Siddiq Koya. Sitting on Mr S M Koya’s lap is his younger son Faizal Koya, now a Vice President of NFP.

The National Federation Party today paid tribute to the founding fathers of Fiji, hailing them as gigantic leaders who put national interest above everything else to negotiate Fiji’s Independence 47 years ago.

As we celebrate 47 years of our Independent history, it must not be forgotten that it was the NFP’s founding father and Leader of the Opposition Ambalal Dahyabhai Patel (A D Patel) and his successor Siddiq Moidin Koya (SM Koya), together with the then Chief Minister and later the first Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara (Ratu Mara), who put aside their deep personal and political differences to give Fiji true nationhood and sovereignty.

A peaceful transition from 96 years of Colonial rule to Independence on 10th October 1970 and constitutional and parliamentary rule is a monumental achievement and above all a monumental achievement through genuine dialogue, consensus building, negotiation, resulting in unanimity amongst our founding leaders for Fiji’s future.

This fundamental principle is a cornerstone of NFP’s foundation. We have always achieved solutions to our national problems, which to many people may have seemed insurmountable, through genuine dialogue, goodwill, consensus and bipartisanship.

Independence, a thriving sugar industry that was Fiji’s economic mainstay for 30 years of our independent history and will still remain vitally important to the livelihood of some 200,000 of our people and the 1997 Constitution are a few but perfect examples of what can be achieved by working together.

We should not also forget the 14 years of our Independent history during which we were under military rule due to 4 military coups since 1987.

We should not also forget that the most important symbol of our nation following Fiji being granted its Instruments of Independence, our noble banner blue flag, would have been changed had it not been for the widespread opposition of our citizens.

Unfortunately, consensus, goodwill, dialogue and bipartisanship are missing from our national political landscape. We believe it is time to re-dedicate ourselves to One Nation, One Destiny just as we did 47 years ago.

Let us all remember the giant strides made by our country’s founding fathers and to hold true to the spirit of unity and understanding of our Independence because freedom, hope and glory is still ours if we grasp it.

Let us in the spirit of unity and harmony through genuine Talanoa, so ably demonstrated by our founding fathers, bequeath to our future generations a nation of boundless hopes, endless dreams and aspirations and above all a Fiji that once again becomes a symbol of genuinely united, harmonious and a beacon of hope.

God Bless Fiji

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad                      Pio Tikoduadua

Leader                                                            President

NFP MESSAGE ON FIJI DAY

Stop Police Intimidation: NFP

The National Federation Party will alert the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) if officers of the Fiji Police Force do not immediately stop harassment and intimidation of executives of Public Sector Unions following their decision to hold a secret ballot to seek mandate for strike action following Government’s unilateral action to put civil servants on contracted employment.

The NFP has viewed correspondence from the Fiji Public Service Association (FPSA) to Public Services International (PSI) informing PSI that on Thursday 5th October, two of its Union Executives were interviewed by Police and emails and newsletters were confiscated. Furthermore, one of the Executives was warned not to talk to a Union Organiser.

We have also been informed by Trade Unionists and Union staff members who do not represent public sector employees that they have received calls from police seeking information from them on the proposed strike ballot.

The questioning by police is harassment and intimidation of Union Executives. This action is in gross violation and complete disregard of the dispute resolution machinery since a dispute on the matter is now before the Employment Relations Tribunal as widely reported by the media last Saturday.

The Commissioner of Police should reveal whether or not police acted on a complaint filed by Government or any other party.

The Attorney General and Minister for Civil Service as well as the Minister for Defence should immediately ask the Police Commissioner to tell his officers not to get involved in this dispute.

We are not a Police State. Such actions do not augur well for Fiji’s bid to become a member of UNHRC.

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

Attached: FPSA letter to PSI

FPSA LETTER TO PSI

NFP Leader – Stop Police Intimidation

Our Teachers deserve respect, recognition and reward

Our teachers deserve respect and recognition and should be rewarded for performing their role admirably under difficult circumstances instead of being unfairly treated by the current Government.

The role and responsibilities of teachers in a classroom, in the community and in the larger society are often forgotten.

Teachers are performing an admirable role under pressure and in a climate of uncertainty because this Government has made their employment conditional.

The contractual employment being forced upon our teachers as well as other civil servants is totally unjustified. The uncertainty amongst teachers about their future is further exacerbated by the fact that the recent salary adjustments are not commensurate with roles, responsibilities and their work experience.

The NFP in government will ensure that this uncertainty and regressive work environment created by unilateral changes to the education system becomes a thing of the past. We will revoke all contracts and ensure all our teachers as well as other civil servants have a permanent tenure of employment.

We will also increase the retirement age to 60 years as there is an absolute lack of experience in our teaching fraternity and the civil service at large.

Experience in teaching is vital and conducive to progressive learning and strengthening the profession.

Furthermore, we will review the working conditions of all teachers to ensure that their salaries are commensurate with work experience, roles and responsibilities.

We will restore our teachers’ professional, social and economic status. We will do this through proper consultations with teacher unions, school managements and all other stakeholders.

On the occasion of World Teachers Day, the NFP salutes the tremendous work teachers have done over the many decades to help shape the lives of our students.

Teachers are a beacon of hope and symbols of knowledge and strength in our society.

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

 

NFP Leader World Teachers Day Message

Minister Bala’s behaviour over e-ticket fiasco deplorable

The attitude and behaviour of a senior Cabinet Minister during Monday’s Speaker’s debate is a perfect example of thuggery and dictatorship following questions directed him by members of the audience over Government’s botched implementation of the e-ticketing system.

Minister for Local Government, Housing, Environment, Infrastructure and Transport  Honourable Parveen Kumar Bala’s answers, mannerism and tone showed his extreme arrogance and blatant disregard of the concerns of the members of the public  who undoubtedly like many thousands of people who use buses as the only means of public transport over the implementation of the e-ticketing system.

Naturally, this resulted in the reaction by a youth Mr Kelvin Anthony who could no longer tolerate Mr Bala’s arrogant behaviour and “my way or the highway” attitude and called him a thug.

This resulted in the Minister raising his voice and telling Mr Anthony that he (Mr Bala) knew who he is and where he works and lives. This constitutes a threat. Mr Bala should be ashamed of himself for displaying such behaviour, worse still in public.

When one views the Speaker’s debate, it becomes absolutely clear that Mr Bala came to the debate with a pre-meditated mind to simply disregard and crush all legitimate concerns raised on the problems associated with the implementation of the e-ticketing concept.

He wanted only his point of view  to prevail and wanted the audience to accept the fact that only the current Government has the ability, authority and mandate to implement any policy that it wants to without  widespread consultation. Along with stakeholders, the  people should have been consulted or given time to adjust to the system.

Every new concept has a transition period. E-ticketing is no exception. Government must understand that imposition hardens attitude. It is no use living in denial that immediate transition to e-ticketing is working.  Not only passengers, but bus drivers are also complaining.

The usage of e-ticketing is time-consuming for drivers and buses are unable to depart or arrive at their destinations on time. And we have seen in many cases that due to the rush to adhere to the timetable, drivers do not pick up passengers  along the route and the stranded passengers have no option but to catch taxis.

The best thing is to allow a transitional period of six months where both e-ticketing and cash should be allowed and accepted as fare. Even countries like Australia and New Zealand have both systems. A transition period will also allow bus operators to assess the level of increase in their income as this has been their basis for calling for the implementation of the e-ticking system.

And at the end of the six-month transition period, the  logical step  would be to increase the wages of drivers and other workers in the bus industry and also reduce  fares because due to the expected significant increase in income.

This is the right way forward and Mr Bala as Transport Minister must accept the reality and convince Government and the e-ticket service provider Vodafone to alleviate the plight facing the traveling instead of riding roughshod over people’s concern

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

 

NFP Leader blasts Minister Bala’s arrogance over e-ticketing issues

A lesson about freedom by KAMAL IYER

“Let us put Fiji First – the rest will fall in place” and “Reforms first elections later” were repeatedly emphasised in 2008 by Mahendra Pal Chaudhry, a former Prime Minister, Leader of the Fiji Labour Party, general secretary of National Farmers Union, and the Interim Minister for Finance and Sugar in the military regime from January 2007 to August 2008.

Nine years later, Mr Chaudhry talks about freedom as being more important that highlighting issues like cost of living, medical services and the $100 per tonne price of sugarcane. This is hypocrisy of the highest order.

“These are most important but what is more important is your freedom”, he was reported as telling FLP supporters in a meeting in Labasa – page 4 The Fiji Times 25/9/17

The Labour leader also stated that it seemed the plight of cane farmers seemed no longer important to be discussed during Parliament meetings.

While not naming any one, Mr Chaudhry was obviously directing his comments at the National Federation Party and its leadership. Because the NFP has been actively and consistently highlighting issues of cost of living, deteriorating health and medical services and a minimum guaranteed price of $100 per tonne of sugarcane.

Misleading

Nothing can be further from the truth.

Firstly, the FLP leader is wrong to state that the plight of cane farmers is not discussed in Parliament. Even a cursory glance at parliamentary Hansard will show anyone the importance being given by the NFP parliamentary caucus to the cane growers and sugar industry.

As recently as Wednesday 13th September, NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad outlined what the party do if elected into Government. On sugar, he spoke about the implementation of the minimum guaranteed cane price. Construction of a new sugar mill in Ra and highlighted the constant refusal of the current government to resolve problems facing the entire industry in a bipartisan manner.

A motion moved in February sitting of Parliament by NFP Whip Prem Singh on the establishment of a bipartisan committee to look at sugar was defeated in Parliament because government rejected it.

A petition by Ra growers in March for Government to look at building a new mill in Rakiraki was not allowed to proceed to the parliamentary select committee on economic affairs because the Prime Minister flatly said “NO”. This was well highlighted by the Fiji Times’ headline “Kicked Out” on the front page of its March 24 edition.

A petition by growers throught the cane belts in April for the implementation of the $100 minimum guaranteed price was not allowed to be tabled in Parliament. “Thrown Out” screamed Fiji Times’ headline of April 29.

Therefore, the NFP has meticulously highlighted grievances facing growers and impacting their livelihood. The FLP leader for all intents and purposes, is deliberately misleading growers.

Suppression of freedom

Mahendra Chaudbry should be the last person to talk about freedom of cane growers and the ordinary citizens when he himself is guilty of suppressing freedom by being a central player in the military regime’s interim Cabinet from January 2007 to August 2008.

He is guilty of either directly or having helped sow the seeds of suppression in the form of a restricted media and the dissolution of the Sugar Cane Growers Council (SCGC).

The democratisation of the SCGC and the need to have an absolutely free and fair media have, are and will be repeatedly highlighted by the NFP.

But what did Mr Chaudhry, who now laments lack of freedom, do as the regime’s senior Cabinet Minister? He: –

  • Took control of the SCGC in January 2007 after the sacking of the then CEO Jaganath Sami through Decree Number 1 of 2007
  • As regime’s sugar minister directed the Fiji Sugar Corporation to deduct $6.56 million to be lent by Sugar Cane Growers Fund (SCGF) to South Pacific Fertilizers Ltd (SPFL) and for it to be deducted from industry proceeds. This meant that growers without their knowledge were forced into paying $4.96 million (as 70
    % share of proceeds)
  • Said reforms first elections later and that democracy was flawed (FLP Annual Report – 2008)
  • Accused the media of bias and partiality (FLP Annual Report – 2008)
  • Supported a Fiji Human Rights Commission Report into the local media industry, urging for the Regime’s intervention to hold the media to account (FLP Annual Report – 2008) (This resulted in the Media Industry Development Decree in 2010)
  • Condoned the deportation of expatriate publishers of the Fiji Sun and Fiji Times – Russell Hunter and Evan Hannah in 2008, basically endorsing the regime’s claim they were a threat to national security(FLP Annual Report – 2008) (Ironically the deportations came soon after both newspapers highlighted the FLP Leader’s AUD$2 million he kept in Australia
  • Recommended to Cabinet in June 2008 to defer the elections of the Sugar Cane Growers Council to 2010 because elections would be an impediment to reforms being undertaken by the Regime (FLP Annual Report – 2008 & media reports) (This resulted in the dissolution of the SCGC in 2009 as well the reforms started under him has led to Bills 19 and 20 – Reform of the Sugar Cane Industry and Growers Fund Bills that subjugate growers under FSC and Government)

No Principles

There are countless other examples of Mr Chaudhry condoning or being part of a regime suppressing fundamental freedoms during his 18-month stint in the regime’s Cabinet.

For him to now talk about freedom, and point at others cannot go unchallenged.

Mr Chaudhry’s shirking of his principles and participating in a government born out of a military coup is best stated by an Editorial in the New Zealand Herald newspaper of 13th January 2007 and there is no need to say anything more. The Editorial titled “Chaudhry’s act muddies road back to democracy said: –

There is little more  melancholy than the sight of a person’s last shreds of credibility being burned. Such was the case when this week Fiji’s former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry threw in his lot with Commodore Frank Bainimarama, taking the post of Finance Minister in the military leader’s sham government. Here was a man who twice before had been deposed from government in coups lending his hand to the orchestrator of a reprise”.

“If politics sometimes creates strange bedfellows, this was totally beyond the pale. Mr Chaudhry has tendered just one justification for his decision. ‘The constitutionality or otherwise of the Government that I pledged to serve is yet to be determined’, he said. It was a crass excuse given the international condemnation of the coup. The defection from the cause of democracy of the leader of Fiji’s second-ranking political party and its first ethnic Indian leader muddies the road back to normality. Mr Chaudhry seemed to know better in the immediate aftermath of the coup”.

Then, he said he would not join the military regime because it was illegal, but was willing to work with it to restore democracy. He should not have deviated from that. His many qualms about the ousted Qarase Government’s divisive policies and governance shortcomings, and the election framework, could all have been addressed within Fiji’s democratic processes. Perhaps there should have been no surprise, however”.

“This was the same man who after the 2001 elections, craved power so much that he contemplated a coalition government with the party of George Speight, the man who overthrew his democratically elected Administration and held him hostage for eight weeks. Then, as now, saw no credibility problem”.

“Now, as then, his political judgment is horrendous. The moral authority with a figure brutally and illegally ousted from power has evaporated”.

 

A lesson about freedom – Fiji Times opinion Sept 2017

NFP’s Housing Policy

The Times/Tebbutt Poll that shows housing has become less affordable there is high cost of rental is no surprise.

It is beyond the reach of low and middle-income earners or families to afford a decent home. This is resulting in ballooning of squatter settlements.  This is exacerbated by the fact that there is increasing rural to urban migration because more and more of our people are losing interest in agriculture due to lack of incentives and look for greener pastures in urban areas.

There is a need to evaluate the regulatory framework (such as the Town Planning Act and Subdivision of Land Act) regarding urban development and how it impacts land subdivision costs and the price of land to build homes.

Infrastructure development like multi-lane roads and highways could open up land required for housing development. This can have impact of reducing pressure on house prices in Suva-Nausori corridor and also cater for rising demand through incentives such as reduction in time required to travel to and from work.

The NFP has recently announced that in Government it will construct two more lanes between Nadi and Lautoka making it a four-lane highway on that segment of the Queens Road.

Furthermore, we have also announced that in Government we will look at the feasibility of a Coastal Highway between Nausori and Suva.

These two developments will undoubtedly open up more land for housing once our people find land suitable for development has access to infrastructure.

NFP will also review the urban development legislation to provide those living in squatter settlements with state support for basic facilities such as roads, water supply, electricity and sanitation.

We will review legislation to provide proper land division and titles for squatter families. The current Approval to Lease notices or titles being given to residents of squatter settlements is not working.

Further, we will encourage indigenous landowners who wish develop their land for housing to do so and become property developers for this purpose rather than just being lessors. More details will be announced in our manifesto

The NFP will review the First Home Buyers Grant policy to assist low and middle-income families buy their first home.

 

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

NFP’s Housing Policy

CANE PLANTING PROGRAMME A FAILURE: NFP

September 25, 2017

MEDIA RELEASE

The Sugarcane Planting Programme being implemented by the Ministry of Sugar through the Fiji Sugar Corporation has been a miserable failure leading to the decline in sugarcane production for the 2017 harvesting and crushing season.

FSC Chief Executive Officer Graham Clark and Chairman Vishnu Mohan’s recent statement that the estimate for this season of 2.1 million tonnes has been revised downwards to 1.8 million tonnes due to the effects of the dry weather is misleading. We believe FSC’s bungling of both the estimates and the replanting programme will result in a further decline to the current projection by the Corporation when the total crop is crushed.

FSC must admit that it got its forecast of the total crop tonnage wrong in the first place. It boldly announced a pre-crush estimate of 2.1 million tonnes. But FSC failed to conduct what in normal field practice is known as out turn to estimates, that should have been done progressively since the start of the season. That is the accurate way to determine the exact tonnage of the crop.

More than 3 three months after the start of the crushing season when 70% of the crop has been harvested and crushed, FSC suddenly woke up and realised that the production has declined. This means that the FSC Executive and Senior Management were sleeping on the job.

The cane production is declining simply due to the failure of the replanting programme. Under the programme cane growers are compelled to look for their own funding mostly through loans to prepare land, purchase cane seeds and carry out planting. In most cases growers are refunded the expenses incurred 4 months after replanting.

This is preposterous.  How does the Ministry of Sugar and FSC expect growers who are struggling to survive, have the ability to replant new crop?

The correct and common-sense approach would have been to implement the programme like a CRP – Crop Rehabilitation Programme, similar to what was done in 1998/99 by the then SVT Government through negotiation by then NFP parliamentary opposition following the prolonged 1998 drought that resulted in crop production increasing by 100 percent.

In 1998 the total crop production was 2.098 million tonnes. One year later following the implementation of CRP the total cane crushed was 3.958 million tonnes. A further 170,000 tonnes was left unharvested when the mills stopped crushing.

The Ministry for Sugar and FSC can learn from the highly successful implementation of the CRP 18 years ago and correct its failed replanting programme if they want crop production to increase in order for the industry to survive.

Authorised by:

Jaganath Sami

General Secretary

Mob: 9993049

 

NFP GS – Cane planting programme a failure – Media Release Sept 2017 (1)

Blame yourself, not Civil Servants: NFP

MEDIA RELEASE

September 21, 2017

The Attorney General and Minister for Civil Service is ducking for cover by blaming senior civil servants in government ministries for the discriminatory contracts being forced upon civil servants when it is the Civil Service Reform Unit under his control that has subjugated civil servants.

“The Attorney General should stop playing the blame game”. It is the AG and the Civil Service Reform Unit headed by its Director Jane Curran, who recently during the roadshow for teachers, labelled Education Ministry officials as being inferior in intellect by way of her comments of them not understanding English, who are to be solely blamed for the civil service reform debacle”, said National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad.

Professor Prasad pointed out that almost a month ago he had highlighted that position holders in the civil servants were first appointed to a grade lower than the substantive post they were holding and then given an acting appointment to their substantive position with 95% of the salary for the post.

The NFP Leader said he also highlighted that in the case of teachers it was revealed that those in the service for more than 25 years were put on the same level of salary as degree holders with far less work experience.

“The voices of the aggrieved teachers and civil servants were swept aside. Now in the latest roadshow, the AG made a comment that salaries must be commensurate with experience. He has lost all credibility and civil servants don’t have any faith and trust in this government to redress their grievances”.

“Then he turns around and says salary review is not a charity. He blames health workers for the pathetic state of our hospitals and also blames the Permanent Secretary for Health for failing to ensure workers diligently perform their duties”.

“This is symptomatic of this Government. They blame everyone under the sun but themselves for the cesspool created by their policies and actions. They have lost the plot”.

Professor Prasad said the contracts of civil servants were subjugating them to government and this has no place in a democracy and an NFP Government will revoke them, put civil servants on permanent tenure, increase the retirement age to 60 years and have a fair and just adjustment to salaries of all civil servants.

Authorised by: –

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

 

NFP Leader- Blame yourself notcivil servants – Media Release Sept 2017

RESPONSE BY THE NATIONAL FEDERATION PARTY WHIP TO THE MOTION TO THANK HIS EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT FOR HIS MOST GRACIOUS SPEECH PARLIAMENT OF FIJI

THURSDAY, 14 SEPTEMBER 2017

BY HON PREM SINGH

Madam Speaker before I start speak on the Motion to thank His Excellency the President for his most gracious address, allow me to thank the honourable Attorney General for acknowledging that one of our former Leaders Siddiq Moidin Koya achieved a political compromise with the then Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara that resulted in the 1970 Constitution.

Madam Speaker, that political compromise was the beginning of many compromises that resolved political conflicts in the national interest and resulted in monumental achievements through negotiated settlements.

Indeed the 1997 Constitution that he is now critical of and supported its abrogation was a product of such political compromise.

If I remember correctly Madam Speaker, the Honourable Attorney General was highlighting its salient provisions on Fiji Broadcasting Commission in a weekly program in the years before the 2006 coup.

And Madam Speaker I wonder who was the legal advisor of the Alliance Party or the National Alliance Party of Fiji that the honourable Attorney General referred to while talking about the 2006 elections?

One should not criticise political compromises achieved through legal and legislative framework.  The 2013 Constitution, like the 1990 Constitution are not products of political compromises but were born out of a coup and imposed documents.

Madam Speaker, I also join other honourable Members in thanking the President for his most gracious speech. However, I am disappointed but not surprised that the message of unity, togetherness and inclusivity has been ignored by the ruling party.

The message I get from them is loud and clear – it is “My Way or the Highway” – they are the patriots and only they have the ability and right to govern after the 2018 general elections and that the Opposition is incapable of governing our nation.

Most importantly I feel that the other side is not a team but a collection of individuals who are vociferously campaigning for votes individually because they know that their Leader will be promoted as the single candidate during the elections.

I don’t blame them because the electoral system is such. If the system was to elect the top 50 vote getters in Parliament, then Fiji First would not have been in government. So the tone of their speeches is unsurprising.

And no prizes for guessing their praise of the Constitution and their Leader – they are trying to make an impression in order to be once again endorsed as candidates. Essentially, their political future hangs in the balance because for many of them life after politics will be extremely difficult.

Also, Madam Speaker, Government thinks it has a monopoly on ideas that it thinks are best for Fiji. No one political party, Leader, person or organisation has a monopoly on policies. In a democracy, no one single point of view must prevail.

Madam Speaker, for this week we have heard time and time again from Government Members that the Opposition which is critical of the Constitution are hypocrites and should not contest the elections under this Constitution.

Madam Speaker, it will be interesting if the same analogy is applied to the Prime Minister’s right-hand man who will be by hi side for the elections. The honourable Attorney General himself clarified in Parliament yesterday in response to my colleague Hon Chand that he protested against the 1987 coup and the then interim government.

We know that he was one of a group of 18 activists who was arrested and charged by Police for holding a meeting without a permit. We know that this charge was wrong. Together with the 18  activists, he was exercising his right to protest.

But to my wonderment, the Attorney General having protested against a coup and an interim government, became an integral member of the regime after the 2006 coup and was re-appointed to the regime’s Cabinet that governed after abrogation of the 1997 Constitution.

And yes, Madam Speaker, as the Attorney General he was the chief legal officer under whose watch the Public Emergency Regulations were imposed making it illegal for more than three people to gather in a public place, thereby effectively prohibiting political parties and NGOs from protesting.

As for opposing a constitution and fighting elections under its provisions, this is not a crime Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker, much has been said about the Constitution and how it has supposedly ended all evil that had beset our nation since Independence. Nothing can be further from the truth.

The Bill of Rights in the Constitution have severe limitations not seen in the 1997 Constitution or even the Ghai draft Constitution that was confined to the dustbin.

The independence of the Constitutional Offices Commission is highly questionable as its membership is political.

It is chaired by the Prime Minister and its membership also includes the Attorney General, Leader of the Opposition and nominees of the office holders. Out of a total of 6 Members including the Chair, 4 are from Government.

This Constitution also empowers a Permanent Secretary and a Minister to recruit and terminate staff in their respective Ministries. Ideally this should be the job of the Public Service Commission.

Madam Speaker, two years ago during my address on the motion to thank His Excellency the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, which was the last time he addressed Parliament, I said and I quote;

“Economic growth to generate employment; Meritocracy in the civil service and appointments being made at least in proportionate to the population of our ethnic groups; As a start having a quota for recruitment of personnel from other ethnic groups in the military, again on meritocracy to give it a semblance of multiracialism; Having bipartisan committees to collectively look at serious challenges facing sectors like the sugar industry, health and medical services”

“My point here is that it is all very well to finger-wag on what should be acceptable parliamentary conduct and what it is not, but reciprocity, humanity and national interest should be our guiding values if are to succeed at bipartisanship, and not arrogance and condescension. We on this side of Parliament continue to offer our hands for bipartisanship. it is now up to the other side to reciprocate with sincerity and respect in the national interest”.- Unquote

Madam Speaker, unfortunately my hope has been in vain.

The Open Merit Recruitment System, as alluded to by our Party Leader, is a farce. This has been proven recently during the Attorney General’s roadshows and our own citation of contracts of civil servants and teachers.

Madam Speaker, just last week, we were informed of a case where the Open Merit Recruitment System was abused.

An acting Principal in a prominent Lautoka school was told that she would be shifted elsewhere because another principal was coming to replace her.

The person relacing her wasn’t a principal but an officer from the Curriculum Development Unit or an Education Officer.

And the directive came from a Cabinet Minister that the person be posted as principal to the school because it is obvious that the person went directly to the Minister to intervene and get him the position in order to enjoy increased salaries of principals.

Again, this is a case of the Minister flouting authority and taking advantage of the Constitution that gives ministers and permanent secretaries powers to hire, terminate and replace staff in the civil service.

The Minister for Civil Service who vociferously promotes and defends the Open Merit Recruitment System should immediately look into this issue. I can provide him the details of this case or put him into touch with the aggrieved qualified acting principal.

Madam Speaker, the contracts render meaningless the teachers’ employment security and make them totally subservient to Government.

Some of its regressive provisions are: –

  • Renewal of the contract is at the absolute discretion of Government
  • The Civil Servant irrevocably agrees that non-renewal of the Contract will not give rise to any course of action whatsoever against the Government
  • The duration of the Contract expires immediately upon a civil servant reaching the retirement age of 55
  • Renewal of the Contract is subject to Government requiring the services of the civil servant and that too if he or she agrees to enter into another contract on mutually agreed terms
  • The decision of Government to transfer a civil servant on the existing terms of the Contract to anywhere in Fiji is final
  • Government has the right to change or vary the Contract anytime

This discriminatory and exploitative contractual employment that is being forced upon our teachers will not result in a harmonious, unified and productive civil service.

Such draconian contracts are subjugating our teachers and have no place in a genuine democracy.

Madam Speaker, during the roadshow, we were surprised that the Director of the Reform Unit made a racist comment against the staff of Ministry of Education, obviously blaming them for her own failures.

Fiji One News of 23rd August carried this comment from the Reform Director and I quote, “It was a bit of I thought I was speaking English but I wasn’t evidently. When I asked the question and on their defence, they thought they were answering my question…”

This comment basically meant that the Ministry of Education Staff were inferior in intellect.

What an insult and what nonsense Madam Speaker? And why was this condoned?

Furthermore Madam Speaker we seek clarification from Government as to the role the Current Civil Service Reform Director played in the Fijian Elections Office before her present role.  According to the Joint Electoral Commission/Fijian Elections Office Report of 2014, she was a technical advisor. The question that arises is, did her previous role have any influence in her most recent appointment?

Madam Speaker, the 2013 Constitution and its provisions like common and equal citizenry and policies formulated by Government are supposed to have eradicated or reduced racism, removed discrimination and upheld meritocracy.

Here we point out that in December last year a UN Special Rapporteur came to Fiji on a fact-finding mission on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.  His Report to the 35th session of the Human Rights Council in June this year has received little or no publicity at all. Again, no prizes for guessing why this discriminatory treatment to the Report by the local media that operate under restrictive measures contained in the Media Industry Development Authority Decree.

Madam Speaker, the UN Special Rapporteur’s Report pointed out the lack of Desegregated Data. I repeat the Rapporteur pointed out the lack of Desegregated Data. This is something we have been asking for and you will recall Madam Speaker that in early 2015 my question seeking similar data on recruitments and appointments in the civil service was disallowed on the grounds it would create racial ill-will and hostility. But the Report quite clearly states that this Data is necessary to determine whether or not Government’s so-called non-discriminatory policies are working.

This is very important and Report on this issue is self-explanatory. The Report states and I quote; –

“In order to measure progress made on the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, and to evaluate the effectiveness of the policies of inclusiveness set up by the current Government, there needs to be an objective evaluation which can only be undertaken if statistics and in particular desegregated data are collected and made available”.

“This does not mean only data on race and ethnicity, but a whole range of different factors such as gender, age, sexual orientation, geography, income, access to social and economic services and rights.

Without desegregated data, it will be difficult to assess the effectiveness of the merit-based measures that the Government has adopted in recruitment and in awarding scholarships as well as in the other areas”.

“Such data is also valuable as it provides the baselines upon which new policies and programmes can be designed”.-Unquote

Madam Speaker, The Special Rapporteur recalled that the Committee for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination or the CERD Committee highlighted in its recommendations to Fiji in 2012, that if progress is to be monitored, such desegregated data is needed to measure whether the policies are effective and are reaching those most in need.

Madam Speaker, both CERD and the Special Rapporteur noted Government’s directive that collection of data that typifies ethnicity is no longer to be conducted.

But CERD noted that while this directive was aimed at eliminating racial profiling, the CERD Committee regretted “the lack of desegregated data on the socioeconomic situation of members of ethnic groups as well as the lack of gender analysis of data provided.”

“This concern was based on the premise that “if progress in eliminating discrimination based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin is to be monitored, some indication of the number of persons who might be treated less favourably on the basis of these characteristics”

Madam Speaker, in the absence of this critically important information, Government’s claim that this Constitution has ended racism and discrimination is hollow. So is the claim that every single appointment to our civil service and other Government controlled organisations is done on meritocracy.

The UN Rapporteur has also recommended that Government should promptly sign and ratify key international instruments including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Madam Speaker, these are important International Instruments.

How Government is going to get itself to signing for example the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is another matter given that the Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures) Decree disallows trade unionists and trade union staff from becoming members of political parties, compelling them to resign their positions if they do join the political party or contest the general elections.

Madam Speaker, as we enter the final phase of the first term of parliament since resumption of parliamentary democracy after seven and half years of military rule, it is time to seriously consider the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to permanently seal the chapter of our past 30 years since 1987.

Such a Commission Madam Speaker, will allow perpetrators and victims of the four coups that have plagued our nation for the last 30 years since May 14, 1987, to openly and freely engage in truth telling and confront their fears in view of conflicting statements and utterances regarding motives behind coups, so that closure and healing for Fiji is achieved and permanently put to rest this unfortunate and turbulent chapter of our independent history.

Madam Speaker the blame game, name calling and accusations have become the hallmark of our nation in the last 30 years. This parliament has been no exception.

Truth telling and openly confronting one’s fears has worked elsewhere Madam Speaker, most notably in South Africa under the leadership of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

We should not be fearful and hesitant to embrace this noble objective as we are all honourable men and women of integrity.  No general election, no government and no constitution will cure our nation from this traumatic past.

This is the only way forward Madam Speaker. We in the NFP who have never supported and participated in a coup, having been toppled after only five weeks in a coalition government of the late Dr Timoci Bavadra, stand ready to work with all honourable Members to facilitate this Commission.

Finally Madam Speaker, We have nothing to fear. We only fear the Lord Almighty. The NFP has survived four military coups without succumbing to the trappings of power obtained illegally.

And we will march forward in unison, guided by our unshakable principles and our fearless and selfless service to the nation for the last 54 years.

God bless Fiji

 

NFP Whip Hon Singh Speech in Parliament September 14 2017