23 Jan / 2017
Monday January 23, 2017
The National Federation Party’s Management Board has endorsed Mr Parmod Chand to be the next Member of Parliament following the resignation of Roko Tupou Draunidalo last Friday afternoon from the positions of MP and Party President.
Rakiraki lawyer and NFP Ra Branch President Mr Semi Titoko has been endorsed by the Board to be the Acting President of NFP.
Roko Draunidalo conveyed her resignation as an MP to the Honourable Speaker and as NFP President and Party Member to the NFP General Secretary and Registrar of Political Parties.
Acting President Mr Semi Titoko has proven himself to be an exceptional leader in Ra and his latest accomplishment was the successful hosting of the NFP Convention and AGM last September in the district, attended by 700 Party Members and delegates.
He will act in the position until the Party’s AGM later this year.
Mr Parmod Chand is a former NFP MP, having served the Party in Parliament from 1994 to 1999. He is a successful cane grower, a well-known businessman in the Northern Division and the President of Fiji Bus Operators Association. Mr Chand is also the Party’s Vice-President, a position he has held since March 2014.
He was endorsed by the Management Board as he has the fourth highest votes (1014 votes) in the 2014 general elections. Once Mr Chand is in Parliament, the NFP’s numbers in the House will be back to three.
From June 3 rd last year, the Party had two MPs following the suspension of Roko Draunidalo for the rest of the parliamentary term.
Roko Draunidalo’s suspension was harsh and unfair as noted by the Inter Parliamentary Union. Understandably, she was frustrated by her inability to effectively be the voice of her voters in Parliament.
Roko Draunidalo discharged her duties of both as an MP and Party President effectively and fearlessly. She has decided to move on and we wish her well.
Mr Parmod Chand and the Party now await the decision of the Electoral Commission, which has to formally write to Mr Chand.
However we note the term of the Commission expired on January 9. The Constitutional Offices Commission that is empowered to appoint the Chairperson and Members of the Electoral Commission has not made any appointments.
This is unacceptable and we have stated this very clearly in our statement last Saturday.
Professor Biman Prasad
21 Jan / 2017
The National Federation Party is deeply concerned at the delay by the Constitutional Offices Commission to appoint the Electoral Commission which is critical for preparations for a truly credible, free and fair general elections.
The three year term of the Electoral Commission ended on 9th January 2017 and since then the Supervisor of Elections, who reports to the Commission and takes directions from it, has been left unsupervised and is carrying on with preparatory work for the elections.
We ask whom is the Supervisor reporting to and taking directions from? Is it the Minister responsible for Elections who happens to be the Attorney General as well as the General Secretary of the Fiji First Party?
The Constitutional Offices Commission (COC) is empowered under Section 133 of the 2013 Constitution to appoint the Chairperson and Members of the Electoral Commission. The COC is chaired by the Prime Minister and its members are the Attorney General, the Leader of the Opposition, two Members appointed by the President on the advice of the PM and one member appointed by President on the advice of the Opposition Leader.
The Member nominated by the Leader of the Opposition, lawyer Richard Naidu, resigned last year. The current COC is therefore totally lopsided in favour of Government. We also note that the COC Chairperson who is the PM has been empowered to make acting appointments for a period of three months. He used this to appoint the Acting Commander of the Army in August 2015.
Why couldn’t the PM extend the term of the Chenn Bunn Young Chaired Commission for a three-month term using his powers, pending the Commission’s re-appointment or appoint a Commission for another three-year term?
It is deeply concerning that the Elections Office has been running without the constitutionally mandated oversight of the Constitutional Offices Commission especially when the Elections Office is already preparing for the 2018 elections.
The next scheduled general elections can be constitutionally held as early as April 2018, three and a half years into the term of the current Parliament. This is 15 months away. We cannot have the Supervisor of Elections running election preparations at his own discretion against a backdrop of clear conflict of interest from his Minister who is the general secretary of the governing Fiji First.
Furthermore, the Court of Appeal judgment (Civil Appeal ABU 0069 of 2014) was crystal clear in its declaration when it said that:
“The construction to be placed on sections 76(3) of the Constitution read with section 8(a) of the Electoral Decree requires the Supervisor to comply with all decisions and directions given to him concerning the performance of his functions by the Commission.”
This is a very clear direction from the Court of Appeal and their declaration read against the Constitution places the onus on the Prime Minister to ensure that these legal principles are upheld expeditiously.
An Electoral Commission is needed to ensure the implementation of Recommendations by the Multinational Observer Group (MOG) that observed the 2014 General Election and the 2014 annual report of the Electoral Commission itself.
We know the reports, after a delay, were referred to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights. The Committee’s Report should be tabled in the February sitting of Parliament because there is no time for delay if there had to be a truly credible and genuinely free and fair election next year.
The full implementation of the report is a prerequisite to our electoral integrity and for totally free and fair and robust debate among and between political parties and candidates and, most importantly, for the media to amplify, without fear, their voices to the public.
For the sake of transparency and accountability of the electoral process, there shouldn’t be any delay in the appointment of the Electoral Commission. Otherwise, any further delay will in our view constitute systematic election rigging by ignoring the need for the continuous existence of an independent institution.
Hon Prof Biman Prasad
The misinformation disseminated by the Ministry of Education over the state of readiness of Queen Victoria School confirms beyond any doubt that the Ministry under the Minister for Education have become thoroughly incompetent and an unmitigated disaster.
The Minister for Education and his permanent secretary have been peddling untruths for more than a week and deliberately misleading QVS staff, students and their parents. They knew full well that the School would not be ready for the opening of the 2017 school year.
The NFP had raised concerns following confirmation from reputable sources that the construction works were shoddy and that the concrete walls and pillars cracked under the force of a hammer. Simply, the rebuilt QVS under the ‘Adopt A School Programme‘ would not be able to stand a Category 2 Cyclone and was an Occupational Health and Safety Hazard.
Despite this, the Education Minister tried to gloss over the problems through propaganda in a daily newspaper that QVS was ready and would open next week. The new principal was described as dynamic and the names of staff and their EDP Numbers were also published (Fiji Sun, January 11, 2017: page 1 and 3). Obviously this was in response to another daily the Fiji Times, which published a report on its front page on 10th January (a day earlier) highlighting the Prime Minister telling the Education Minister to fix the School’s kitchen that was shown to be in a state of neglect.
Then on Sunday 15th January, the Sunday Times newspaper published a front page report quoting the Ministry’s permanent secretary as saying students would be temporarily using tents as classrooms while “minor structural adjustments continue”.
On Sunday evening the Minister announced that QVS would open on 30th January saying there was “shortage of beds and polishing work needed to be done”.
We regard this as unacceptable. It is disgraceful for a Minister to keep repeating untruths and try and hoodwink the people. He must reveal the truth and put a stop to his chaotic behaviour. Otherwise he should step down.
Authorised by: -
Hon Prof. Biman Prasad
04 Jan / 2017
PS for Sugar is right: NFP Leader
By Shanal Sivan. Fiji One News, Tuesday 3 January, 2017
The NFP is putting politics aside and wants to work with Government to improve the performance of the Sugar industry.
The Permanent secretary for Sugar Yogesh Karan had said through the media last week that our sugar industry needs to be revived with proper consultation and that farmers need to be included in the dialogue concerning the industry.
The National Federation Party says common sense has now prevailed.
“For the first time in the last ten years there seems to have been some very positive statements from the Sugar Ministry and indeed from the Prime Minister’s Permanent Secretary the PS responsible for Sugar Mr Yogesh Karan, it appears that there is now some understanding as to the real issues facing the Sugar Industry.” said Dr. Biman Prasad.
Prasad says 2017 should not be a year to do trials and test new strategies to revive the sugar industry rather make solid decisions to increase performance in the industry.
“I think Mr Karan is right that we need to concentrate in the farmers we need to bring confidence back into the farmers of this country, and this is why the NFp in the last budget debate moved the motion that for the next 3 years we should allocate $50m a year for the next three years and provide a guaranteed price of roughly about $90 per tonne, so that we can bring back the confidence we can ensure that farmers have some income left after taking away the cost and that they have an incentive to remain Sugar Cane Farmers.”
The PS for Sugar Yogesh Karan told Fiji One News he is due to visit the farmers in the Western Division.
Karan wished not to comment any further to comments made by the opposition party NFP.
02 Jan / 2017
December 31, 2016
The governance of Fiji needs to take a new direction in 2017 for all our citizens to witness genuine parliamentary democracy and full restoration of fundamental human rights and freedoms that are prerequisites for the social, political and economic advancement of our nation.
A New Year is naturally the culmination of the festive season. It is a time of rejoicing, reflection, making resolutions and welcoming the New Year with celebrations in a spirit of togetherness and harmony.
It is also a time to remember the sick and the infirm, the less fortunate and all those unable to celebrate New Year with the same passion and vigour as others due to various reasons.
The high cost of living, lack of meritocracy in the appointments to jobs and key positions in our civil service and statutory organisations, the staggering sugar industry, the devastating effects of Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston that has destroyed livelihood of many thousands of people, the bungling of a good policy like Help for Homes Initiative that has resulted in more than 3000 people still living in tents, the damage caused by recent floods, rising unemployment, rising national debt levels, derogations in the Bill of Rights of the 2013 Constitution, regressive and draconian decrees, a regulated media and the deteriorating health system and medical services as well as our public road infrastructure are fundamental problems that can only be resolved by a display of sound and sensible leadership.
To ignore these fundamental problems would be doing so at our own peril. In Fiji, calling everyone Fijians and saying they enjoy common and equal citizenry doesn’t guarantee fundamental freedoms like freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of the media.
It does not guarantee job opportunities based on meritocracy, rendering common and equal citizenry meaningless.
These are the challenges we face as a community and as a nation, which unfortunately are not highlighted by the media.
This reality may not be grasped by many of our people simply because of limitations in the Constitution and continuation of regressive Decrees that dilute provisions in the Bill of Rights, resulting in the inability of the media to disseminate such information.
The derogations in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution, regressive Decrees especially those impeding the conduct of truly credible, free and fair elections must be changed in accordance with the recommendations of the Multinational Observer Group (MOG) Report as well as the 2014 Report of the Electoral Commission.
And this can only happen if the Fiji First Government changes its confrontational approach in the spirit of goodwill and hope and facilitates the necessary changes through Parliament.
We recall the comments of the Prime Minister of India, the late Mrs Indira Gandhi when she visited Fiji in 1981. Mrs Gandhi said: -
“Most of us believe in a multiracial and multicultural society, the texture of which is rich in variety and ethnicity. Understandably, in such societies some tensions do arise but in a democratic set-up we must have checks and balances to safeguard the rights of each ethnic group. Hence a greater responsibility develops on leaders to show the way. The task is not easy. In every country there are some who think they have all the answers to the problems that beset us.”
Those sentiments are still relevant to Fiji as we strive for a harmonious future based on firm principles of democracy, good governance and economic growth.
This is the fundamental challenge facing the current leadership who must not pretend it has the solutions, but make a genuine effort in resolving the concerns in the best interest of the nation.
Parliament is the highest court of the land. Parliament must make decisions in the national interest. Narrow and sectarian interests must be discarded.
As a party born out of the struggle for dignity and justice of all our people, the NFP will continue the struggle for our beloved nation to once again become a beacon of hope and trust.
We wish you a happy, healthy, prosperous and blessed 2017.
Authorised by: Professor Biman Prasad, NFP Leader
December 20, 2016
The National Federation Party calls upon Government to declare Rakiraki including (Vaileka Town), parts of Qamea and the other flood affected areas of Fiji, Central Division (Rewa, Tailevu-Nausori) and West (Nadroga/Navosa-Sigatoka, Nadi)- Disaster Areas to enable everyone affected by the devastating floods and freak winds to be provided immediate assistance by the State.
A similar move should be done for flood affected areas in other parts of the country that are in danger of being flooded because weather forecast shows the unpredictable nature of the depression affecting Fiji.
By now Government should have learnt from the experience of Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston and be in a state of disaster preparedness both in terms of equipping evacuation centres with essentials and food items as priority number one.
Secondly, Government must have a rehabilitation package in place to assist victims and families following an immediate disaster impact assessment. In the immediate aftermath of Winston Government was caught off-guard and thousands of our people had to rely on immediate assistance provided by Australia and New Zealand.
However this time Government does not have any excuses.
Assessment based on pictures in many areas has shown damage and destruction of unprecedented proportions caused by strong currents of raging floodwaters in Ra not experienced in decades by the people in the district.
We extend our deepest sympathies to those families who have lost their livelihood, suffered damages to their homes, businesses and crops.
By now Government would have established the areas in the country worst affected that need immediate help. It will be of great relief to the victims if Government transports food and water in large quantities to the affected and identified areas immediately.
Victims who have lost every thing cannot wait any longer. They need food, water and clothing immediately.
Ra- Massive rehabilitation required
The town and district of Ra has suffered millions of dollars worth of damages. The entre town was submerged with some places inundated by as much as 10 feet of water. The entire business community has suffered damage and losses.
Hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed by flood waters. Farmers lost their livestock. Agricultural crops including sugarcane barely recovering from the impact of Winston have been destroyed.
Worse still, those families still living in tents 10 months after Winston had to relieve the trauma of mother nature. They have been unable to rebuild their lives because of unacceptable delays by two major hardware companies to supply them building material almost seven months after they were paid for under the Help For Homes Initiative.
It is clear that tens of millions of dollars will be needed in the short term to bring some degree of relief to the flood victims in the affected areas of Fiji. As a priority, we suggest that Government’s machinery do the following:
1. Deploy army engineers to repair badly damaged infrastructure including schools and essential basic services like water supply. The personnel should also be used to help in the clean-up effort after the flood and distribution of food rations.
2. Authorise FNPF to allow withdrawals by members affected by the disaster to help in rehabilitation of homes and purchase basic household items.
3. Approve a house rehabilitation package with a minimum assistance of $5000 to re-build lost or damaged homes.
4. Approve a crop rehabilitation package to assist the agricultural sector including the sugar industry.
5. The businesses that have lost everything and those in danger of going under cannot survive even with assistance by their banks or delay in loan repayments. A rehabilitation package is also needed for them.
6. Two weeks ago, the Attorney General announced two hardware companies would have to pay a 4% penalty or surcharge for their failure to deliver material they were paid for under the Help for Homes Initiative. We call upon the AG and Minister for Economy to reveal what was paid to each of the two companies for non-delivery of material and the penalty amount to be revealed the funds to be used for rehabilitation.
7. As a gesture of goodwill, Fiji First Government Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament should authorise 10% of their salaries to be deducted and go towards relief efforts, similar to what the Opposition did after Winston. This should be easily acceptable given the massive increase in allowances and per diems that Parliamentarians voted for themselves (except the NFP MPs)
Authorised by: Roko Tupou Draunidalo, NFP President.
19 Dec / 2016
December 14, 2016
Message from the NFP President on Aleppo and West Papua
“I am very saddened by the atrocities that are currently happening in Aleppo and West Papua.
I ask all Fijians to say a prayer for those who are living in terror in those countries.
And I also ask all Fijians to drop an email, letter or note to the Prime Minister of Fiji to not associate Fiji with the tyranny that's killing men, women and children in Aleppo (Syrian Government + Russia) nor the killing in West Papua (Occupying Indonesian Government).
All men and women are born free and equal. God bless them too.”
Authorised by: Roko Tupou Draunidalo, NFP President
19 Dec / 2016
December 14, 2016
FRU IS NOT A CONSORTIUM OF CORPORATE AND FAMILY INTERESTS: – OUR GOLDEN OLYMPIC TEAM DESERVE JUSTICE, DIGNITY AND RESPECT – NOT PITTANCE: NFP
The President of the National Federation Party, Roko Tupou Draunidalo has today called on the Fiji Rugby Union and Vodafone-led consortium to fully explain the details of their sponsorship arrangements and clarify why the $40m sponsorship provides insufficient resources to allow for members of the national 7s team to receive anything more than basic allowances.
‘The game of rugby holds a special place in the hearts of all Fijians,’ said Draunidalo. ‘Time and time again when politics and our political leaders have failed this country, it is rugby that has bound us together as a community, lifted us up as a nation and shown us the way forward.’ ‘But we appear to be the only country in the world who wins Olympic gold but then fails to secure any commercial benefit for the players. Is this because of the Vodafone sponsorship deal? The FRU’s leadership is so shambolic we appear to have won gold but actually lost sponsors. Certainly what we now know is that our national 7s players are expected to play like professionals but live like paupers on the World 7s Series.’
“This government might claim there should be a separation between politics and sport. But they chose to end that separation when the prime minister accepted the presidency of the Fiji Rugby Union in 2014, and then handpicked a succession of his closest allies as chairmen of the FRU through their appointment as the PM’s nominee to the board”, said Draunidalo.
‘What is shocking is that despite all that they have achieved, it is clear the 7s players have no voice. Like so many in this country, they find themselves unable to reach out to the media to explain their situation and to press their case.’
‘That is why Fiji should be grateful that Ben Ryan has spoken up. He has shone a light where the FRU would rather was kept dark. Thanks to his commitment to do what is right, Ryan has made us aware of this deplorable state of affairs. ‘Sadly it is typical that Ryan’s legitimate concerns have been treated with such contempt by the FRU leadership. Rugby House is showing an intolerance to criticism and an inability to admit mistakes that mirrors this government, which is addicted to secrecy and only too happy to arbitrarily arrest its opponents, deport them or place them on immigration blacklists.’
In February 2014, the Fiji Rugby Union signed a five-year sponsorship agreement with a consortium of local companies led by Vodafone Fiji Ltd. Other companies included are Telecom Fiji Ltd, Fiji Airways, HFC Bank and CJ Patel.
The then-chairman of the Fiji Rugby Union, Filimone Waqabaca, announced that the Vodafone consortium was pledging sponsorship worth $8m a year or $40m over the five years of the agreement. We were promised this would be ‘a game changer’ for Fiji rugby.
Waqabaca, who was the Bainimarama government’s permanent secretary of Finance at the time, was appointed directly to the board by the prime minister. He is now Fiji’s High Commissioner in New Zealand.
‘The FRU’s 2015 financial report shows clearly that instead of the promised $8m income, the total income from the Vodafone consortium is just over $3m a year, covering cash and value in kind such as airfares. There was even less recorded cash and value in kind income report in the 2014 audited report.’
The FRU’s own financial reports show that in spite of being promised $8m a year, Vodafone and its consortium partners have paid $5m less for each of the first two years of the sponsorship agreement – a shortfall of $10m in total against a promise of $16m.
‘Now is the time for the Government to reveal what was in the June 12, 2015 letter sent by the then FRU Chief Executive Radrodro Tabualevu to the Vodafone CEO. We are reliably informed the document was a 30-day termination letter, alleging a failure by Vodafone to account for more than $5 million worth of sponsorship support in the first year of their sponsorship agreement.’
We know that the June 12, 2015 letter was also copied to the prime minister’s brother-in- law Francis Kean, as FRU chairman, the Prime Minister himself as president of the Fiji Rugby Union, and Ajith Kodagoda, as the chairman of the parent company of Vodafone Fiji Ltd.
‘Is it not the case that had the FRU followed through and terminated the relationship with Vodafone in 2015, when Fiji had already won their first of two World 7s series titles, then the FRU would now be many millions of dollars better off?’
‘With the FRU freed from the Vodafone deal, Rugby House would have been able to build a structure of sponsorship support that reflected the success Ben Ryan was already bringing to the country, and which reached its peak with the Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro.’
Sadly this did not happen. What happened next is familiar to many who have watched this government in action. At the same time that this threat of termination was being discussed between the FRU and Vodafone, the mobile phone company announced that it was paying for the Prime Minister and his wife to attend the 2015 Rugby World Cup opening match.
Kodagoda was quoted as telling the local media that Vodafone was happy to foot all of the estimated $60,000 costs. ‘As the head of Fiji Rugby Union in the country and as Prime Minister, Mr Bainimarama has a done a lot for the development and good administration of the sport in the country and deserves to be at the Rugby World Cup.’
Vodafone and the FRU then patched up their differences but on surprising terms given the amounts at stake. Vodafone were being asked by the FRU to explain $5m in missing expenditure from 2014, but eventually settled by paying only an additional $100,000 in cash to the FRU in September 2015. This extra payment represented only two percent of what the FRU were chasing.
Tabualevu resigned from the FRU in November 2015. No explanation has ever been offered of this extraordinary compromise nor the effect that continuing with Vodafone on the same terms has had on the financial fighting power of the FRU to do its best by its players. It is with great regret that we note the FRU continues to ban media from its Annual and Special General Meetings.
As the NFP, we say that the Prime Minister has done too much for himself, for his family members at the FRU and for his allies in Vodafone and its consortium members. All of his advancement has been built on the back of the players – our best and rarest resource – of whom so much is expected and so little provided by Rugby House.
‘The government needs to come clean once and for all about this wretched Vodafone deal. Why is this country’s national sport strapped into commercial arrangements that only seem to profit the Prime Minister and his allies?
We re-iterate Vodafone’s relationship with Fiji rugby is short-changing all of the rest of the game’s stakeholders from the provincial unions and 7s players right through to those in secondary and Kaji rugby and the families who keep this great game alive.’
Authorised by: Roko Tupou Draunidalo, NFP President