NFP AGM 2010 – Speech by NFP Leader Hon. Prof. Biman Prasad

Saturday August 24th 2019

Lautoka Hotel

Thank you for being here today at the party’s AGM. We have opted for a quiet, low-key event rather than a full national convention. It is still only a few months since the last general election. We sense that, other than the diehard party members, many of whom are here, ordinary voters are a little tired of politics after last year’s election and other political events. But we are glad to see many loyal party executives and supporters here.

This AGM is the first since the 2018 election. After the intense activity of 2018, we have encouraged our party activists and supporters to take a break to reflect on the past and plan for the future. We believe the party ran a strong and principled election campaign. In it, we set out our plans for Fiji. We know that we were outspent, 10 to 1, by the Fiji First Party. We know they ran an unprincipled campaign, based on fear and threats to people’s security.

And we now know the result. The Government achieved a paperthin majority of 50.02%. They were saved by a flawed electoral system that uses the d’Hondt method of calculating proportional representation. Despite getting almost 7.4% of the votes in the election, NFP got only 6% of the seats in Parliament. If it was proportional representation NFP would have got 4 seats.

Then we had the fiasco of the election case in the Court of Disputed Returns. SODELPA and NFP jointly challenged the election result. We were treated to the spectacle of the elected Government of Fiji hiding from the people of Fiji for two days and two nights. There they were, camped behind locked doors with mattresses and takeaway food while the people stood outside. They came out only after the time had passed for them to be served with court papers.

We could not continue our court action because the Government has never issued written rules on how an election petition should be conducted. The court ruled against us on how we should present our evidence – although we have never had written reasons for the court’s decision.

But the enduring memory of the court case is how the Government of Fiji hid away, fearful of the very laws that they themselves had made. The term “Level 9” is now a special phrase in Fiji, meaning weak excuses and dishonesty. Perhaps, after a decade or so, this will be the Fiji First Party’s only real contribution to our country.

Our party is in good shape and good spirit. For the first time in the 13 years since the December 2006 military coup, Fiji’s longterm future is becoming clearer. It is a future in which the Fiji First Party will be a distant memory, soundly rejected after years of sowing fear and intimidation among the people. But it is a future in which NFP will play a big part. We are a party with deep roots in the past. We are strengthened by the challenges we face in the present. And this gives us the knowledge of the important role we will play in Fiji’s future.

We are a party that challenged colonial oppression and fought for Fiji’s independence. We have never joined military adventurers who threatened Fiji’s integrity. We have always fought for democracy and democratic institutions.

I want to first thank my Parliamentary colleagues for the great work they have done since the election. Our President Pio Tikoduadua, our newest and most popular MP, Lenora Qereqeretabua, have contributed courageously and positively to public debate, both inside the Parliament and outside of it. They work hard and speak up for people in need of their support. They have highlighted issues of national interest and the many grievances facing our people.

I want to thank all the people who work hard to support our MPs in Parliament and outside of it – Seni, Kamal, Dylan, Apenisa, and Sharila. Not forgetting Sharveen who was with us for 3 years. I want to thank our NFP Youth wing, who are always passionate, pro-active and brimming with ideas.

So this is a team that is strong, united, ready to serve our members and ready to fight for Fiji. And this fight continues now. A few days ago there was an article in the Washington Post which described another country as an “elections-only democracy”. And that would be an apt description for Fiji. The Government has talked for years about “true democracy”. But the phrase “true democracy” is now more often used by its critics as a joke.

The Government holds elections but it undermines and politicises every public institution that should support democracy – the public service, the statutory bodies, the Police, FICAC – all because they are afraid of the people. They fear losing control, because they know that one day, the oppressive laws they have created may be used against them.

After 13 years of Frank Bainimarama and his cronies, what is the state of Fiji? Let us look behind all the talk about so-called economic growth and look at how our people are faring in reality.

Government services are collapsing because the Government has no money. Wages are kept low while prices of basic goods rise. Public health and medical services are deteriorating. Trade unions are ignored, their leaders arrested and harassed. They are not even permitted to march in support of their demands.

Poverty drives social stress. We have some of the world’s highest rates of NCDs. Domestic and sexual violence is rife. Our media reports an epidemic of hard drug use. The Police have even lost control of Suva’s main street, Victoria Parade, to thuggery and violence.

There is nothing on the horizon to give us hope that things will improve. Business confidence is down and interest rates are rising. Investors are sick of bureaucracy and the bullying tactics of the Government’s tax collectors. And the Government says nothing and does nothing. The Economy Minister is always looking for someone else to blame. He says if the opposition talks about our economic crisis this will destroy the economy. It is not our words that are destroying the economy. It is his actions – 13 years of his actions.

But what can the Government do? As I told Parliament, last year the Government ran out of ideas. This year they have run out of money. Ministers and civil servants are just going through the motions and pretending everything is fine. Our Economy Minister, who used to run around the country talking about reforms and talking up his government, is quiet now. Even the Fiji Sun, the Government’s favourite newspaper, is running out of flattering material.

Fiji is heading towards social and economic crisis. But the Government either cannot see it or pretends that it cannot see it. Most leaders, in a time of national crisis, would try to bring people together, to consult, to share ideas and agree a way forward. But this government hides away from the people. They hide in their air-conditioned offices. They hide in their four-wheel drive limousines. They hide in the first-class cabins of aeroplanes.

NFP has asked for joint Parliamentary inquiries on the ailing sugar industry. We want an inquiry into our disorganised and demoralised education sector. We have asked for inquiries on health care issues and the current drugs epidemic. Let us all understand why we are doing this.

We are not asking for this just so that politicians can talk about it. We are not saying that Parliamentarians have the answers. But Parliamentarians have the ability to hold public inquiries and ask for the views of the people. We can consult the experts and encourage debate about the big problems we face as a nation. That is why we are asking for these inquiries.

But every time we move a motion to ask for these inquiries or select committees, the Government uses its Parliamentary majority to vote them down. The Government does not want to talk about these things. The Government wants to pretend that everything is fine.

The Prime Minister travels around the world talking about talanoa. But he will not practise it at home.

This is not leadership. This is weakness. The Government is afraid that the people will find out that others have better answers for Fiji’s problems. But a government that is working for the people should not be afraid of this. They should have the courage to admit that they do not have all the answers. But this is the basic thing about governance, politics and democracy that Frank Bainimarama and Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum do not understand. They talk about it, but they do not understand it.

Democracies are successful because they encourage people to work together. In democracies people are not afraid to share problems and ideas openly. They are not afraid of disagreement and dissent. They use a free and independent media to make their ideas public.

They use lobbying and public protests and marches to send out signals about what they want, and to pressure the government to follow good policies.

And these are the democratic mechanisms that are absent in Fiji. And this is the reason why we can honestly call Fiji what the Washington Post said – an elections-only democracy.

And what happens when the leader of the Government, our Prime Minister, is criticised and confronted? He lashes out. Yesterday, a video was released of what happened in Parliament two weeks ago. The video clearly shows how Voreqe Bainimarama used violence against the President of the NFP. It was also reported by Radio New Zealand. And look at the front page of today’s Fiji Times. Pictures tell a thousand words!

Now the people can decide. Was it assault? Or was it, as Frank Bainimarama claims, a “stern talking to”? Two weeks after this incident, despite having the video footage, despite having a formal complaint from our President, the Police are doing nothing and saying nothing.

In a so-called true democracy, everyone is equal.

Everyone is equal before the law and everyone is treated equally under the law. What do the Police have to say about this incident? Why, when everyone talks about what will happen next, why does everyone say that the Police will do nothing about it?

This is just one more example of why we have told the Government. You have lost the moral authority to govern. You do not set a good example of leadership and good behaviour. You have run out of ideas. You have spent all the money. You hide from the people.

You talk but do not act. You ignore the deep economic and social problems in this country that are staring you in the face. You refuse to consult others. You even excuse the violent actions of your own leader.

And we are saying to you – it is time to show some humility and leadership. Admit that these problems are too big for your two leaders to solve. Ask for help. Talk to the opposition. We are the alternative government. And we will respond. We will help you. Because it is the people and the country who are important.

Let us see where we can pool ideas or consult others. If people want to march to air their demands, let them do it. If people want to criticise you and point out your weaknesses, have the courage to let them do it. Create the atmosphere, create the environment where we can show the world that our political leaders are working together.

We need to give confidence to our investors, our workers, our young people who are looking for opportunities, our public servants, our doctors and nurses and teachers who want the power to serve their fellow citizens and do good.

And so we are telling the Government – show courage. Prove you are leaders, not mere politicians afraid for your jobs.

It is time for national dialogue and an open discussion about Fiji’s social and economic problems. Ask the opposition to talk with you about what we can do together. If you are genuine, if you are honest about wanting to solve Fiji’s problem, you will find us willing to help. This is no longer a time for politics. This is a time for leadership.

May God bless NFP.

May God bless Fiji.

NFP AGM 2019 – Speech by NFP President Hon. Pio Tikoduadua

Saturday 24th August 2019

AGM held at the Lautoka Hotel

The Party elders and stalwarts, fellow members of the Management Board and Youth Wing, party supporters and friends.

Today is a wonderful day and I am especially pleased to be in Lautoka for this years AGM.

We will hear updates of what the party has been up to from our last AGM until today and have some discussions also about national issues before us.

But today I am especially happy to state that I feel vindicated and that I no longer have to defend my honour against spurious and false LIES levelled against me when I reported a violation of my parliamentary privilege as an elected member of parliament in the august House on Friday, 9 August 2019, when I was assaulted physically, verbally and mentally by the Prime Minister, Mr Bainimarama.

As the President of your Party, I am accountable to the AGM to tell you what happened.

I did not LIE and I am told that yesterday a video appeared on social media showing this.

Everything in that video is as I stated in the live press conference that I gave to Fiji Times that same day, BEFORE I went to report an official complaint with the Police at Totogo.

My parliamentary colleague, Hon Lenora Qereqeretabua is also vindicated I am sure, as an eyewitness, along with our two youth staffers, Apenisa and Dylan and Hon Suliasi Matanitobua the Tui Namosi. We have nothing to gain from lying about this. It happened. We are still awaiting the authorities to do their part.

However that video does not show the second time the Prime Minister verbally assaulted me and assailed me with swears and undignified language not befitting his station as the Prime Minister of this land. That happened when I was on green carpet at the entrance of the parliamentary premises, as I was on my way back into the house to report what the Prime Minister just did.

I responded to him in passing, that he should look at himself and his actions as Prime Minister.

That video does not show FBC reporters hounding me for a response from the time I left the House until the Prime Minister assaulted me. The FBC reporters knew full well that any public comments made by elected members of parliament while parliament is sitting is a direct breach of the parliamentary standing orders. Any public comment or social media posting has to be done after parliament has adjourned its sitting.

Yet, when the Prime Minister was assaulting me those two FBC reporters just stood there. They may have their own video recording, but it certainly did not feature on their news that night!

That video does not show the chief legal advisor to Government’s knee-jerk reaction on a Facebook live press conference where he confirmed that the Prime Minister had an audience with the Hon Speaker that very same Friday night, while a pre-scheduled appointment that I had with the Speaker on Monday was suddenly cancelled as I was on my way to him.

These are all just telling symptoms of the state of our affairs. It is not a hopeful one if the Prime Minister of this country is unable to control his own temper and lash out not just with verbal and derogatory abuse, but is now using his hands.

Violence was just a theme of the Government side on the previous Thursday night debate. Yet, as Hon Lenora said that week, showing and telling are two completely different things for them.

I am not even sure if the safety of other opposition members is guaranteed anymore given that the Prime Minister had already verbally assaulted ON the parliamentary premises, Hon Mosese Bulitavu and Hon Ro Teimumu Kepa during the previous parliamentary session.

And certainly our personal workplace safety and risk as MPs, is not a cost that any parliament should lump on already burdened taxpayers to pay for.

This all falls at the feet of the Hon Prime Minister. We all stand condemned if we cannot as adults talk about issues and ideas, and debate them properly, as the rules provide.

I have no hard feelings towards the Prime Minister. In fact I have done so already, because carrying that kind of grudge around is taxing on my spirit and has no value.

But, this incident is bigger than me. It is about Fiji. It is about leadership. It is about ensuring that our young people know what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. It is about being accountable for one’s actions and deeds, and everyone who was there knows in their hearts, what is right and wrong. I will leave that to their conscience to deal with.

I sleep very well at night, but those who are constantly manipulating all our systems and processes, to keep everybody else suppressed and on their knees have a huge weight on their shoulders to deal with. That is their burden to deal with. And we all have to answer for our actions one day.

Ladies and Gentlemen and party members — it is too easy to fall into despair and despondence, and just give up. But that is not what leadership is about. I am very aware that among our own Young Feds group and even in my own house, I have young people watching me intently, learning and possible even modelling my example. OUR EXAMPLE as a political party.

Because real leadership is about working even harder despite all the odds stacked against you, and staying true to what is right and what is just.

Certainly those are the values that attracted people like me to the party, where we stand on the wide and tall shoulders of our foremost party leader AD Patel, and of course Siddiq Koya, Harish Sharma and Justice Jai Ram Reddy.

So if there are any final words I can leave you with today it is this. Keep working, keep our hearts clean, keep hope alive.

Let’s get to work. I thank you.

NFP President assaulted by Prime Minister

Friday August 9, 2019

Friday August 9, 2019 will go down in the history of our nation as a shameful day when the Prime Minister of our nation, surrounded by his bodyguards,   twice assaulted a honourable Member of Parliament.

The incident happened around 11.40am when I was walking out of Parliament after moving and  replying to my Motion calling for a Special Parliamentary Committee to be established to look at the national problem of drugs in Fiji.

I had walked outside parliament when I heard the Prime Minister’s voice and he called out to me in i-taukei language “Pio, come here”.

I turned around walked back to him where he was within the precints of Parliament near his oficial vehicle surounded by his bodyguards. He started swearing at me in i-taukei language – swore at my mother and my father, and assaulted me. In the process he broke my pair of eye glasses. He then again warned me in i-taukei language “Qarauna tiko”  or Watch Out.

I then started walking up the parliamentary steps to go back into the House and report this to the Honourable Speaker. For the second time, the Prime Minister came up to me and assaulted me.

This is of course an act of downright cowardice and an act of thuggery. This act of violence was also witnessed by Honourable Qereqeretabua and members of our staff .

And worse – the PM’s bodyguards stod around him and did nothing to hold him back.

I regard this as the most shameful and dispicable act to have been carried out by  any Prime Minister in our independent history.  

An assault on any member of this house is an assault on our voters an assault on the sanctity of parliament and consequentially an assault on democracy. I am a member of the parliament of Fiji. I am a proud son of Fiji and I would not in earnest think of assaulting a member of this house—no matter how bad our disagreements.

After this, I will be going into the Totogo Police station to lodge an official police report. I will also be tendering a letter to the Speaker of the house of parliament to look into this very grave and serious matter. Violence in any form cannot be allowed to be perpetuated or condoned. I was assaulted in the presence of Hon. Qereqeretabua our youth members and members of the parliamentary staff.

This day of shame brought upon democracy in Fiji by the Leader of the nation must become a thing of the past.

AUTHORISED BY: –

Pio Tikoduadua

President

(The matter has been reported at Totogo Police Station this afternoon.)

NFP Leader Claims Government’s Dialysis is a broken promise

The National Federation Party says the Fiji First Government has miserably failed to fulfil its promise of providing funding for subsidised kidney dialysis to patients from low income families in three Divisions as announced in its budget last year.

The Party says kidney patients from families with combined annual income of less than $20,000  in the Western, Central Divisions and Eastern Divisions are being denied subsidised dialysis, with the only exception being the Northern Division.

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad also claims that the Party  has also established that the sole nephrologist in the country  Dr Amreesh Krishnan has resigned his position as a Consultant and the Head of the Nephrology Department at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital apparently  because of frustrating delays in the construction of the kidney specialist centre in Tamavua.

“Kidney patients from families with a combined income of less than $20,000 should have been eligible to have dialysis three times a week at a subsidised cost of $75 per session because Government had announced last year they would now reduce the cost of dialysis from as high as $250 per session”.

“Instead Government would provide dialysis at a cost of $150 at its hospitals and the new kidney centre but would subsidise treatment for patients from families with combined annual income of less than $20,000 per annum”.

“We have established that dialysis is being done at a cost of $150 per session at Labasa Hospital only and patients in the North from  families with incomes of less than $20,000 are being provided subsidised dialysis at a cost of $75 per session”.

“This means that patients from poor families in the Western, Central and Eastern Divisions are paying between $200 and $250 per session for dialysis to stay alive. This is unacceptable”.

“Earlier this year, the Health Minister told Parliament in response to a query from NFP Parliamentarian Lenora Qereqeretabua that a dialysis centre would open soon at Nadera.  But this hasn’t happened”.

“Similarly, Government is silent on how it intends to provide subsidised dialysis to patients in the Western  and Eastern Divisions”.

“Likewise, there is no word on why the completion of construction and equipping of the kidney centre at Tamavua is long overdue”.

“We are being inundated with pleas of help from relatives of patients with low incomes who go around trying to raise funds for their expensive treatment. We have ben reliably told that health professionals forced to use their salaries to fund treatment for emergency cases”.

“All government does is to issue permits for fundraising for dialysis instead of providing facilities for subsidised dialysis”.

“This leads us to seriously question whether government’s announcement in its budget last year  was an election gimmick following NFP’s announcement in July 2017 of providing free dialysis to all patients from families with less than $30,000 annual income”.

“We made this pledge following government’s repeated rejection of our motions to get it to increase budgetary allocation for dialysis from a meagre $300,000 to at least $3million”.

“But this government has left kidney patients to fend for themselves and in most cases forego  the normal requirement of three sessions a week and have only one dialysis treatment due to exorbitant costs”.

“And now we see the sole qualified nephrologist quitting the public healthcare and medical sector.”

“All this is a result of yet another broken promise by his patchwork Fiji First government”.

Nfp Questions Rarawai Mill Upgrade

Mill fiasco

The National Federation Party is asking the Fiji Sugar Corporation to reveal the truth about the state of preparedness of the Rarawai Sugar Mill which was barely operational for almost week since its since its launch of crushing more than 9 days ago on 9th July. NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad said despite a $9.3 million upgrade, the mill had crushed around 3,000 tonnes of cane until yesterday morning in a period of over 6 days till Monday.

Professor Prasad said while the mill finally started operating late Monday, the NFP was extremely concerned about the first six days of crushing that has caused huge losses to growers and growers. He claimed FSC was now behaving like the CSR (Colonial Sugar Refining Co Ltd), “hiding information even from the Tribunal about the lack of state of preparedness of the mill”. “The capacity of the mill is to crush around 5,000 tonnes of cane in a 24 hour period. But we believe it crushed about 3,000 tonnes in the last six days until Monday (15 July) morning”. “Therefore what was FSC Chief Executive Officer bragging about the efficient operation of the mill this season and the $9.3 million upgrade when he launched the start of crush last Tuesday (9 July)?” “ We also ask the FSC to reveal the truth on whether it defied the advice of the Rarawai mill management who had clearly stated that the mill wasn’t ready to start”. “In displaying their arrogance to show they knew what they were doing, the FSC CEO and his executive management team have caused severe losses to cane growers who had hired cane cutters and were forced to incur additional expenditure in contingency to provide for the cane cutters when the mill stopped crushing a few hours after the launch”.

“ As a result majority of the cane that was harvested had to be carted to Lautoka mill from the districts of Ba, Tavua and Rakiraki”. “While cane laden on lorries were taken to Lautoka and dumped before the cane started to dry, growers carting cane through rail network especially in Tavua have suffered further losses because of lengthy delays in hauling the laden rail carts to the mill”. “This is because cane laden on rail carts started to dry up after 2 days. And FSC won’t take responsibility to compensate the affected growers for loss of tonnage”. “We also ask why didn’t FSC carry out trials before start of crush as has been done before. FSC used to harvest and crush cane from its own estates for the pre-season trials before informing the Sugar Industry Tribunal about the state of preparedness of its mills”.

“In the case of Rarawai it would mean that FSC misled the Tribunal and other stakeholders especially growers by declaring Rarawai was ready for crushing”. “We also believe FSC has now engaged the services of experts from Australia to try and fix the ills plaguing Rarawai mill. This is wastage of funds that a technically insolvent FSC can ill-afford”. “ There is no use for FSC to hide behind the reason of it being a teething problem that it normally states. This is totally unacceptable”. “And while growers are suffering from this fiasco, the silence from the Prime Minister and Minister for Sugar is deafening”.

A Public Relations Disaster

National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad says Government’s handling of the mysterious death of the USA couple has been a public relations disaster.

Professor Prasad said Government’s public utterances on the tragedy created a public perception, especially in the minds of the couple’s families in USA that Government was devoid of any compassion and humanitarianism.

“Almost two months after the couple’s death, Government finally informed the couple’s families this week that their bodies would be repatriated”.

“This is after saying that they were going to cremate the husband as his body was rapidly decomposing”.

“This is despite the fact that their bodies were embalmed and ready to repatriated”.

“Undoubtedly, this has been a huge public relations disaster and will impact the tourism industry, particularly visitor numbers from the United States”.

“Once again Government’s taxpayers funded Qorvis communications, which has received millions of dollars over the past years, has failed to prevent this colossal failure of a patchwork government”

Authorised by NFP Leader, Biman Prasad

Bulitavu racially slurring Indo-Fijian women

July 5, 2019

SODELPA MP Mosese Bulitavu is racially slurring and demeaning Indo-Fijian women with his insulting comment that accuses rural Indo-Fijian women of committing adultery and therefore being murdered by their husbands.

This is reprehensible and despicable. As a lawyer Mr Bulitavu is trying to blame Indo-Fijian women for the heinous crime of murder, which he claims has spread to the i-Taukei community.

And he also goes onto to blame i-Taukei women for getting beaten up by their husbands who escape punishment because of the culture of bulubulu.

This is shameful. He has insulted our hardworking women – our mothers, daughters and sisters. He should hang his head in shame and publicly apologise to all women whose morality, character and credibility he has attacked.

Racial slurs and malicious attacks have no place in our society. At a time when every effort is being made for the social, economic and political advancement of women, Mr Bulitavu’s comment raises serious questions about his intention to racially denigrate women.

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

Leader

NFP Leader Hits out at efl ceo

“FACTS DON’T LIE”

The National Federation Party says Energy Fiji Limited Chief Executive Officer Hasmukh Patel is deliberately misleading the nation to seek a substantial hike in electricity tariff in a bid to attract a buyer for the company and help boost revenue for the cash-strapped government.

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad said Mr Patel’s statement that EFL had lost $100 million as a result of a reduction in tariffs was a lie.

“Because if it were the truth that Mr Patel wants the people of Fiji to believe, then he should do the honourable thing and resign as the company would have made such a huge loss under his leadership despite substantially increasing its revenue”.

“Who is he trying to fool? The Annual Reports from 2010-2018 of Fiji Electricity Authority and EFL clearly portray a different picture of the company making profits and paying dividend to government”.

“Even  Mr Patel, as CEO of FEA and later EFL is bragging about the profits in the Annual Reports  from 2010 to 2018 that we have perused”.

Professor Prasad said proof of what he was saying is Mr Patel’s   statement in the EFL Annual Report of 2018  when it made a staggering profit of $63.9 million and even paid a $20 million dividend to government from its 2017 profits.

Mr Patel said, “ It’s hard to imagine a better start for our newly-corporatised entity, Energy Fiji Limited, than a record third-straight year of over $70 million in gross profits for the company. After taxes, our net profit for 2018 stands at $63.9 million, a figure that keeps us well on track to deliver on our ambitious agenda to raise quality and access to affordable energy for the Fijian people”.

“But what should make us all most proud in 2018 is that this year was an historic year for the electrification of rural communities across the country. EFL spent a record $16.4 million to electrify rural communities, developing 86 rural electrification schemes for the benefit of over 2,600 Fijian households”.

HON PROF. BIMAN PRASAD – 2019/2020 BUDGET REPLY

Debate on the 2019-2020 Budget
Tuesday June 18, 2019
By NFP Leader Honourable Professor Biman Prasad

Mr. Speaker Sir, after listening to the contributions from the government side, and also from the opposition side, I’ve actually decided to put aside my budget notes for two reasons;

One, I have to respond to some of the issues raised by the government side.

But, I want to congratulate the Opposition side in fact, the contributions from the opposition side on specific issues backed with data, backed with evidence has been exemplary and my work.  

Now, Honourable Speaker, I hope the interjections are also slow from the other side. But first Honourable Speaker, the Honourable Prime Minister yesterday grossly misrepresented my paper 2010 where I actually talked about the Global Financial Crisis and how government at that time needed to adopt an expansionary fiscal policy.

But Honourable Speaker, that does not mean that the government continues with an expansionary policy beyond economic instability and let alone, continuing it for nine years. But that’s history. That is exactly what I also said in 2014 and in fact, I would say to the Prime Minister – actually I’m happy that he reads my papers! If the government side reads my budget speeches over the last four years, they will actually find an alternative budget being proposed in those very carefully crafted responses about what the government should do and should not do.

And, if they had taken that advice 5 years ago, we would not be in a situation that we are in right now. In fact Honourable Speaker, the government since two thousand and—they’ve won the election in two thousand fourteen that was the best time for them to consolidate the finances but they carried on in their campaign mode until two thousand eighteen.  You know spending money with –like l blindfolds and we are now caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Second Honourable Speaker, last night the Honourable government whip, Honourable Alvick Maharaj—quite despicably should I say attacked the opposition for supposedly making racist comments.

Especially in relation to cane growers and camouflaging it as cane growers of all ethnicities—and in fact, he took a swipe at NFP when he ignored that the President of the National Federation Party actually said that he disagreed with the comments that might have been implied by Honourable Kuridrani—and he goes to attack (inaudible due to interjections)

Honourable Speaker: Order, Order, Ord…

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: –and then, Honourable Maharaj then takes a swipe Honourable Bulanauca basically accusing him of distorting names and not calling the Prime Minister and Honourable Attorney General, “Honourable”.

Yet, he himself coined a shorter version of the name of the Leader of the Opposition and two other opposition M.Ps. It’s like a case of, “Pot calling the Kettle black”. I mean what Honourable Maharaj has –was uttering last night, Mr. Speaker is nothing new.

It’s a racial venom which was successfully used by the Fijifirst Party in the last election, in the last election!   You know if you look at the advertisements in the on.–(Inaudible…) racist advertisement, “a vote for Biman is a vote for Rabuka”—vote for SODELPA.

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: –you know they even created, Honourable Speaker, they even created fake news! Saying that Rabuka, Honourable Rabuka will take away the Diwali Holiday.

I mean these are the kind of lies and racial venom that many of them—I know some of them were going to temples and especially Indo-Fijian audiences and saying; “Areh you know you’ll be finished if Rabuka comes in and Biman supports him!” This is the kind of racist comments that they were trying to spew and create fear! 

Honourable Speaker: Order!

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: So, you know that the reality is, Honourable Speaker that the President was rightly made it very clear. That we do not support that kind of view on cane growers. But, Honourable Maharaj as many others on the other side you know get stuck to the script they are given. And continue attacking us unnecessarily. So in fact Honourable Maharaj should ask the Attorney General what they were doing in level nine.

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: and I was kind of wondering Honourable speaker that whether he was—he got the low hanging fruits or he got the venomous fruit which he’s spewing now.

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: anyway Honourable Speaker, let me get to the budget. But before that, let me say this again, you know I’ve sad this before; That this is a government—not every one of them, in fact there are many of them Honourable Speaker this side; they privately tell you how dismayed they are, how nobody is consulting them—how they are given speeches to read…

But, obviously you know we have created—you know this is a party which is suffering from a culture of sycophancy and servility. You know we don’t need advice from sycophants I think, you know? But, let me say this; you know this is a government which is suffering from cognitive dissonance. You know it’s a disease where you begin to believe everything that you do—even if the reality is staring at your face, you don’t believe it.

And when somebody shows you the reality, you get very angry, you attack them, you personalize them, you say you know, “this guy is not fit” – this is what they do. But, let me come back to the budget Honourable Speaker.

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: We remembered the two thousand and eighteen budget as the one where government ran out of ideas. But we will remember definitely the two thousand nineteen, twenty budget as the one where government has run out of money.

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: Listening to the budget speech, Honourable Speaker, I really felt sorry for the Honourable Economy Minister.

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: He looked like a man who didn’t want to be in the house that day, and he looked like a man who didn’t want to talk about the budget. So he did talk about the opposition, he talked

about the National Bank of Fiji, he talked about school gardening competition, he talked about how children jump on milk cartons. But, he did not talk why the government has no money. Not once did he say to the people of Fiji what he should be saying on behalf of the government and on behalf of the Prime Minister, “Sorry!. I’m sorry that after years of spending your money to get your votes, there’s no money left.

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: I’m sorry that in this financial year, my tax collections fell one billion dollars short. I’m sorry that because Fiji is now so far in debt I must now cut spending on education, health and basic services.

I’m sorry to the tourism industry! I’m sorry that even though they compose a large part of the whole economy, our taxes are damaging the economy—but I cannot afford to reduce the taxes. I’m sorry to the lowest paid workers that we promised that we will review the minimum wages and now we’re taking more time and more time.

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: Honourable Speaker, the Honourable Minister blames the people, he blames the students who wanted to study away from their home towns. He accused parents for free riding on buses using the children’s student card.

He blamed the children cashing the parent’s welfare checks. Why is he blaming the people? Why is he blaming the people? Because he needs an excuse to cut the government’s spending. He says to the people. “It’s not my fault. It’s your fault!”

This is what this government is about. When things are good, it’s always about what they did. But, when things are bad, it is always about somebody else’s fault. I also heard the Prime Minister, I also heard some of the Ministers talk about how we’re doing this because there is a, “slow-down in the global economy” I don’t know Honourable Speaker where do they get that. 

Of course the IMF says there might be a slow-down but, let me just give you an example; this an Economist magazine—latest issue. It says, “The greatest job boom”. It says, “in 2018 the employment raised among people of working age was the highest ever in Britain, Canada, Germany, Australia and twenty-two other OECD countries.” You know, this is the kind of lies and misinformation that they want to spread to cover up for the mismanagement of the economy for the last ten or twelve years.

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: it states; I’ll read you this, “Across the rich world, an extraordinary jobs boom is under way” this is May this year, “Across the rich world, an extraordinary jobs boom is under way”. But, anyway Honourable Speaker, I said in the last budget that the government was, “spending money like drunks in a nightclub” and I remember one person in the social media who criticized my statement and this is what he said Mr. Speaker—he said,

“You are being unfair to drunks. At least drunks spend their own money” –and he’s right! Because the (inaudible…) the people’s money to keep themselves in power. They have brought themselves into power by using the people’s money for their propaganda and using the people’s money to hand out freebies to them. Mr. Speaker, like every confidence trick, when you borrow and spend, and take photographs opening roads and bridges, and handing out SME grants –things look great for a while, but look where we are now.

This year, the money has run out! Let me give you an example. Let me give you –this is from their own Fiscal Supplement: One Billion dollars reduction in expenditure. Honourable Speaker, One billion dollars! This is not a small adjustment. But, last year this government projected that they will collect 4.2 billion dollars revenue. They actually collected 3.2 billion –this is an estimate. This year, they are projecting that they are going to collect 3.4 billion dollars revenue.

Yet, you’ve reduced expenditure by a billion dollars. In fact, last year the economy was growing because there was all this reckless spending going on in the economy. And now, they’re saying that we will collect more revenue from what they collected last year. They’re reducing the economy, they are contracting the economy, and they are hoping that they will collect instead of $3.2 billion  they’ll collect $3.4 billion dollars revenue.

That is why Honourable Speaker, this budget has so many holes. In fact, the Ministers on the other side. I mean I, feel sorry for them because they all talked about what they will going to do with the budget allocation if you go by what they collected with the growth in the economy last year, last financial year then what are they going to collect?

There is no way Honourable Speaker that they can collect 3.4 billion dollars revenue that is projected. So what, will be the effect? What will be the effect? The effect will be that the economy will contract further and further. Honourable Speaker, the –one of the funnier parts of the Honourable Minister’s speech was about the National Bank of Fiji. Yes! It was a disaster.

They sold the telecommunications network. Twenty three years after that we are in the same situation. We don’t have the telecommunications network but the debt level that this government has put upon itself; now they might be selling the electricity network. That is the reality. And what they have been doing is setting up the stage to actually sell FEA. I know they tried to sell FEA. There are number of people you know wanting to –they were on the list of people who were interested on buying FEA. None of them bought FEA. So now, the Minister is engaged in raising the tariff he’s already said that the tariff will be increased when the consultations are—

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: You were quoted! You said that.

Honourable Professor Biman Prasad: Honourable Speaker. Let me –before I conclude Honourable Speaker, let me say something about the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service. If you go to its website Mr. Speaker, you will see that its vision is to be a world class revenue service. Instead, as the government runs out of money, it has become more like a world class Mafia organization.

Hundreds of businesses large and small are being harassed. If there’s one small mistake, FRCS demands a $50,000 fine. FRCS auditors are running around issuing ridiculous tax assessments.  They’re doing it all in a rush because they have to find money for the government. They are not listening to taxpayer’s explanations Mr. Speaker. Government bureaucracy is not the only threat to foreign investment, FRCS is a major problem. In most well-run economies the tax agency is a trusted regulator. People may not like paying taxes but they respect the agency in Fiji, the FRCS gets more and desperate to collect money. It has lost the respect of the business community, it has become one more disaster on Fiji’s investment horizon.

Honourable Speaker, it is time to stop pretending that this government has created a sustainable economy. This is not a successful economy, Mr. Speaker. This is not a strong economy. It is a mediocre economy fueled by debt and hopelessly distorted by regulation and worst to come—and even though the facts are staring at the government in the face, the government refuses to acknowledge it. It refuses to warn the people that hard times are ahead—it has no solutions. It is happy to cut spending now because it does not have to worry about an election.

Mr. Speaker, this government is loud and boastful when things are going well. But when things are beginning to go bad, it does not want to talk about it. That shows only this government’s lack of courage and its lack of care for the poorest in our society who in the coming year will be the hardest hit.

Mr. Speaker, no one rejoices in warning that tough economic times lie ahead. But the next two years, are going to be extremely difficult for our people. We are about to find out what happens when the government’s political spending party is over. When economic confidence is gone, the government has no solutions. And it does not have the courage to talk about the problems.

Honourable Speaker, this is truly a government that has lost the moral authority to lead us. And this is what the people are about to find. Honourable Speaker, confidence in an economy is very important, very important. Confidence in an economy important. What people didn’t do today or what people expect to happen in the future, determines what people do today. This government does not like the truth.

In fact, you will inspire confidence Honourable Speaker, by telling the truth about the economy. By telling honestly what the problems have been in the economy. If you keep on hiding, the people are not as stupid as the government might think. The business people out there understand what’s happening in the economy. The bank managers know what’s happening in the economy.

These are the people are listening to us here and they have a government which is continuously trying to paint a rosy picture when the reality on the ground is something very different. And that is not going to inspire confidence in our investors in our people Honourable Speaker and that is why I’m saying we need to be truthful.

In fact Honourable Prakash was right when he concluded, we need the truth about the economy. We need transparent, accountable processes through which we can hold the government accountable—and this is what the people want.

People are listening to the speeches from the government side and they’re out there looking the businesses. Looking at what FRCS does, looking at the regulations, looking at difficulty in getting a business license. And they’re saying; what? What is this government all about? That is the point I want to make Honourable Speaker. Thank you.

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HON PIO TIKODUADUA – 2019/2020 BUDGET REPLY

Reply to the 2019-2020 Budget
Monday, June 17, 2019
By NFP President & Parliamentary Whip Hon Pio Tikoduadua

Mr Speaker Sir, I am reminded of four words used by the Honourable Minister for Economy in Parliament, while either presenting National Budgets or in his right of reply after debate in this august chamber, both during the last term as well as the current term of Parliament.

The four words are:  – intellectual rigour and social amnesia.


They remind me of Cyndy Lauper’s famous hit:“Time after Time” from the 80s.

The  second line in verse 1 is, and I quote, but shall not sing:

“Caught up in circles, confusion is nothing new”.

Again Mr Speaker – “Caught up in circles, confusion is nothing new”.

This is what this “Boom for Whom? Budget” is all about.

It is about being caught up in circles. It is about confusion. And tragically, it is about NOTHING NEW — just a rehash of the old and a vain attempt to muddy the water with high-tech convolution that will not feed hungry mouths..

Mr Speaker, allow me to quote from Hansard, the Honourable Minister  for Economy’s concluding remarks from his right of reply on 11th July 2017 to the 2017-18 Budget where he said: “The Fijian economy is forecasted to grow for eight consecutive years, and this Budget is expected to further boost business confidence, increase investments and provide the right impetus for higher growth, more inclusive and sustainable, more jobs for our people and our younger people and higher incomes. But the Opposition, unfortunately, is incomplete denial”. – Unquote

In July 2017, the Honourable Minister said the Opposition was in denial. Maybe, he meant the Opposition will be annihilated when it came to voting because Government dominated Parliament.

Mr Speaker, But almost two years later Government is up against a brick wall – both in terms of parliamentary opposition – as well as the clear evasion of ideas, excelling only in successfully confusing  taxpayers with pie-in-the-sky theories.

Quite simply, this Budget is not about boosting business confidence, increasing investments and providing the right impetus for higher growth. It is not about more inclusive and sustainable jobs for our people and our younger people and higher incomes.

This Budget will not reduce the cost of living. This Budget doesn’t provide incentives to increase wages and salaries based on Cost Of Living Adjustment, of ordinary workers as well as civil servants to sustain rising prices of all goods and services.

This Budget will not provide a decent and meaningful increase to the minimum wage to make it a living wage. This Budget is all about  replicating the status-quo of our sugar industry, which has suffered a 50% downturn in the last 12 years under the Bainimarama Boom.

And this Budget is also slowly but surely killing the goose that is laying golden egg – our tourism industry – by continuing to impose 25% taxes that is outpricing the industry compared to lucrative Asian destinations like Bali.

Mr Speaker, essentially this Budget  presents the question: A Boom for Whom? 

A picture relays a thousand words. At Fiji’s largest medical facility, the Colonial War Memorial Hospital, a wooden block is used as a stopper to prevent someone from locking him or herself in the washroom.

And most shamefully, an IV or intravenous tube is used as a lock to tie the door for what little privacy that any user can get.

This picture is emblematic of thethe sad state of our hospitals, roads and even schools.

It epitomizes the high falluting values of common and equal citizenry, now simply reduced it to a door that is hurriedly cobbled together with an IV tubeI now want to dwell on this most important issue in anyone’s life and critically important element in any government’s delivery of smart and efficient health care.

Mr Speaker, I have raised this matter twice before in this august Chamber. I have seen this broken door in the Acute Men’s Medical Ward at Colonial War Memorial Hospital since February 2018 when I was hospitalized. At that time it was only broken. More than 16 months later, instead of being repaired the door has further disintegrated. That door tragically heralds our gradual immersion into third world country staus.

Then Mr Speaker, there is this picture of broken and missing ceiling above the storage area of patients’ records.

Something is seriously wrong. If the Government cannot even fix a broken door or replace a missing ceiling in the largest medical facility in the country, how on God’s green earth can it fix an economy and improve the livelihoods of all our people?

How can it ensure that the rights and fundamental freedoms contained in the Bill of Rights of the 2013 Constitution are upheld at all times? Because from what we see, this Government is spiraling more towards the Limitations in the Bill of Rights, rather than actually upholding these rights

Mr Speaker Section 38 (1) of the 2013 Constitution (Right to health) states, “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) 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”.

Mr Speaker, the State cannot claim not to have resources to fix the door of the lone washroom used by patients in the Acute Medical Ward that has remained broken for the last 16 months!

The State has the resources to provide $10 million to host the ADB Conference. This Government has millions of dollars to lease top of the range vehicles from Vision Motors. This Government has the resources to pay the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers salaries, perks and privileges that are thoroughly over-proportionate to the size of the national economy.

Yet, Mr Speaker, this Government cannot to pay a decent living national wage to our workers, cannot fix a washroom door that forces  patients having shower, to simultaneously hold on to an IV tube that prevents somebody else from barging in!

Can you imagine? Well that is probably a rhetorical question as the Government side DO NOT HAVE TO imagine it because it is very likely that they enjoy healthcare treatment overseas. But in that moment, an individual in a high state of vulnerability trying to heal from an illness, cannot even be guaranteed safety and dignity in that washroom — all because of a door, or lack thereof.

It would be helpful if the relevant Minister could address some other observations of mine under his mandate:

  1. Is the cafeteria area at CWM being used as a make-shift ward for patients because other spaces including corridors are over-crowded with beds?
  2. Why is the outpatients department at the children’s ward closed?
  3. Why are cancer support to groups like WOWS (Walk On Walk Strong) Kids Fiji (WKF) a non-profit Charity Foundation for children with cancer in Fiji not being allocated funds to do the precious job that they do to support parents and families and the children suffering from cancer — the numbers of which are rising too!
  4. Why has the Kidney Dialysis Treatment Subsidy been culled from $3.5M last year to a mere $200,000 this year — who from the Ministry will play God and decide who lives or dies from going without dialysis because of such a shameful allocation? Is it the Minister? Or will it be the Messiah?
  5. What measures were taken to ensure the recent boiler fire did not spread to the fuel pump and oxygen line in close proximity?
  6. Is the Ministry re-evaluating the safety requirements to ensure such an incident in future doesn’t result in catastrophic consequences?
  7. Is it true that medical students and those doing post-graduate medicine studies arenot allowed to enhance their learning with doctors on duty during normal hours – as has been the practice for decades?
  8. Is HIV/AIDs medication stock in full supply now especially for those needing “second line” medication?
  9. Why are our dearly departed not being honoured in the mortuary and in many instances bodies lined up on the floor, creating doubly distressing situations for grieving families?

Mr Speaker, the public private partnership of the new Ba Hospital was hailed as a success by the Honourable Minister for Economy. But his statement early this year that the new hospital will start operations in June or July 2019, is one of the many instances of being “economical with the truth” — quite akin to his budget.

The hospital, we know, is going to be managed by Aspen that has partnered FNPF, albeit with 20% shares in the company created to manage Lautoka and Ba hospitals.

But we are reliably told that the Aspen has revealed that the hospital will not open in 2019. It will start operations in 2020 and there is no guarantee which part of 2020 that will be. We are also told that Aspen will not carry out additional works at the hospital despite it costing $30m to build and being labelled as a state or the art facility.

We further understand that Aspen could bill government to pay their costs of being a healthcare provider. And there are indications the the PPP hospital will not provide specialized surgeries as claimed.

The budget estimates show that the Health Budget has been reduced by $34.5 million compared to the last financial year, despite moving the salaries of Doctors from the Ministry of Civil Service allocation across this year.  As with all things, while the door analogy frames the reality of the optics, the NUMBERS proof is in the pudding of the hyped up narrative. The Estimates show the deeply dire picture that the public health services allocation for staffing has been slashed from $3.095 Million to about $370,000. While the divisional allocations for staffing have also had major cuts, all in the millions.

The Minister for Economy’s pre-emptive rationalisation in the media that civil servants will have to multi-task and that cuts were due to HR people padding the figures do not cut it There will be job losses across the board — the numbers do not lie.

That, however will the cross of the Minister for Health to bear. He has to defend his allocation. He will have to face distressed, anguished and maybe angry staff and taxpayers who will expect more than a door when clearly there are no funds for it. This the reality of what the REAL ECONOMISTS mean when they say “reduced expenditure”. The ability of the Government to spend money to provide for services that people expect, is simply not there.

Mr Speaker, the Republic of Fiji Military Forces Budget has been reduced by $7.3 million.

I note that the staffing provisions in the RFMF have also taken cuts except the naval and hydrography divisions. Understandably so because,  of the acquisition of RFNS Volasiga and RFNS Savenace and the hydrography vessel from China, RFNS Kacau. The disconnect however, is that the fuel and oil allocations for both activities do not match these acquisitions. Are we to expect from story of these numbers that while the naval and hydrography vessels will be fully manned, it will not actually do much out there on the water because it is crippled by lack of fuel?

The RFMF Commander publicly stated that buildings which housed RFMF operations were very old and needed replacing. He said this would be put on hold and hopefully they will be allocated resources when the economy is well again next year.

Mr. Speaker, the RFMF Commander’s statement implied that the economy is not doing well and that is why their Budget has been reduced.

This government decided to entrench RFMF’s role as the ultimate guarantor of national security of all Fijians under Section 131(2) of the 2013 Constitution. All ordinary Fijians should now ask whether RFMF is capable of guaranteeing their peace and security after trimming itsbudget.

Mr Speaker, I recall that less than 10 days before the general elections in November last year, the Honourable Prime Minister was asked on FBC Radio Fiji One talkback show Na Cava na GDP – What is GDP? He replied -GDP na Dinau – GDP is debt.

Mr Speaker, the Honourable PM must be commended for being forthright. He was absolutely right in saying GDP na Dinau because year in and year out, GDP has been inflated to borrow heavily  and to show that debt level is less than 50% to GDP and declining.

But we know from this Budget that this has been a cooking exercise – no doubt perfected by 48 hours of Level Nine-ing at Suvavou House last December to discuss strategies like low hanging fruits – according to the Honourable Attorney General.

All this has happened and is happening under the much touted Bainimarama Boom by the Honorable Minister for Economy while the Honourable Prime Minister told FBC news it was Boom, Boom, Boom!. Maybe he meant Kaboom because that  is exactly what it is!

All happening under the leadership of the Honourable PM and his right-hand man the Honourable Attorney General who told the electorate last October that not voting for Honourable PM Bainimarama would mean putting a dagger to their necks.

It appears the dagger is slashing everybody’s wallets except those of the Ministers, who freely help themselves to taxes but fail to follow through in its basic obligations of government services.

But the honourable Attorney General and his leader still think they are the chosen ones on the face of an economy staggering towards a steep decline.

My way or the highway, playing the blame game has been the hallmark  of this Government for over 12 years.

But the smokescreen has disappeared. The state of our nation and the current patch-work government, and doors hanging by IV tubes are all to visible to all.

This Budget must not further oppress and enslave the people of Fiji and I oppose the 2019-2020 Appropriation Bill.

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

-END-