Maiden Speech to Parliament by Hon Prem Singh

MAIDEN SPEECH

PARLIAMENT OF FIJI

THURSDAY OCTOBER 16, 2014

BY HON PREM SINGH

 Madam Speaker, I join other Honourable Members in thanking His Excellency the President for his most gracious speech.

His Excellency has had a long and distinguished career, serving Fiji in many capacities. Personally, I became well acquainted with him during my 11-month term as Leader of the Opposition between October 2001 and September 2002, when he was the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Firstly Madam Speaker, I wish to correct some misconceptions in the Honourable Attorney General’s maiden speech this morning.

The Honourable Attorney General named NFP stalwarts and founding fathers of the 1960’s saying if they were in Parliament they would be sitting on Government benches. Those Members were giants of their time in the ability, understanding and perception of the problems facing Fiji.

They would have never, Madam Speaker, supported a coup or benefited from one.

I am also amused at the Attorney General’s suggestion that voters mistook number 297 for 279 in the recent elections and had those votes gone to 279, NFP would not have been in Parliament.

There is something seriously flawed in the A-G’s mathematics because even if it happened, it would not have made any difference whatsoever to our percentage because the total votes cast would have remained the same. If that is the quality of his mathematics, then I shudder to think about his performance as Minister for Finance in charge of the nation’s purse strings.

But Madam Speaker the serious aspect of the honourable minister’s observation here is that if that were indeed the case then many thousands of voters have committed similar errors. For example voters who intended to vote for 155 voted in error for number 255, leading to the obvious conclusion that the open list system of election is seriously flawed. Under a closed list system the voters would not have made such errors.

Madam Speaker, I also congratulate you on your election as the first woman Speaker and am hopeful that under your stewardship, Parliament will maintain dignity and decorum for the next four years. The election of Marama Bale Roko Tui Dreketi Honourable Ro Teimumu Kepa as the first woman Leader of the Opposition is also historic and both positions go a long way towards the political empowerment of women in Fiji.

As stated earlier by the Leader of the NFP, the people of this country have spoken and elected their government. I also wish Honourable Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama and wish him and his government well for the next 4 years.

I also wish to thank Team NFP, my campaign team (they know who they are), my wife and my children for their extremely hard work during the election campaign. I also offer my gratitude to the team of experts from UNDP for their invaluable assistance towards the restoration of our parliamentary democracy.

Madam Speaker, I return to Parliament after my controversial exit 12 years ago. But this pales into insignificance when compared to the absence of parliamentary democracy in our nation for a total of 14 years since the start of the coup culture in this very chamber 27 years ago on 14th May 1987.

Madam Speaker, His Excellency the President reminded us of the events of 14th May 1987 when the then Royal Fiji Military Forces removed the NFP/FLP Coalition government of Dr Timoci Uluivuda Bavadra. In the process, His Excellency was also usurped as the Commander of RFMF in his absence.

He also rightly pointed out in his address that the cycle of instability that plagued our nation and retarded its development must never be repeated.

Madam Speaker the overbearing stench of coups has overpowered our nation in the last 27 years. His Excellency the President in reference to the first coup of 1987 said and I quote, “It was the first of four disruptions to elected government and the beginning of a cycle of instability that has plagued our nation” – Unquote

These, Madam Speaker, are pertinent questions that must be addressed because His Excellency the President categorically stated that the cycle of instability caused by coups must never be repeated. On this we agree with His Excellency.

As honourable members, we must frankly acknowledge that the four coups were nothing but power-grab at gunpoint that retarded the nation if we are to herald in a new era of unity and purpose as stated by His Excellency the President.

We cannot be enslaved in the past but Madam Speaker, we must truthfully acknowledge our mistakes of the past and the cardinal sins and treasonous acts of the last 27 years, and move on to work collectively in the national interest.

There is no justice without compensation but in this case those personally, physically, psychologically and financially aggrieved by the 2006 coup cannot seek compensation from Government or the Court due to the watertight measures of the various Decrees and the Constitution totally preventing them from doing so.

There is no denying that many people have suffered the hurt, discrimination and isolation over the last 27 years. It is our responsibility as a Parliament and indeed as a nation to put all of this behind us. We can only do this through a process of Truth and Reconciliation and I sincerely hope that the Government considers this seriously. There are good examples around the world from which we can learn.

Madam Speaker, His Excellency spoke about Government’s commitment to provide free prescribed medication to those earning less that $20,000 per annum. We commend this but at the same time point out that our extremely poor health service is a blight on our nation.

There is no other way to put it. Go to any hospital in the country and you will see the pathetic conditions.

Even the expectation of clean and hygienic conditions at our hospitals is just too high an expectation is buried when one visits a public hospital is like a mirage on the horizon. An example of the deteriorating health system is that the blood testing machine at the Lautoka Hospital has not been functioning for the last 3 weeks. This week the Lautoka Hospital ran out of morphine tablets given to patients to ease their severe pain. This is totally unacceptable.

Government needs to pay immediate attention to this chronic problem.

Madam Speaker, Fiji needs a comprehensive health care modernization program. Such health care modernization program should place our citizens at the heart of rebuilding health care.

Government should ensure medical care that is focused on compassion, respect and dignity life for all our citizens. Regardless of age and place of residence, citizens must have access to decent health care. To achieve this, a Personalized Health Care framework is needed.

Funding must be committed to ensure that Fiji has well-placed and well-resourced team of medical workers. Our citizens should know that in hospitals, they will be seen by doctors within a specified time and not wait endlessly.

Madam Speaker, Public provision of health care in Fiji is a foundation on which this country is built. Investing in health is investing in our future.

I come from the cane belt and have been a cane farmer all my life. Unfortunately, there has been no mention of the sugar industry in Government’s plan for the ensuing year that was outlined by His Excellency.

Madam Speaker, the sugar industry has weathered many storms for over a 100 years when it was the mainstay of our economy. But our sugar industry has been staggering for the last 8 years. This is not an exaggeration.

Madam Speaker the reality, that is the decline of the industry is reflected by the following statistics: –

Year/Season Number of active Growers Total Cane Crushed Total Sugar Production Tonnes of Cane required to make one tonne of sugar (TCTS) Price paid to Growers (Per tonne of cane)
2006 18,636 3.226m 310,140 10.4 $58.60
2007 18,791 2.478m 237,418 10.44 $59.65
2008 18,683 2.321m 207,966 11.16 $59.70
2009 17,762 2.247m 167,611 13.4 $56.59
2010 16,827 1.778m 131,506 13.5 $45.67
2011 16,259 2.096m 167,000 12.55 $54.87
2012 13,000 1.546m 154,813 10 $81.82
2013 13,000 1.608m 180,000 9.1 $82.12

Madam Speaker, the number of active growers have fallen by more than 5,000 since the coup until 2013. Cane production fell by 1.618 million tonnes from 2006. Sugar production fell by 130,140 tonnes. This is the unmistakable reality.

The deteriorating state of the sugar industry is also largely linked to the problems faced by cane farmers. And the problems of the farmers remain largely unresolved. The SCGC was tinkered with and the legitimate authority usurped, spearheaded by the unlawful sacking of the SCGC Chief Executive Officer.

Almost three years later in 2009, the SCGC was scrapped, which meant that the last remaining democratically elected institution comprising of elected representatives of the cane growers was abolished.

Farmers, however still continue to pay levy to the SCGC through deduction from their proceeds to fund its operational expenditure. The SCGC now is basically like a toothless tiger, unable to effectively raise the concerns of the farmers, let alone find meaningful solutions to their common problems.

Madam Speaker, Some of the basic problems faced by cane farmers are: –

(i)          Land tenure. Failure to renew majority of expiring land leases has been a contributing factor to declining cane production.

(ii)        Rising cost of cane production, harvesting and delivery. The average cost of cane production, harvesting and delivery was $45.50 per tonne of cane.

The cost includes hiring of farm labourers and cane cutters during harvesting season, purchase of a 50kg bag of fertilizer at a price of $31.50, weedicides, land preparation for new crop such as ploughing and harrowing, and delivery of cane by lorry due to the state of decay of the rail system. Cane farming has become a non-profitable business for at least 70% of farmers who produce only 30% of the total cane crop while 30% of farmers produce 70% of the crop.

Madam Speaker, since 2009, Government has pumped in $220 million into the Fiji Sugar Corporation. And since 2009, cane farmers have received a meagre $36 million through Government subsidies on fertilizer, cane planting and repair of cane access roads.

Madam Speaker, the European Union had earmarked a total of $265 million in planned assistance between 2007 and 2013 to help Fiji adapt to globalization and to lower prices of sugar exports to the EU due to the total withdrawal of preferential prices by 2009.

This grant was lost. It was aimed at economic diversification in the sugar sector and to provide assistance for social impact mitigation measures for displaced farmers who could not meet their increased cane production targets.

If the coup hadn’t destroyed democracy, Fiji could have now been producing around 4 million tonnes of cane and manufacturing around 400,000 tonnes of sugar. The sugar industry would have been salvaged.

Fiji and the cane farmers are poorer for the loss of the EU grant. We urge the Honourable Prime Minister, who is the Minister for Sugar and the Minister for Foreign Affairs to negotiate with the European Union to salvage the grant or what remains of it.

Alternatively Madam Speaker, Government needs to invest between $250 -$300 million in the industry, specially targeted at farmers to revitalize the confidence of cane farmers. There is no other way.

Madam Speaker, The Government is urging farmers to plant more cane but this will not become a reality unless Government injects substantial funding towards our farmers by way of paying premiums to TLTB for land lease renewals or acquisition of new leases. Furthermore, Government must announce in the Budget a 50% subsidy for farmers for the purchase of weedicides and farm inputs. And most importantly, farmers need financial security and a minimum guaranteed price of $85 per tonne would be an ideal way to offer them his security.

Madam Speaker, Fiji’s leadership have to emulate the wisdom and vision of those who put national interest above personal and political advancement if they genuinely believe in their philosophy of a united, harmonious and stable Fiji. The three issues that I have highlighted will never be resolved if we cannot rise above narrow and parochial interests.

We have two shining examples of the oppressor and the oppressed casting their differences aside and coming together in the national interest. Sitiveni Rabuka and Jai Ram Reddy in Fiji ; F W De Clerk and Nelson Mandela in South Africa prevailed because the vast majority of the citizens of their respective countries willed that it be so.

They put aside mistrust, fear and hatred that had gripped their respective nations for many years. They defied all odds and did the unthinkable. They prevailed because they genuinely believed in a common future and genuine reconciliation.

Similarly, all honourable members have to cast aside our political differences. The barrel of a gun, alienation of political rivals, entrenchment of discord, fear and mistrust has not succeeded anywhere in the world. Fiji is no exception.

Thank you and may God bless Fiji

 

 

MAIDEN SPEECH BY NFP LEADER PARLIAMENT OF FIJI Hon. BIMAN PRASAD

MAIDEN SPEECH BY NFP LEADER PARLIAMENT OF FIJI
Hon. BIMAN PRASAD WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2014

Madam Speaker, I join honourable Members of Parliament in thanking his Excellency our President for his most gracious speech.

On behalf of the NFP; I also thank him for setting the tone of this parliament by reminding us of responsibility that Government and the Opposition share in charting the next phase of our history.

Madam Speaker, our people have spoken. They have elected their government for the next four years. We wish the Prime Minister Honourable Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama and his government well for the next four years.

Madam Speaker, I join the whole country in congratulating you on your election as our speaker. As the first woman Speaker of this House; your appointment will also serve as an inspiration to women across our country to reach for greater heights.

I also extend the NFP’s congratulations to Marama Bale Roko Tui Dreketi Honourable Ro Teimumu Kepa as the Leader of the Opposition; following on from the late Mrs Irene Jai Narayan of the National Federation Party as Deputy Opposition Leader, again a first for women in our country.

I also congratulate the Secretary-General of Parliament, Mrs Viniana Namosimalua, her Deputy, and all the Honourable women Members of Parliament.

Madam Speaker, I also again congratulate Honourable Tupou Draunidalo on her appointment as the President of the oldest political party in the South Pacific, the National Federation Party.

Madam Speaker, I extend our thanks to both the Benches in sending such a strong signal towards empowerment of women. Our country will move forward only if women and men work together honestly and equally. We are hopeful that this rare line up of talent will ensure that all government programs and laws are given detailed scrutiny for their positive impact on women and girls.

The NFP will work with you in ensuring that there is a renewed national urgency in dealing with issues that affect women especially; ranging from their serious under-represetation at top levels of civil service; to the growing incidence of domestic violence; to the painful reality of extreme poverty in which tens of thousands of women currently live in.

After 8 painful years, parliamentary democracy has returned to Fiji. It is fitting that the restoration of parliamentary democracy coincides with a period of festivity – having just celebrated Eid; and heading to celebrate Diwali. Our men led so ably led by Osea Kolinisau have already given the nation an early Christmas cheer. We have much to celebrate.

We do have much to celebrate in our return to parliamentary democracy.

Madam Speaker; to those who have had the privilege to be elected to this parliament; let me say; we have two obligations at the core of our role as MP’s. First, we have to make our democracy work; and second, we have to make our democracy work for our people.

Madam Speaker, what do I mean by that?

To make our democracy work; we need to ensure that our citizens and their organizations are able to freely comment, support and when needed criticize policies and programs being debated by this House. They need to know that our media will amplify their voices and ensure that their voices are directly heard by us. This way we will know how citizens feel about and experience government policies and programs. Our democracy will grow from this new openness.

Second, we need to make our democracy work for our people. The Honourable Prime Minister called for our support to his program for Government. We will extend that support. In extending that support, we will hold the Honourable Prime Minister to his own words.

The Honourable Prime Minister has promised a better future for our youth. We will ask that he show to this House how his programs will impact on creating jobs for our young. We will ask that he shows how his programs will contribute to increasing their incomes when in employment. Through this constructive exchange; we expect that the Government’s programs will become sharper and more impactful.

Madam Speaker, the composition of our House shows that while this House represents our return to parliamentary democracy; our democracy remains work in progress.

The fact that a vast majority of MP’s on Opposition Benches are ITaukei draws attention to the fact that institutions, laws and programs that affect ITaukei communities in specific ways need to be reviewed and consensus built around some of these issues.

As a party the NFP fought the general elections on specific issues. Team NFP had 49 men and women of integrity, honesty, and qualified to serve the people of Fiji. We did not campaign along racial and religious lines or promote lies and deceit.

We thank our members, supporters and well-wishers for placing their trust in us. We did not win any seats in the 1999 and 2006 general elections.

Madam Speaker, it is therefore a matter of some pride that the NFP is back in Parliament with 3 seats. We were here in this fine building during the Legislative Council era led by the late A D Patel in the 1960’s. Then the NFP raised issue of the need for a pensions institution for our workers.

We were here represented by the late Siddiq Koya when we extended our support to transition to full independence.

We were here when under the leadership of now retired international jurist Jai Ram Reddy when the country made considerable progress economically and socially in the 1970s and early 1980s.

We were here when that progress was painfully derailed by the start of the debilitating cycle of coups.

We are here today to help put that last 27 years of suffering behind us; heal our nation and move on to find our greatness and our rightful place as the leader of the South Pacific.

We had, like other parties contested to form government. We have fallen short. But this takes nothing away from the heroic effort led by the greatest team of volunteers in the country – the Team NFP. A heartfelt thanks to Team NFP.

We are represented by three MP’s today. Their election speaks of the resilience of the principles of fairness, equality and social justice. These principles have defined the National Federation Party inside this House and outside for all 51 years of its existence.

Madam Speaker, and Honourable Members; these are the principles that we offer to the Government to take our country forward and help it realize its full potential.

Madam Speaker,

When necessary we will criticize government’s policies. When we shall do so, it will not be for the sake of doing so, but because we in our considered view are able to provide credible alternatives.

Madam Speaker, we understand that change requires time. More than time; change requires perseverance. Growing up as a young adult in uncertain post-coup times, when my identity and religious convictions were challenged, I could in despair have packed up and left. I did not. I did not do so because I believe that we can change things for the better. This belief is at the core of my values.

I did not resign as Professor of Economics to pursue politics as a career. I joined politics with a deep conviction that through collective action and perseverance we can change things in Fiji for the better; however difficult the obstacles might be.

My upbringing has taught me the virtues of truth, righteousness. These values are highlighted especially during the Diwali festivities. But I have also grown up realizing that that the way to truth and righteousness can be a tortuous route to doing good.

Politics to me is extension of these values – through slow and deliberate collective action on that path of truth and righteousness; we pursue and seek solutions to the great problems in our national life.

Madam Speaker, As tradition dictates, His Excellency the President outlined Government’s policies for the ensuing year.

The high cost of living, the decline of the sugar industry, the crippling effects of the drought, rising unemployment, 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 are fundamental problems that can only be resolved through leadership; collective action and perseverance.

We have been sent to this House to solve these problems. We have very little to celebrate in our parliamentary democracy when a third of our people live in extreme poverty.

We have very little to celebrate, if poor mothers across our country have to wait for hours in government hospitals for doctors to attend to their sick children.

We have very little to celebrate for so long as a situation persists where a worker employed at the minimum wage needs to work for 5 hours to earn enough to put one decent meal for his or her family.

No one party has the monopoly of ideas for fully resolving these social and economic problems. But we all share the shame that this brings to us as a nation.

We will need perseverance, frank and open dialogue and a shared commitment on all sides to seek consensusal solutions to these problems.

Madam Speaker, His Excellency the President alluded to genuine democracy and to the trust which has been placed by the people of Fiji in the honourable members of this Parliament.

The question that arises Madam Speaker is that are we living and practicing genuine democracy? Have the elections and the re- opening of Parliament re-established checks and balances, and fair-play?

Madam Speaker, the continuation of regressive decrees will render meaningless all talk of Fiji once again being a genuinely democratic nation.

The Media Industry Development Authority Decree, the Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree, the Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures) Decree must be repealed by Parliament because they curtail the rights of the media, ordinary workers, trade unionists, and ultimately our people.

More specifically, in a real democracy Madam Speaker, people must have the liberty to speak openly and candidly. In it the Government of the day listens and the media exercises its role as the messenger, a watchdog of democracy, and as an Independent Institution, responsibly asserting a right to speak with its own voice, and not merely echoing the voice of parliament or the executive government.

Rather it scrutinizes the consequences of actions and decisions of parliament and government on ordinary people, while consciously representing the interests of the disadvantaged and downtrodden in society and not just the powerful and wealthy or its owners and advertisers.

Such freedom to scrutinize and make known to all, if available to Fiji’s media, will ensure that the accountability and transparency called for by our President, in his opening address to Parliament, will be guaranteed.

Madam Speaker, these decrees were imposed without the participation of the aggrieved parties. Now is the chance to consult all our people directly or through their elected representatives in accordance with Section 173 of the 2013 Constitution. There has to be consensus on what is the best and ideal legislation to benefit the entire nation.

Consensus is a fundamental principle in a genuine democracy and our former Prime Minister and President, the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, described consensus as an “accord amongst the people involved” in 1996.

He said and I quote, “We should realise and accept that consensus does not mean complete unanimity, desirable as that may be. It is perhaps best defined as an accord amongst the majority of the people involved and this is a most worthwhile and attainable objective”.

Consensus building requires mutual respect for each other’s views, abundance of goodwill, willingness to dialogue, capacity to listen patiently and building of mutual trust.

Both the Honourable Prime Minister and Honourable Leader of the Opposition spoke about the need to work together for the common good of all our people.

The pre-requisite for working together is transparency and accountability. As a start Madam Speaker, the immediate tabling of the Auditor-General’s Reports in Parliament for the last 8 years will be a step towards creating trust and confidence in our democracy because this is what was promised to the people of Fiji by the Honourable Prime Minister and the Honourable Attorney-General before the general elections.

I also urge Government to introduce Bills for the enactment of the Accountability and Transparency Commission and a Code of Conduct for public officers including Government and Members of Parliament.

The repeal or review of the draconian Decrees plus the introduction of Bills to enact legislation to promote accountability and transparency will lead to good governance and this must be done as soon as possible..

Madam Speaker I had said during the course of the Campaign that for our country to realize its full potential:

  • We need clarity about the direction of travel in rebuilding our country.
  • Second, that in rebuilding our country, we need a sense of urgency and pace; and
  • third, that we need knowledge and human resources to achieve our goals.

In my journey from Dreketi, to Labasa, to Suva, to the wider world and back to Fiji, I have followed these guidelines. I believe they are equally relevant in helping us rebuild our democracy and our economy.

In 2020, Fiji will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary as an independent country. We all have an opportunity work hard to make sure that we have real achievements to celebrate in the 50th year of our existence as a free nation. Given our many wasted years, we have a lot of catching up to do.

It is my hope that with clarity about how we must travel and a shared commitment to get there, we can reach a quality and standard of living that is comparable to New Zealand. This is not my dream. This is a reality within our grasp.

But to get there we have to avoid ‘business as usual’ path. Madam Speaker, a ‘business as usual’ would mean the continuation of fear and intimidation, of inconsistent economic policies, or of support for monopolistic behavior that stifles our creativity.

Madam speaker, ‘Business as usual’ will mean lower economic growth; meaning it will take another 30 years to double average incomes. It will create a larger urban underclass living in extreme poverty; fueling crime, harming our tourism and hurting investments.

Poor health services from a business as usual approach, Madam Speaker, will mean that 1 out of every 4 Fijians will continue to die before they reach their retirement age.

Madam Speaker, there is an alternative to this bleak future.

With clarity about our vision, certainty about the reforms needed to realize that, with some luck and the grace of God – a future of great possibilities lies within our grasp.

Madam Speaker, allow me to commend the government for two issues that his Excellency the President alluded to.

The first is the issue of improving the quality education that the Honourable Minister for Education has already stated publicly. I would urge Government to proceed with great care given its importance for our future. The last Education Commission report produced in 2000 is now 14 years old. I urge the government to appoint another Education Commission to look at the entire education system afresh. Piecemeal and rushed reforms will not be helpful.

The second issue Madam Speaker is the plan to construct a state of the art tertiary care hospital as part the FNU medical school. This is a great initiative and I commend government for it and hope that work on it will start sooner than later.

Madam Speaker,

Mr Osea Kolinisau and his men have shown that we can beat the world in sevens Rugby. Hon Iliesa Delana has shown that he can out jump the world. Vijay Singh has shown that he can beat Tiger Woods and all other golfing greats of his generation. In commerce; our Hotels feature amongst the best in the World. Fiji

Water outperforms some of the top corporations in the world. These we can do.

If we can do all these; surely we can aspire to, and match the best standards in the world in the quality and standard of education in our schools and universities.

We can surely lead and not follow the world in protecting and preserving our marine environment.

We can most certainly defeat poverty within the lifetime of this parliament.

We can certainly aspire to and provide the finest primary and basic health care in the world.

To aspire to make our country great once more, we as leaders need to work with humility. We need to shed egos and prejudices, we need to embrace dialogue and a commitment to seek consensus as a way of solving the profound problems that are a blight on this great country.

This is a beautiful country. It must become great once again. It can once again become “the way the World should be”.

I wish all the honourable members well. May God bless Fiji.

NFP President, MP Ms Draunidalo’s Maiden Parliamentary Speech

 

Madam Speaker,please allow.me to begin by apologising to you and all of the Honourable Members of this House for arriving a little late this morning.

I meant no disrespect to any of you, i apologise.

Next Madam Speaker i wish to join the other Honourable Members in warmly congratulating you on your appointment.. Your qualifications and work experience in the civil service and the region is well known but i also warmly recall other ties including your tenure as senior and supervisor to my mother at the Adi Cakobau School. Congratulations, Madam.

I am indeed honoured and privileged Madam Speaker to have been elected directly and indirectly by many other citizens of the Fiji Islands – and through that election – to be here today to speak to the address by the Head of State, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau who opened this term of Parliament last week.

As this is my maiden speech, i shall stick to the English parliamentary conventions with regard to maiden speeches. Key words for those include moderation and – that they are relatively uncontroversial, often consisting of a general statement of the politician’s beliefs and background rather than a partisan comment on a current topic. I shall do my best and leave the fireworks for later.

Speaking to His Excellency’s address at this time would suit the maiden speech description very well.

Also, maiden speeches begin with personal thank yous.

On that note, i wish to thank all those who voted for me and the party i represent. All of your votes earned these three seats, they are yours and they belong to other citizens as well.

I take this opportunity to also thank the Leader, Executives, Members and Supporters of the National Federation Party for giving me the great honour of being President. Thank you.

I thank my fellow candidates, siblings, cousins, Aunts, Uncles, Grand Aunts & Grand Uncles, nieces, nephews and god children who were quite busy promoting my candidature to their friends in their schools and swim clubs and the like.

I thank my relatives in Noikoro, Beqa, Nakorosau, Moala and other parts of Fiji. I also thank my dear long suffering friends. They all know who they are. One or two may be here today. They are very private people, high achievers in their own right and i know they would prefer not to be lowered by association. Thank you all very much.

I will make special mention of my little brother for his efforts in keeping me in check over many years and ensuring that i got some votes at the last elections. Ratu Qoro or Tuks as i would call him – thank you.

Moving forward to His Excellency’s speech – it sounded very good and it said all of the right things about moving forward and ending the coup culture. Two great things that i hope i can make a positive contribution to in this term of parliament.

But as we all know Madam Speaker, words without action are empty things that produce nothing.

I am very interested that His Excellency’s speech produces great, positive things for Fiji. And so i shall make some suggestions as to how that may occur.

We cannot move forward by doing the same old things and worse, doing those same old things to a worse degree.

 

After the coups of 1987 and 2000, significant portions of the population of this country felt alien and ostracised in this their country of birth to which they and their forebears had made significant contribution.

 

I was made aware of this and was very sensitive to it from a very young age because my late stepfather Dr. Timoci Bavadra and my late mother, Adi Kuini Teimumu Vuikaba Speed led the political parties that fought hard to stop those acts of alienation and ostracism.

 

Citizens felt alienated and ostracised like they did not belong and their values and their roots made to feel inferior – something to be hidden away for the sake of avoiding unwanted attention.

 

I truly believe that those that agreed with the cause and/or action taken in 1987 and 2000 would not have understood the depth of the deprivation of their fellow citizens. Why am i so sure, Madam Speaker?

 

Although my late stepfather and mother were also leaders in non racial politics – they were nevertheless children and grandchildren of some of the oldest and conservative families in this country having roots in many chiefly houses around Fiji.

 

Those roots were in our homes, daily and we heard them – daily. Their apprehensions, fears and views. We know what motivated them and what they wanted to guard against. We also know that they were your typical hospitable Fijians. After all, hospitality is the preserve of chiefs first and foremost.

 

And I know from that experience, that not very many if any of those who supported the cause and/or action in 1987 and 2000 knew of the depth of the hurt and deprivation that they supported.

 

But it was obvious that they were certainly cocooned by their political beliefs into believing that everything was just fine and there was no need for discussion and/or reform of most things.

 

Again, i know that those that experienced the feelings of hurt and deprivation from 1987 and 2000 felt and feel it very deeply. It would have hurt them to their very core. Very few strong and unique people can ignore all that and come out of those experiences unfazed in their commitment to the greater good.

 

Very few indeed, Madam Speaker.

 

Very many carry that hurt for a very long time if not forever. We are all human, these are very human emotions – some may get over their hurt once they feel justice has been served, others may carry it for life no matter what ‘reparation’ is made.

 

This is very relevant to where we now find ourselves, again at the crossroads after the last coup. Its impact is best assessed by the favoured term of His Excellency’s government in describing it – a revolution.

 

I therefore urge His Excellency’s government to take care that it does not continue to alienate and ostracize another significant portion of the population because the end results in this country have been military coups.

 

I invite His Excellency’s government to look deeper into the maze to see that from their own analysis – about 60% of the Fijian race did not vote for them.

 

His Excellency’s government should take care not to further alienate or ostracise that number. And if they started doing the right things by that proportion of the population – they may even win their votes too over time.

 

That would mean that i and others lose votes but that is fine if the greater good is ultimately served.

 

Into the details, Madam Speaker – the first question then is what acts of the revolution by His Excellency’s government are contributing to this process of alienation and ostracism and then, how can that process be halted for the greater good?

 

Native Land

 

Madam Speaker, many Fijians now know that the entrenched constitutional provisions in the 1997 Constitution with regard to native land does not exist in the 2013 Constitution.

 

No one needs a degree in constitutional law to work that out. One only needs to read Chapter 13, Group rights of the 1997 Constitution versus Sections 27 and 28 of the 2013 Constitution to see the marked difference.

 

This factor causes feelings of apprehension, fear, alienation and ostracism viz many indigenous Fijians. They believe that this land is the source of our identity as Fijians separate and apart from all of the beautiful people and races from different lands who have their own unique and rich cultures rooted in other lands.

 

Removing entrenched constitutional provisions with regard to native land is thus an alienating and ostracising act.

 

For the first time, native land is subject to the State’s powers of compulsory acquisition. Previously, this power in this country could only be exercised over land that was not native land as alll laws affeting native land had to pass the requirements of the entrenched constitutional provisons. This is no longer the csae.

 

Fijian Administration

 

Madam Speaker, the removal of a symbolic institution like the Bose Levu Vakaturaga is an alienating and ostravising act. Yes, i am one who thought it could have been improved as nothing in this world is perfect.

 

But to promote peace, harmony and the greater good especially with the 60% i have referred to, dialogue, consultation, compromise and agreement as to reform would have been the much better route.

 

Fijian Name

 

Again, this name was used for the indigenous race for very, very many years. Our community perceived it, rightly or wrongly, as part of our identity as a race not as a citizen. His Excellency’s government could have spent very little time and resources to show sensitivity on this issue and take all of us together to the promised new Fiji under a common name. There was no need to display arogance and insenaitivity again. It did not help.

 

There are other factors which alienate other members of our country like the appearance of disrespect to their leaders in this House and elsewhere. I therefore urge His Excellency’s government to be big people. Have big minds and big hearts. Be magnanimous in your electoral victory. Show due respect and decorum to all members of this House whether they are in your party or not. Extend the same to those who voted for them. Do not be punitive. Show courage and leadership to achieve what you say you desire.

 

Broad Political Dialogue and Agreement

 

Madam Speaker, this brings me to this last heading of achieving broad political dialogue and agreement. It requires leadership on all sides, dialogue, and agreement,

 

Our former leader, the Honourable Mr. Justice Jai Ram Reddy and the former Prime Minister Rabuka who began this military coup culture in Fiji achieved this great dialogue and understanding viz the 1997 Constitution.

 

They managed to achieve the great political statement of unity of our time, the 1997 Constitution.

 

I have hope that it can be done again. That is why i am here, if i had no hope i wouldnt have participated in the general elections.

 

On that note Madam Speaker, i urge the leaders of this House to take up the challenge and take the whole country with them to ensure that we understand the past very well, reconcile our misunderstandings and differences and move forward agreeing to disagree on topical issues but in mature agreement on the fundamentals.

 

On this note i wish to pay personal tribute to my late father Colonel Draunidalo. He would like to have left me with one political advice that he voiced once “All of the flowery socialist principles that your dear mother espouses will come to nought if you do not know the art of war”.. That advice accords with what his wise Uncle also advised me once “Caution my dear, it is better to be the king maker than to be the king”.

 

I know my father made quite a few kings and queens in his time, past and present. I understand that and am happy to play my part in the back room to help in any way possible for the words of His Excellency to bear fruit for all of Fiji.

 

Vinaka vakalevu. God bless Fiji.