23 March 2015: Ban on former Fiji residents a mockery of democracy

March 23, 2015

Media Release

Ban on former Fiji residents a mockery of democracy

The indefinite ban on entering Fiji placed on former Fiji citizens Professor Brij Vilash Lal and Dr Padma Lal makes a mockery of Fiji’s democracy and the conduct of government.

On Wednesday March 18 2015, following a question raised in Parliament by National Federation Party Parliamentarian Honourable Prem Singh, Minister for Defence, National Security and Immigration Honourable Timoci Natuva said the ban on Professor Brij and Dr Padma Lal was indefinite and in accordance with the Immigration Act of 2003.

Nothing can be further from the truth. The fact is that Honourable Natuva misled Parliament when he said Professor Lal’s actions were “prejudicial to the peace, defence, public safety, public order and security of Government of Fiji”. He misled Parliament by saying Professor Lal “opposed moves towards democracy after the events of 2006”.

Minister Natuva misled Parliament yet again by saying he reviewed the decision by the former Minister for Defence and concurred with the indefinite prohibited immigrant status.

The Truth

Professor Lal was given 24 hours to leave Fiji in November 2009 after having been illegally arrested from his Suva Point Home and detained at the Queen Elizabeth Barracks for almost 3 hours. He was interrogated and subjected to verbal abuse by a senior military officer, who currently is the Land Force Commander of the Fiji Military Forces. He was told to leave Fiji within 24 hours otherwise his next trip to RFMF would have catastrophic consequences.

Professor Lal reluctantly left behind his wife Dr Padma Lal and departed for Australia the next day.

In January 2010, Dr Padma Lal was detained by authorities at Nadi Airport upon her arrival from Sydney. Se had travelled to Australia for the festive season. At that time she was working for IUCN – an international organization looking at mangrove conservation and replanting in Fiji. She was detained overnight and forced to leave Fiji the next day.

Like many pro democracy activists, Professor Lal spoke in defence of democracy, freedom and human rights after the coup of December 2006. To say that he opposed moves towards restoration of democracy in Fiji is an insult to a person who is not only an eminent historian but was a member of Constitution Review Commission whose Report led to the formulation of the 1997 Constitution and ended Fiji’s isolation from the international community, particularly the Commonwealth.

Status of Ban

Minister Natuva’s answer in Parliament raises more questions instead of clarifying the issue.

Following Fiji’s return to parliamentary democracy after the September 17 elections, Professor Lal wrote to Minister Natuva on 27th October 2014 enquiring about the status of the ban on both him and his wife. He also informed the Minister that reason for the ban (speaking out in defence of democracy) had now become moot following the election of a democratically elected government and furthermore, Australia (of which both are citizens) had removed travel sanctions on all Fijian citizens.

On November 24, 2014, Minister Natuva repled to Professor Lal saying “he (Minister) had contacted the Director of Immigration and that you (Professor Lal) were free to come to Fiji”. Minister Natuva advised him to contact either the Director of Immigration (Major) Nemani Vuniwaqa or an Immigration Officer (Mr Brown).

Immediately Professor Lal e-mailed Mr Brown who replied to him a day later requesting details of the couple’s passports. This was provided.

On 15th December Mr Brown wrote to Professor Lal saying their names were still appearing on the Immigration system and that the instruction had come from the Prime Minister’s Office.

This is the full text of his reply to Professor Lal: –

“The latest development into your case is that both you and your wife’s names are still appearing in our system and we have established that the instructions to put your names on our Controversial List had been given by the Prime Minister’s Office. As such we will be delivering a letter to that office tomorrow the 16th of December seeking their comments and endorsement that your names should no longer be on the list and that the both of you can now travel to Fiji.

Once we get a response from them we will then be in a position to advise you of whether you can travel to the country or not”.

It therefore is abundantly clear that Minister Natuva and the Immigration Department had no reason whatsoever to place Professor Lal and Dr Padma Lal on the list of persons banned from entering the country. But they were powerless to do anything as their names were contained in a list provided by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Therefore Minister Natuva’s answer in Parliament that the ban was in accordance with the Immigration Act of 2003 is baseless.

Even more insulting is the fact that Professor Lal, who was honoured by Fiji for his contribution to the country especially his work on the Constitution Review Commission, is perceived to be a threat to Fiji’s safety and security.

Does it also mean that current and former Fiji citizens who are residing overseas who exercise their freedom of speech by making statements against the Government, will also be banned from entering Fiji?

Professor Lal and Dr Padma Lal have much to contribute towards the development of Fiji. The onus is on the Prime Minister to immediately rescind the ban to show that Government is a collective institution and not run on the whims of a few individuals.

 

 

06 March 2015: Free Medicine Shambolic

March 6, 2015

Media Release

Free Medicine Shambolic

Government’s free medicine scheme as had a chaotic start with those eligible to access the scheme shocked to learn that not all medication is available and only selected medication can be dispensed by pharmacies.

Our investigation has also revealed that some pharmacies listed by the Assistant Health Minister as outlets that patients cane use, are indeed unable to provide this service through no fault of their own due to bureaucracy.

Patients visiting hospitals have also been affected by lack of medication as supplies to be delivered to hospitals have been sent to local pharmacies.

And with many pharmacies unable to process the scheme due to non-stocking of all medication as well as delays in their IT system linking with Government to record details of dispensation of medicine, it is highly likely that medicine with limited expiry dates will expire and become unusable, resulting in wastage of taxpayers’ funds. Already insulin used to treat diabetes is not available in pharmacies as part of the free medicine scheme because some of the stock has expired,

We have cited a list of free medicine that eligible patients can source from pharmacies. The initial list of 62 items has basic generic medication hat are bulk-purchased by the Fiji Pharmaceutical Services. Pharmacies have made it clear to patients that the list of items do not have any branded items, therefore they are not responsible for the quality of the products or any shortage in supply.

Basic medication for children like Panadol Elixir or anti-biotics administered to babies and children orally like Amoxycillin, Ceclor or Augmentin are not covered under the scheme.

The Ministry of Health should publicise what are medicinal products available under the scheme. More importantly, the Ministry has to assure the public about the quality and standard of the medication and if it is sourced from a reliable and accredited supplier.

This is vital because the list has antibiotics as well as tablets for non-communicable diseases such as hypertension and diabetes.

Biman Prasad
Leader

06 March 2015: International Women’s Day

March 6, 2015

MEDIA RELEASE

The National Federation Party pays homage to women in Fiji commending and celebrating their value in economic, political and social achievements.

Fiji’s history is replete with stories of our strong, resilient yet often unsung heroines of the day and the real backbone of nation building. Today the NFP wants to publicly pay homage to them, their valuable contributions and we call on the nation to celebrate the Women in Fiji.

NFP recognizes that gender equality is both an important development objective in its own right as well as good development policy. We know that gender inequality can impact on Fiji’s productivity, income and quality of development.

We therefore strongly support the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the commitment to Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 3 and 5, which argue that gender equality and empowerment of women are development objectives in their own right.

Gender equality must be promoted in access to productive resources, economic opportunity and decision making at all levels contributes to higher economic productivity and wellbeing for all.

Constraints that affect women in accessing productive resources, by removing discriminatory labour market regulations, improving infrastructure services to improve women’s access to markets and female friendly work practices., must be removed

Gender equality does not happen automatically and must be made to happen.

Biman Prasad
Leader

 

27 February 2015: Oral Submission to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on the Review of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT)

ORAL SUBMISSION TO STANDING COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND DEFENCE ON THE REVIEW OF THE UN CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT (UNCAT)
27 February 2015

Who We Are: The National Federation Party
The National Federation Party (NFP) is the political the party with the longest record of service to Fiji and we proudly celebrated our 50th anniversary last year. We were born before Fiji became Independent and we have been part of the journey of modernizing Fiji since then. During this time, the NFP has always been the champion of principled policies and change for the betterment of all.

The NFP has always believed in the inherent power of our society’s diversity, including the rich cultural heritage of our indigenous people. During the past 50 years of the party’s existence, we have continuously promoted multiculturalism as the cornerstone of a peaceful community and we will not waver from continuing to strengthen the social cohesion between our ethnic groups.

The NFP has, is and will continue to stick to its enduring values of freedom for our people; democracy and good governance; and humility and understanding of the unique nature of our society. We believe in an open and accountable government. Our vision for Fiji is one where people have the freedom to earn a decent living, the freedom to question the government, and freedom from fear and oppression. We are committed to Fiji.

The Review of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment or UN CAT
The intention of the Government to review and hopefully ratify the UNCAT is commendable yet we remain cautious about the sincerity of these intentions if Fiji’s profiling on the global arena by way of the stated idea that Fiji intends to become elected into the Human Rights Council in 2016, is a motivating factor. This Convention is about The People. Our People. Our Voters. Our Taxpayers – and the absolute and unwavering upholding of their inherent human dignity to safeguard against Excesses of the State. The inherent rights of Our People to be free from torture cannot be exploited to merely “tick boxes” in Geneva as was heard in the parliamentary sitting of 09 February 2015.

The National Federation Party of Fiji will only encourage and advocate Fiji’s ratification of this important treaty IF the Government is as committed and consistent as it is in its 2013 Constitution where the Freedom of Our People to remain free from cruel and degrading treatment is as absolute as it is on the constitutional document on which it is inscribed; and therefore Fiji’s ratification must be as absolute with absolutely no reservations.

Furthermore, it is not uncommon for international treaties to be ratified and yet domestic applications of it are not in step with the bold intent at the global level. For such a treaty as UNCAT and with all the heinous torture crimes against humanity (as section 87 of the Crimes Decree 2009 now cites it) committed by the State especially from the past coups reaching as far back as 1987 up until 2006, we respectfully implore upon this Committee that should ratification take place, to invoke Standing Orders 110 (e) and maintain a watchful eye over the implementation of the Treaty so that Article 19(1) of UNCAT is holistic and concise within the obligatory first year reporting period and that appropriate State funding is guaranteed to ensure that the periodic 4 year reporting obligations are embedded as part of a national paradigm shift.

It is our understanding based on the submission of the Solicitor General of 24 February 2015 to this honourable Standing Committee that there appears to be little appetite to adopt Articles 21 and 22 of this treaty. The resistance to Articles 21 and 22 where one State Party can report another State Party’s non-adherence to UNCAT appear to be unfounded because Article 30 provides for negotiation, arbitration and ultimately dispute resolution to the International Court of Justice between State Parties. Fiji’s international standing can only be enhanced and Fiji can only be considered sincere in its protection of human rights by the international community if it allows itself to defend itself on the global arena, that process is in itself a valuable “check and balance” against what should be robust national measures that must be adopted immediately and preferably within the first year reporting time-frame. Again, we respectfully remind this Honourable Standing Committee of Bipartisan Legislators that this Convention is ultimately about The People and the absolute and unwavering upholding of their inherent human dignity to safeguard against Excesses of the State. This Convention is not about what is convenient for The State and as Legislators we humbly submit that what is best for Our Citizens should be the ultimate lens that this Standing Committee then makes its recommendations on, for adoption in Parliament.

In terms of national alignment of laws and policies to UNCAT we respectfully bring to this Committee’s attention that “The Limitation of Liabilities for Prescribed Political Events Decree 2010” (decree 18 of 2010) goes against the principles of this Treaty. Under the Decree no compensation is payable by the State to anyone for damages or injury as a result of the political events prescribed in the Decree.

Furthermore, Section 172 (5) of the Constitution prohibits persons whose human rights have been violated before 21st August 2013 from complaining about such acts to the Human Rights and Anti Discrimination Commission.

These are but a few of the legal inconsistencies that NFP has identified. All limitations should be removed if Fiji is indeed sincere about ratification of UNCAT and upholding its commitment to it from the get go.

The Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission
The Fiji Human Rights Commission, now known as the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission that is provided for in section 45 of the 2013 Constitution appears to have a “public perception” problem. These perceptions are not unfounded given its perceived role in acquiescence of the 2006 coup. That is not to say that this constitutional body should be completely discounted altogether. This body has a valuable role and State funds have been diverted towards this entity. As the constitutional guardian of human rights in Fiji, it is imperative that the Constitutional Offices Commission be convened as a matter of priority so that key appointments of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission proper are made and that it can be enabled to do what it is constitutionally mandated to as per section 45, particularly in relation to torture.

We again respectfully urge this Honourable Standing Committee to invoke Standing Orders 110 (e) and maintain a watchful eye over the implementation of the Treaty should Fiji ratify, where the convening of the Constitutional Offices Commission and the appointments to the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commissioners are made without delay in order to do justice to the sincerity of the intent to ratifying this Convention.

A Citizens Forum
It is our understanding that various calls from previous submissions have been made in support of a completely non-state and citizens-controlled body that spans across interest groups and religious entities that can look into the issue of torture at a national level.

The NFP believes it is worth investigating whether such a body can be organised that is completely devoid of any State influence where ordinary citizens can receive, table and discuss torture related issues. It must be noted that the definition of torture as the UNCAT lays out in Article 1 includes “severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental” which is intentionally inflicted on a person etc – and within the wide ambit of the treaty definition is the need to made for it to be made relevant and meaningful at a national level.

Where torture is concerned and the wide ambit of its definition, it cannot be left to the State or State funded entities alone to receive, table and deliberate on national issues related to Torture and a citizens forum with an “ear to the ground” capacity is as critical as it is necessary. The practical mechanics of how this could work and the possible synergies of it, are in our humble opinion, best left to this Honourable Standing Committee to investigate and draw from practices from other parts of the world, as part of its invocation of Standing Orders 110 (e) and the Committee’s maintenance of a watchful eye over the implementation of the Treaty, should Fiji ratify.

It is even possible that such a Citizens Forum can be linked in parallel to, and synchronously with this Parliamentary Standing Committee so that appropriate legislative amendments and policies are looked into thereby ensuring that this Committee is well equipped with real-time perspectives from Citizen’s concerns.

Truth, Reconciliation and Healing
There appears to be an agreement that because of parliamentary democracy there is a need to move forward. The NFP can only be convinced of the sincerity of parliamentary democracy and forward movement if other draconian measures like the Media Decree, the Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree and others are repealed.

However, where torture in Fiji is concerned there are too many deep and festering wounds of Our People out there from as far back as the coups of 1987 up until 2006, to conveniently ignore or worse forget simply because Fiji intends to ratify this Convention.

Part of moving forward is also learning from the past and we respectfully implore upon this Standing Committee that in moving forward, it must also seek to rebuild and heal the nation, whether by way of a Truth, Reconciliation process or some other appropriate mechanism. It is necessary to have a national conversation and as uncomfortable and confronting as it may be, the outpouring of these wounds must be permitted in order for healing to then begin.

The NFP would support such a move that is inclusive and earnest.

Honourable Members We Thank You.

23 February 2015: Government Must Change TV Licensing and Advertising Policy

February 23, 2015

Media Release

Government Must Change TV Licensing and Advertising Policy

Government’s decision to grant Fiji Television 6 months operating license each time upon the expiry of the license as well as exclusively advertise in the The Fiji Sun violates Sections 26 and 32 of the 2013 Constitution in respect of those employed at Fiji TV and The Fiji Times.

These are the Right to equality and freedom from discrimination (Section 26) and the Right to economic participation. We strongly believe the rights of both the Fiji TV and the Fiji Times as organisations are also violated as both are locally owned. This is totally against Government’s professed principle of equal citizenry which it says is the cornerstone of the 2013 Constitution.

Exclusivity
Ultimately, the right of the people is suppressed in terms of denial of access to information, especially those who do not subscribe to or buy the Fiji Sun. The rights breached are Section 17(a) (Freedom of speech, expression and publication – freedom to seek, receive and impart information, knowledge and ideas) and Section 25 (Access to information).

It results in the people who predominantly buy only a single newspaper (either Fiji Times or Fiji Sun), being denied information resulting in the breach of basic rights such as the right to work and economic participation, to name a few, being denied access to these advertisements. This is unacceptable.

There is no legitimate reason to deny the Fiji Times and its employees income as well as its readers information. With the exception of the Fijian Elections Office, which sometimes advertises in both newspapers, Government and statutory organisations solely advertise in the Fiji Sub. This was a policy adopted by the military government after what it claimed was Fiji Times anti-regime stance.

We now have parliamentary democracy. If anything, tenders are called for any service required by Government. We are sure this was never done and still has not been done. But for the sake of fairness, impartiality and dissemination of information in the widest possible manner, it is imperative that both newspapers are given advertisements for publication. Government is not anyone’s personal property and to use taxpayers funds for the corporate benefit of one newspaper and in the process denying people fair access to information is scandalous.

Fiji TV License
Similarly, Government’s policy to grant only 6 months operating license to Fiji Television raises more questions about Government’s interference in employment issues as well as the blatant disregard and violation of constitutional rights, employment and natural justice.

Again, there can be no justification by Government to grant Fiji TV an operating licence of 6 months only.

Last December was not the first time that the Board of Fiji TV was forced to unjustifiably remove their employees or transfer them based on a Government directive. In early 2010 two senior staff were transferred from the newsroom. In 2013, a veteran sports journalist was terminated even after providing a written apology to the Fiji Sports Council CEO.

Early last year another senior journalist who was the victim of a sideways transfer four years ago was asked to take leave of absence in the hope that Fiji TV’s license was going to be renewed for longer than 6 months. This did not happen.

Similarly last December the CEO and Head of Content of Fiji TV were sacked.

Fiji TV Board Acting Chairman Iowane Naiveli’s public statement in the aftermath of the sacking as reported by the media said, “(Fiji TV) Board discussed changes in management to ensure Government starts giving Fiji TV licence to operate longer than 6 months. We need Fiji TV to survive. Once the company survives, employment of its staff survives, so does their salaries”.

Despite this, Fiji TV was once again issued a six-month license. On the other hand, FBC TV enjoys a long-term licence and rightly so.

A long-term license gives employees security of employment. It provides investors confidence and generates revenue through negotiation of long term advertising contracts. It also sends a very wrong signal to potential investors.

A 6-month licence is like living on borrowed time. It binds Fiji TV to the shackles of practising censorship in news coverage for the fear of their licence not being renewed. Government is therefore holding Fiji TV to ransom.

If Government genuinely believes in equal citizenry, it should immediately discard its policy of exclusivity as far as its newspaper advertising is concerned and also grants Fiji Television a long-term operating licence.

04 February 2015: Referendum need on proposed flag change issue

February 4, 2015

MEDIA RELEASE

Referendum need on proposed flag change issue

A Referendum and not views sought through social media is needed for changes proposed to our national symbol, the Fiji Flag, as mooted by the Prime Minister Honourable Voreqe Bainimarama.

An issue of national importance, especially when it involves an issue that has become an indelible part of our history, symbolizing transition from 96 years of Colonial Rule to full Independence 45 years ago, must involve the entire population of Fiji, including their elected representatives.

And this can only be done through a free, fair and credible Referendum, as done in other countries, notably our neighbours New Zealand and Australia. Any other method would be regarding as tinkering with our flag that has become the most famous symbol of Fiji, especially prominently featuring during our triumphant moments.

The PM describes certain symbols of our flag as remnants of our colonial past. Indeed when one looks at our institutions, names of our major roads and streets, they are named in honour of colonial rulers, administrators and monarchs. Aren’t these remnants of Colonialism, if PM’s logic is given credibility?

Further, this government still attaches our Indo Fijian community to colonial history. The preamble describes Indians as descendants of indentured labourers from British India. What nonsense.

This is insulting. India was a British Colony, So was Fiji and many other countries under the rule of the British Empire. Therefore the preamble basically describes Indo-Fijians as British Indians!

If anything has to be changed, then it is the preamble that is injurious to the Indo-Fijian community because it is reminder of our Girmit and not the choice of our forefathers who chose to make Fiji their only home after completion of the indenture period in 1916.

Changing the preamble and resolving matters of national concern like reviewing and revoking decrees to give credibility to the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, agreeing to a bi-partisan approach to find solutions to resuscitate the sugar industry and reducing the escalating cost of living should be the priority of Government instead of focusing on what is a side-show,

Biman Prasad
Leader

 

31 January 2015: Resolutions of NFP Working Committee

January 31, 2015
MEDIA RELEASE

RESOLUTIONS OF NFP WORKING COMMITTEE

The National Federation Party’s Working Committee, which met at Hotel San Bruno, Nadi, today (Saturday 31st January 2015), has unanimously adopted the following resolutions: –

1. Parliamentary Office Resourcing

The Working Committee endorsed the decision taken by the Party Leader to reject the new formula pertaining to the allocation of parliamentary staffing and resources by the Secretary-General based on a directive by the Attorney General and Minister for Finance via his letter of 24th December 2014, as stated in a Government press release on the issue.

The Committee described it as illogical the formula of $15,000 per MP in the allocation of resources, leaving the NFP with 3 MPs and a paltry sum of $45,000 per annum.

The Committee noted that on 14th October 2014, when approving the staffing compliment of 4 for the NFP, the Secretary General said the positions would be advertised but this was not done and the resources slashed without notice.

The Committee further noted the 3 MPs need parliamentary staff support given their important roles in Opposition and therefore, this formula was not based on any fundamental principle.

The Committee rejected the allocation of $45,000 and endorsed the Party Leader’s efforts to secure funding initially allocated on 14th October 2014, is restored by the Secretary-General to Parliament.

2. Special Cane Payment

The Working Committee condemned the refusal of the Fiji Sugar Corporation to advance a Special Cane Payment of $5 per tonne to cane farmers to help them equip their children for the new school year and start preparations for the new season.

The Committee also described as deplorable, the lack of action by the Prime Minister and Minister for Sugar in failing to direct FSC to make the Special Cane Payment. The Committee described as inhumane, the decision to ask farmers to apply for a soft loan from the Sugar Cane Growers Fund to meet the expenses of their children.

The least expected of the State, which had no financial obligations in this matter but was morally obligated to alleviate the financial hardship of cane farmers, was to facilitate the payment.

The Committee regards the non payment of this Special Payment as treating farmers like beasts of burden despite they being the economic mainstay of the economy for more than a 100 years. The Committee resolved that the PM direct the FSC to make the Special Cane Payment to bring relief to farmers as they are genuinely in need of assistance.

3. Parliamentary Select Committee on Sugar

The Working Committee noted with concern the imminent decline of the Sugar Industry with the withdrawal of the European Union Sugar production quotas from 30th September 2917.

The Committee recalled the loss of the $350 million grant from the EU earmarked for the sugar industry due to the military coup of December 2006. The Committee noted that the injection of the grant over a 7 year period until 2013 would have boosted cane production to over 4 million tonnes and sugar production to over 400,000 tonnes, thereby enabling farmers to mitigate the adverse effects of price reduction by increasing production.

The Committee noted that 70% of a little over 13,000 active cane growers produce an average of 150 tonnes of cane annually, resulting in their gross income of $13,350 at $89 per tonne (last season’s payment), well below the tax threshold of $16,000.

Furthermore, the Committee noted that this money is paid over a period of 15 months, leaving farmers in debt. The net income therefore of 70% of farmers producing an average of 150 tonnes of cane annually was $6,600, $9400 below the tax threshold of $16,000.

The Committee noted that despite the so-called reforms and injection of funds in the last 8 years, the Bainimarama regime has failed to restore the industry to its glory days.

The Committee resolved that the Prime Minister agree to the establishment of a parliamentary select committee on sugar to address concerns in the sugar industry.

4. Repeal of the Media Decree

The Working Committee believes Fiji’s future as a social, economic and politically stable nation cannot be guaranteed unless freedom of expression is expressed through a free, fair and credible media.

The Committee noted the media industry in this country has been under siege since the military coup of December 2006. For more than 5 years, especially after the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution on 10th April 2009, have been turbulent and devastating for the media industry and media organisations.

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

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

The Committee noted the Media Industry Development Decree is regressive and suppresses Media Freedom because it imposes restrictions and prescribes heavy penalties.

Every international organisation of repute has expressed concern about the regressive and draconian provisions of the MIDA Decree. The latest was the United Nations Human Rights Commission late last year.

The Committee resolved that Government must through Parliament repeal the Media Industry Development Decree because we believe the media should not be regulated by the State or any Government.

Genuine democracy, equal citizenry, freedom of expression, accountability and transparency, which are ethics being paraded by Government, can only be achieved through a free, fair, credible, unfettered and non-regulated media.

5. Constitution Review and Repeal of Decrees

The Working Committee noted that Decrees impinge the Bill of Rights or Chapter 2 of the Constitution, notably the Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding & Disclosures) Decree, Electoral Decree and Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree.

The Committee noted that in December the Minister for Labour told Parliament that work would start on reviewing the ENI Decree which curtails the rights of workers and trade unions but so far no work had started.

The Committee noted Section 173 of the Constitution which allows Parliament to amend or repeal Decrees but at the same time makes the Constitution subservient to the Decrees.

The Committee found this to be regressive and unacceptable and inconsistent with United Nations Conventions, which Fiji has ratified.

The Committee resolved that to give true meaning to the Constitution and its intent as espoused by the Bainimarama Government through the non-negotiable principles, a bi-partisan parliamentary committee be established to look at reviewing the Decrees and the Constitution.

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FOR INFORMATION OR CLARIFICATION PLEASE CALL NFP LEADER HON BIMAN PRASAD ON 9923989