29 January 2016: Blog by NFP President, Hon Roko Tupou Draunidalo

I am sharing this picture and text about, an Order for the rectification of errors in the Companies Law 2015 because you are direct and indirect taxpayers to the government of Fiji – with a right to know about how your money is used.

That Companies law was rushed through in the House by government members last year.

The Order for rectification which is gazetted and that we were given this week – referred to about three hundred (300+) errors in the legislation.

And that is what has been discovered so far, the third week only of the act’s operation.

Three hundred plus, errors.

The method of correction without parliamentary participation (Ref. 2013 Constitution) is questionable.

Further, the stated method of correction is only for typographical errors and the like – not for changing the law in any substantive way.

I suspect the government is keen to avoid bringing the required amendments back to the House – to avoid embarrassment – and in the process, prove the Opposition correct once again.

The records will show that the Opposition was at pains to advise the government that for the sake of good governance – it should not rush laws through the House.

Three hundred errors later, Fiji taxpayers will pay for the rectification process and any associated litigation on top of the privilege of having a parliament that only sits for 20 working days this year on a full salary – so that we may rush through more legislation that is bound to show up more errors.

Co 1

 

29 January 2016: Media Release – Sugar Industry lacks accountability and transparency

The Sugar Industry in Fiji has been totally politicised by the Fiji First Government. And the clearest example of politicisation, nepotism and cronyism is Fiji Sugar Corporation Executive Chairman Abdul Khan.

Mr Khan told FBC News on Wednesday 27th January (script enclosed with our statement) that the industry had begun to show positive signs towards prosperity because the Bainimarama Government had kicked out politics from the industry. He also accused the Opposition of wanting to politicise the industry saying the industry will never progress if it is done with cheap politics.

Nothing can be further from the truth. His comments are deplorable and the declining industry since 2007 is a result of political interference and political manipulation by the Bainimarama regime and now Fiji First government, with cane growers, as the largest stakeholders in the industry, being completely denied their fundamental right to freely participate and make decisions about their livelihood as well as the future well-being of the industry.

The politicisation of the sugar industry is unprecedented in the history of the industry since the enactment of the Sugar Industry Act in 1984, which made the industry and its stakeholders independent with no interference from Government.

But this has changed with decisions and appointments being arbitrarily made. We now have the Executive Chairman of the FSC who makes decisions for growers on marketing of sugar, who is also Chairman of South Pacific Fertilizers which is also 100 percent owned by growers through the Sugar Cane Growers Fund (90%) and Sugar Cane Growers Council (10%), and now is a member of the Fund Board administering the use of funds totally owned by growers.

Growers are represented by only one Member on the 5 member Growers Fund Board. This is 20% representation in an institution whose funds are 100% owned by growers.

This is now also true for the Sugar Cane Growers Council, created under the Sugar Industry to be the umbrella organisation of growers. Instead of democratizing the SCGC, Government has used its numerical strength to abolish elections and instead make appointments. The Chairman will be appointed by the Prime Minister in his capacity as Sugar Minister.

We ask how will Mr Khan feel if he loses control and Directorship of AJYNK Limited – a company of which he is Managing Director? Will he allow another company, which has no interest in it to control his Company? And Mr Khan forgets Frank Bainimarama is the leader of Fiji First – a political party, not an NGO. And as PM he has the sole authority over the industry. Mr Khan deliberately forgets this fact.

Furthermore, Fiji First government to which the likes of Mr Khan report to, have time and again rejected a question by us for the PM to reveal how much the FSC Executive Chairman and the Corporation’s senior management are paid as a matter of accountability and transparency. Taxpayers have a right to know this because Government has guaranteed $120 million for FSC, apart from previous guarantees on loans that are still not fully paid.

Nepotism and cronyism because of politicization is now synonymous with the industry. Transparency and accountability has ceased to have any meaning. True democracy, which is being trumpeted by the Fiji First Government, has been given a new meaning as far as the sugar industry and cane growers as its largest stakeholders are concerned.

Fiji First Government is making growers subservient and powerless as well as denying them the fundamental right to make decisions even in institutions totally owned by them, with authority and control of their funds, assets and livelihood placed in political appointees made by a single person.

This is a result of total politicisation of the sugar industry by the Fiji First government through the likes of Abdul Khan.
Biman Prasad
Leader

22 January 2016: Media Release – Free Medicine Scheme thoroughly disorganised

Coercing pharmacies around the country to participate in the free medicine scheme by threatening them with $100,000 fines will not meet the Government’s objective of free medication to those earning less than $20,000 per annum.

Instead Government must firstly mount a vigorous awareness campaign urging the many thousands of our citizens living on or below the poverty line as well as those earning less than $20,000 per annum to register for the scheme. This can only be done if Government publicizes the entire list through all print and broadcast media outlets including social media.

It should worry Government that only an estimated 20,000 people have registered since last year. This is mainly due to the lack of awareness and the unnecessarily cumbersome registration process similar to the water and electricity subsidies. The cost of obtaining relevant documentation is a major dis-incentive leading to the perception that the Government is intentionally frustrating the interest of those who need this assistance.

Secondly, Government must provide stock of all 142 medicines to all pharmacies and use persuasion rather than threats for them to participate and also promote the scheme.

Unfortunately, two months after the passage of the 2016 Budget, Government has miserably failed to do this apart from warning pharmacies that their failure to participate in the scheme will result in their being fined a maximum of $100,000 and $5,000 for each day they fail to comply with the Pharmacy Profession (Budget Amendment) Act 2015, which the parliamentary Opposition voted against on 20th November 2015.

This Act once again is a draconian imposition that sets a dangerous precedent in Fiji’s economic and social policy formulation.

It is therefore prudent to ask the Minister for Health to answer if a review was done on whether or not the free medicine scheme successfully met Government’s objectives, and such a review should be made public.

We have serious doubts whether such a review with a view to improving the scheme was done at all. Last year less than 40 pharmacies participated in the scheme. Last year the free medicine list should have included 72 medications. Most pharmacies were under-stocked.

One pharmacy has only 64 medicines from the list in stock from last year. This is 64 out of 142 medicines as the list was increased from 72 to 142. The stock wasn’t fully utilized resulting in the expiry of a few medications. Pharmacies were told that the database of those eligible under the scheme would be provided to pharmacies via computer link. This did not happen. Presently records are kept manually.

Even now most pharmacies do not have the full stock of 142 medicines let alone the list of 72 medicines that were supposed to have been provided last year. Therefore 78 medicines from the list which has not been made public are not in stock. And no trade (branded) medications are covered under the scheme. So is the quality of these medicines tested and certified?

This is a shambolic propagandised policy. The Ministry must get its act together instead of doing roadshows promoting the so-called benefits when their much vaunted assistance is in a chaotic state.
Biman Prasad
Leader
free meds 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

free meds 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

free meds 3

 

19 January 2016 – Media Release: Sugar Cane Growers Fund Board Appointments Totally Political

The Sugar Industry in Fiji has been totally politicised by the Fiji First Government. This is unprecedented in the history of the industry since the enactment of the Sugar Industry Act in 1984, which made the industry and its stakeholders independent with no interference from Government.

The latest case that is a testimony to this sad reality is the appointment of the Sugar Cane Growers Fund Board (SCGF). This follows amendment to the Fund Act Cap 207 by the Fiji First Government in Parliament last August.

The Board of the Fund, which is 100 percent owned by the cane growers of Fiji, has only 20% representation on the Board. The Chief Executive of the Sugar Cane Growers Council is the sole growers’ representative on the five member Board. This is 20% representation on the Board of the Fund in which growers have 100% stake.

The Board Chairman is the Acting Permanent Secretary for Sugar with other members being the Chairman of Fiji Sugar Corporation, the Sugar Industrial Commissioner from the Sugar Industry Tribunal and the Tribunal Accountant. The Prime Minister has made all appointments including that of Board Chairman in his capacity as Minister for Sugar.

Previously there used to be a four member Board with the Sugar Commission Chairman as Board Chairman, an appointee of the Sugar Minister, the CEO of the SCGC and his nominee as another member.

This is yet another example of absolute politicisation with control of the Board vested in the Prime Minister. He has re-ignited painful memories of the dictatorial attitude of the CSR (Colonial Sugar Refining Company Ltd) when the CSR imposed their authoritarian decisions on growers.

We now have the Executive Chairman of the FSC who makes decisions for growers on marketing of sugar, who is also Chairman of South Pacific Fertilizers which is also 100 percent owned by growers through the Growers Fund (90%) and Growers Council (10%), and now is a member of the Fund Board administering the use of funds totally owned by growers.

This is precisely why the NFP opposed changes to the Growers Fund Act as well as the Sugar Industry Act to change the composition of the Growers Council Board because instead of democratizing these institutions, the changes would thoroughly politicise them.

This is a clear case of nepotism and cronyism with transparency and accountability becoming meaningless. The Prime Minister will appoint even the Growers Council Board and its Chairman.

True democracy, which is being trumpeted by the Fiji First Government, has been given a new meaning as far as the sugar industry and cane growers as its largest stakeholders are concerned.

Fiji First Government is making growers subservient and powerless as well as denying them the fundamental right to make decisions even in institutions totally owned by them, with authority and control of their funds, assets and livelihood placed in political appointees made by a single person.
Biman Prasad
Leader

Opinion by the NFP Leader, Professor Biman Prasad, on parliamentary democracy.

No middle ground

Professor Biman Prasad 

(PAGE 12 – THE FIJI TIMES SATURDAY JANUARY 16, 2016)

THE year 2015 is gone. We are in 2016 and Government will tell you it is a year full of promise as Fiji First implements its plans to modernise the economy on the basis of its 2016 National Budget.

But the very opposite is the truth. Building or refurbishing new roads at astronomical cost (Fiji Roads Authority has enjoyed the biggest chunk of budget for two years), lavishing $1000 handouts under the so-called Micro Finance Scheme to over 3000 people, giving water and electricity subsidies and free medication are short-term benefits that will not improve the livelihood of our people in the long term.

Despite what Government is saying, Fiji is fast becoming a consumption-driven economy. This will not last. Already Government has forecast a reduction in economic growth from 4 per cent in 2015 to 3.5 per cent in 2016 and a further reduction to 3.1 per cent in the years ahead. This is because Government has to slow down on spending borrowed money. But it seems that the economy cannot grow without it.

The reduction in value added tax (VAT) from 15 to 9 per cent was welcomed by everyone both in and outside of Parliament. It must not be forgotten it was the NFP that had promised to reduce VAT to 10 per cent and also to reduce duties on everyday food items during the 2014 General Election campaign. The Finance Minister ridiculed us saying Government would lose hundreds of millions in revenue.

But while VAT has gone down by 6 per cent from January, 9 per cent VAT has been imposed on basic food items that were zero-rated or VAT-free. The cost of flour, rice, powdered milk, tin fish, tuna, cooking oil, coconut oil and kerosene has increased by 9 per cent from January 1. These items are the most basic and used daily by our poor and ordinary citizens. The price of medicine prescribed by doctors has also increased by 9 percent from January 1, including repeat medication. The first $30 of the FEA (Fiji Electricity Authority) bill, which was zero-rated, has increased by 9 per So where is the relief for the poor and ordinary citizens?

Government owes over $4.4billion in debt. Public debt is close to 50 per cent of our gross domestic product (GDP). This means that, like any household that borrows money to spend, we are becoming too deep in debt to be able to borrow any more. In 2016 we will pay about $270m in interest alone to service our debt. Compare this with the $280 million we will spend on health. This is money that cannot be spent on health, education and job creation.

The Fiji Bureau of Statistics has the results from its 2012/13 survey. Why won’t the Government release these results?

Fiji’s poorest people should be everybody’s concern. First, they are part of our country. If we believe in fairness and equality, we must improve their lives. Even if we do not, a growing number of poor people without opportunities and without hope are a recipe for social instability, crime and a resulting lower standard of living for all of us.

Government can no longer blame previous governments for these problems. It has been in power for the past nine years. These are problems of its making, through its own neglect and mismanagement. For those in Government and many of its wealthy supporters, life is good now. But we lack a vision for our economy beyond the slogans in the budget. Without a clear vision for the economy, consistently delivered, we will all pay a price for this later. There is an urgent need for all of us to come together to discuss these issues, because the Government does not have all the answers.

Government defeated our pro-people motions

(a) Disaster mitigation fund: Thousands of our people in drought-stricken areas of Western and Northern divisions as well as the Yasawa and Mamanuca groups urgently need regular supply of emergency water. Our motion to increase the disaster mitigation fund from $1m to $10m because of the prolonged drought was defeated. Government argued a disaster had not been declared yet. A month ago the Commissioner Western said each person was being provided 20 litres of water for drinking and cooking only. He has indicated this will be further reduced to 12 litres. What nonsense. The water subsidy scheme is supposed to provide 50 litres of water to those qualifying under this scheme. Why the step-brotherly treatment for our residents crying for help?

(b) Motion to increase funding for kidney dialysis from $300,000 to $2m was defeated by Government. Government argued treatment would be provided only for patients who have a chance to get better and not to all cases requiring dialysis. This is clearly a breach of the 2013 Constitution. 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 realisation 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”. Government has failed to show it does not have the resources to provide adequate funding for kidney patients requiring dialysis.

(c) Motion to increase funding for cane planting program from $5m to $10m. Government argued $5m was enough and this was also defeated. Anyone well versed with cane farming knows it currently costs $120 to get an acre of land ploughed by a tractor. For fallow land, it is vital the block is ploughed three times and harrowed thrice as well. This alone will cost a grower $720.

The fact it is costly to prepare fallow land for cane planting is proof enough of failure of Government’s cane planting program. Government’s claim that the sugar budget for 2016 has increased by more than $12m is misleading. The real increase is not $12m dollars but $600,000.

A sum of $9.7m is being listed as subsidy to South Pacific Fertilizers Ltd. However this will be administered by the FSC. And this is a loan, not a subsidy. Therefore growers end up repaying the amount, as 100 per cent of SPFL is owned by growers. Who is Government trying to fool?

Furthermore, why should the FSC control this subsidy or loan and not the growers themselves? FSC has no stake whatsoever in SPFL, yet its executive chairman also heads the fertiliser company. This is unjust.

(d) Motion to increase the education scholarship fund by $10m was defeated by Government. Our argument was those low and middle-income families whose children attain high marks but less than 300 marks, should be provided scholarships based on means-tested so they are not burdened with the notion of repaying loan.

Yet Government can allocate $9m for the Fiji International Golf Tournament and $18m for Fiji Airways to promote its upcoming Singapore service. Worse still Government has allocated $11.3m to the Fiji Broadcasting Commission for supposedly public service broadcasting. This is almost a 400 per cent increase from less than $3m allocated in 2015. Why? You be the judge.

Government’s attitude

Pro-people motions are defeated by Government using its numerical superiority. FijiFirst will simply oppose any motion by the Opposition, no matter how credible and logical it is. This is the sad reality. Earlier this year I called on the Government to work with the Opposition so we could take a bipartisan approach to our national problems. The PM rejected this reasonable request. He said Fiji had “no critical issues”.

The rejection of bipartisanship by Government spells doom for Fiji in future. And early this year the NFP will take a decision on its future participation in our so-called parliamentary democracy, because of Government’s dictatorial attitude and outright rejection of bipartisanship to advance the social and economic livelihood of our people.

* Professor Biman Prasad is the leader of the National Federation Party.

The views expressed are his and not of this newspaper.

NFP Working Committee to review conduct of 14-months of parliamentary democracy

FRONT PAGE FIJI TIMES – SATURDAY JANUARY 16, 2016

No other way

Nasik Swami

THE three-member National Federation Party (NFP) parliamentary board has taken the issue of their continued participation in Parliament to the party’s working committee to make the final decision.

The party has accused the Government’s “dictatorial attitude and outright rejection of bipartisanship to advance the social and economic livelihood of our people” as the reason behind this move, which it said spelt doom for Fiji’s future.

The committee, chaired by party president and MP Roko Tupou Draunidalo, sits at month-end, a week away from the commencement of the 2016 Parliament session on February 8.

NFP leader and Opposition MP Professor Biman Prasad said they (with MPs Roko Tupou and Prem Singh) discussed the issue and agreed to bring it before the committee.

He said the committee would deliberate on a report from the party leader on the effectiveness of parliamentary democracy since October 2014.

“Pro-people motions are defeated by Government using its numerical superiority. FijiFirst will simply oppose any motion by the Opposition, no matter how credible and logical it is. This is the sad reality,” Prof Prasad

Their motions, which he said were defeated, included:

* maintaining zero rating on basic food items that now carries 9 per cent

* increase disaster mitigation fund from $1m to $10m;

* increase funding for cane planting program from $5m to $10m; and

* increase funding for dialysis from $300,000 to $2m.

Yet, the Government saw it fit to allocate $9m for the Fiji International Golf Tournament and $18m for Fiji Airways to promote the upcoming Singapore service; and $11.3m to Fiji Broadcasting Corporation for public service broadcasting, said Prof Biman.

With this year’s parliamentary calendar ending in September there are only four one-week sittings which equates to 20 days.

“On each of these days, the Opposition is allowed to ask only three questions while three are allocated to Government. And Opposition business only takes precedence on Fridays when Parliament sits for only three hours from 9.30am to 12.30pm.”

Government whip Ashneel Sudhakar said Prof Biman’s comments were unfortunate and that he chose to turn a blind eye to the bipartisan approach taken by the Government in various sectors.

He said Government’s bipartisan approach was evident in the various Parliamentary Standing Committees that had seen some laws made in the “His claims of ‘Government’s dictatorial attitude and outright rejection of bipartisanship to advance the social and economic livelihood of our people cannot be further from the truth,” Mr Sudhakar said, citing Government’s various policies targeted at advancing the rights of all Fijians.

Speaker of Parliament Dr Jiko Luveni said where Government had an overwhelming majority, they would always win the votes. “The only thing I can say is it is experienced worldwide where a Parliament and where a
Government has an overwhelming majority, they will always win the vote and that has to be accepted by the Opposition,” Dr Luveni said.

“So they (Opposition) need to accept it and move forward with that in mind. That’s all I can say to them. And all the other issues are political and I am not able to comment on that.”

NFP President: Why is Fiji purchasing tear gas and anti-riot guns on public money?

15 January, 2016
NFP Media Release

National Federation President, Opposition Spokesperson on Immigration, National Security and Defence and Member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence and Foreign Affairs, Hon Roko Tupou Draunidalo has today expressed serious concern at Fiji’s receipt of a consignment of tear gas and anti-riot guns by the Prisons and Police departments from Korea, in December last year.

“I have a copy of official draft bill of lading documents detailing that a consignment containing 16 boxes of anti-riot guns for the Police, and 10 boxes of anti-riot guns plus tear gas candles for the Prisons Department was sent from Korea on 30 November 2015 on board the container ship Hanjin Florida (Call Sign D5CD3)” said Hon Roko Tupou Draunidalo.

“Taxpayers should know that even as the Opposition debated relentlessly for better government services for the people such as kidney dialysis machines, reduced VAT, better education and enhanced native land use during the Budget Committee of Supply process, their hard-earned taxes continue to be strong-armed and diverted to tear gas and anti-riot guns that in no way brings anything positive to nation building, just more signals of stock-piling and repression. We hope that the NGOs in Fiji are also monitoring these developments of further militarisation of the State,” the Opposition Spokesperson on Immigration, National Security and Defence said.

“The Executive must remember that they are subject to the overview of Parliament and as a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence and Foreign Affairs, I am now particularly interested in FRCA’s ability to effectively undertake their role as the guardian of the primary line of Fiji’s border control.

The Opposition will no longer tolerate dealings that are made in the peoples name but without their knowledge and that which only adds to fear and intimidation,” added Draunidalo.

“The international community needs to be very mindful of their exports to Fiji particularly those related to national security and they need to be aware that we are watching these developments very carefully and we will not forget,” said Draunidalo.

The NFP President said she understood that Williams & Goslings Ltd2 was in charge of clearing this consignment upon arrival in Fiji last December, just as they did for the consignment of 20 containers from Russia yesterday as highlighted by her fellow Opposition member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence and Foreign Affairs and SODELPA Whip, Hon Rt Isoa Tikoca3.

The evidence obtained by Honourable Roko Tupou Draunidalo shreds any iota of credibility of the Acting Military Commander’s claims in today’s Fiji Sun newspaper that the “small weapons were donated by the Russian Government and are for peacekeeping”.

“The Acting Military Commander and his line Minister need to be publicly accountable for why such a large cache of state of the art weaponry has been bought because they are totally irrelevant for peacetime and indeed peacekeeping, moreso when hard-earned public funds have been used for these acquisitions at a time when we continue to be inundated with public complaints about the steep cost of living brought on by new taxes”, concluded Draunidalo.

Roko Tupou Draunidalo
NFP President

Opposition Spokesperson: – Immigration, National Security & Defence

http://www.frca.org.fj/border-control/

2 http://www.wgfiji.com.fj

3 http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-15/fiji-opposition-voices-concerns-over-secrecy-surrounding russia/7089822

Establish Commission, Consultation A Gimmick

January 4, 2016

MEDIA RELEASE

CONSULTATION A WASTE OF TIME AND RESOURCES

The so-called public consultation being carried out by the Education Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy is a waste of time and taxpayers’ funds.

Instead Dr Reddy should make good his promise of October 2014 and bring to Parliament in February a Motion to set up an Education Commission to conduct an independent and comprehensive inquiry into our education system.

Dr Reddy is rightly likened by many as “Captain Chaos” or “Mr Inconsistent” given his various about-turns on many issues regarding education, thus seriously affecting the competency and career paths of our students.

Two months ago he told the nation through the media there would be no consultation on the many reforms that he had undertaken. Now he has changed his tune. In his maiden speech in Parliament in October 2014 he said there would be an Education Commission established to look into our education system. Dr Reddy then ditched this logical process in favour of his illogical and controversial reforms implemented in a haphazard manner.

2015 has been a year of chaos and confusion culminating into an error-riddled external examination as far as tabulation and correctness of results are concerned. While the Education Ministry’s website describes the results as provisional, the Minister claims the results based on raw marks are final. Yet the Ministry’s Examination Unit headquarters in Suva lists the results as UNOFFICIAL in the case of Year 10 Students.

All this has not been explained by Dr Reddy. Instead he accused the NFP of being incapable in calculating the results accurately. This is a pathetic response from a Minister vested with responsibility of shaping the educational pathway of our children.

The NFP regards the consultations as a wasteful exercise. Essentially Dr Reddy is trying to sell his reforms and is not at all genuine about seeking the views of the people.

The only way our education system can be truly analysed and genuine reforms undertaken is through an Education Commission, which is long overdue as the last one was conducted over 15 years ago.

Biman Prasad

Leader