Changes to NFP Parliamentary Caucus and Presidency following Roko Tupou Draunidalo’s resignation

Media Release

Monday January 23, 2017

The National Federation Party’s Management Board has endorsed Mr Parmod Chand to be the next Member of Parliament following the resignation of Roko Tupou Draunidalo last Friday afternoon from the positions of MP and Party President.

Rakiraki lawyer and NFP Ra Branch President Mr Semi Titoko has been endorsed by the Board to be the Acting President of NFP.

Roko Draunidalo conveyed her resignation as an MP to the Honourable Speaker and as NFP President and Party Member to the NFP General Secretary and Registrar of Political Parties.

Acting President Mr Semi Titoko has proven himself to be an exceptional leader in Ra and his latest accomplishment was the successful hosting of the NFP Convention and AGM last September in the district, attended by 700 Party Members and delegates.

He will act in the position until the Party’s AGM later this year.

Mr Parmod Chand is a former NFP MP, having served the Party in Parliament from 1994 to 1999. He is a successful cane grower, a well-known businessman in the Northern Division and the President of Fiji Bus Operators Association. Mr Chand is also the Party’s Vice-President, a position he has held since March 2014.

He was endorsed by the Management Board as he has the fourth highest votes (1014 votes) in the 2014 general elections. Once Mr Chand is in Parliament, the NFP’s numbers in the House will be back to three.

From June 3 rd last year, the Party had two MPs following the suspension of Roko Draunidalo for the rest of the parliamentary term.

Roko Draunidalo’s suspension was harsh and unfair as noted by the Inter Parliamentary Union. Understandably, she was frustrated by her inability to effectively be the voice of her voters in Parliament.

Roko Draunidalo discharged her duties of both as an MP and Party President effectively and fearlessly. She has decided to move on and we wish her well.

Mr Parmod Chand and the Party now await the decision of the Electoral Commission, which has to formally write to Mr Chand.

However we note the term of the Commission expired on January 9. The Constitutional Offices Commission that is empowered to appoint the Chairperson and Members of the Electoral Commission has not made any appointments.

This is unacceptable and we have stated this very clearly in our statement last Saturday.

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

21 January 2017: Media Release – Delay in appointment of Electoral Commission constitutes election rigging: NFP

The National Federation Party is deeply concerned at the delay by the Constitutional Offices Commission to appoint the Electoral Commission which is critical for preparations for a truly credible, free and fair general elections.

The three year term of the Electoral Commission ended on 9th January 2017 and since then the Supervisor of Elections, who reports to the Commission and takes directions from it, has been left unsupervised and is carrying on with preparatory work for the elections.

We ask whom is the Supervisor reporting to and taking directions from? Is it the Minister responsible for Elections who happens to be the Attorney General as well as the General Secretary of the Fiji First Party?

The Constitutional Offices Commission (COC) is empowered under Section 133 of the 2013 Constitution to appoint the Chairperson and Members of the Electoral Commission. The COC is chaired by the Prime Minister and its members are the Attorney General, the Leader of the Opposition, two Members appointed by the President on the advice of the PM and one member appointed by President on the advice of the Opposition Leader.

The Member nominated by the Leader of the Opposition, lawyer Richard Naidu, resigned last year. The current COC is therefore totally lopsided in favour of Government. We also note that the COC Chairperson who is the PM has been empowered to make acting appointments for a period of three months. He used this to appoint the Acting Commander of the Army in August 2015.

Why couldn’t the PM extend the term of the Chenn Bunn Young Chaired Commission for a three-month term using his powers, pending the Commission’s re-appointment or appoint a Commission for another three-year term?

It is deeply concerning that the Elections Office has been running without the constitutionally mandated oversight of the Constitutional Offices Commission especially when the Elections Office is already preparing for the 2018 elections.

The next scheduled general elections can be constitutionally held as early as April 2018, three and a half years into the term of the current Parliament. This is 15 months away. We cannot have the Supervisor of Elections running election preparations at his own discretion against a backdrop of clear conflict of interest from his Minister who is the general secretary of the governing Fiji First.

Furthermore, the Court of Appeal judgment (Civil Appeal ABU 0069 of 2014) was crystal clear in its declaration when it said that:

“The construction to be placed on sections 76(3) of the Constitution read with section 8(a) of the Electoral Decree requires the Supervisor to comply with all decisions and directions given to him concerning the performance of his functions by the Commission.”

This is a very clear direction from the Court of Appeal and their declaration read against the Constitution places the onus on the Prime Minister to ensure that these legal principles are upheld expeditiously.

An Electoral Commission is needed to ensure the implementation of Recommendations by the Multinational Observer Group (MOG) that observed the 2014 General Election and the 2014 annual report of the Electoral Commission itself.

We know the reports, after a delay, were referred to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights. The Committee’s Report should be tabled in the February sitting of Parliament because there is no time for delay if there had to be a truly credible and genuinely free and fair election next year.

The full implementation of the report is a prerequisite to our electoral integrity and for totally free and fair and robust debate among and between political parties and candidates and, most importantly, for the media to amplify, without fear, their voices to the public.

For the sake of transparency and accountability of the electoral process, there shouldn’t be any delay in the appointment of the Electoral Commission. Otherwise, any further delay will in our view constitute systematic election rigging by ignoring the need for the continuous existence of an independent institution.

 

Hon Prof Biman Prasad
NFP Leader

16 January 2017: Media Release – NFP accuses Minister of peddling untruths over QVS

The misinformation disseminated by the Ministry of Education over the state of readiness of Queen Victoria School confirms beyond any doubt that the Ministry under the Minister for Education have become thoroughly incompetent and an unmitigated disaster.

The Minister for Education and his permanent secretary have been peddling untruths for more than a week and deliberately misleading QVS staff, students and their parents. They knew full well that the School would not be ready for the opening of the 2017 school year.

The NFP had raised concerns following confirmation from reputable sources that the construction works were shoddy and that the concrete walls and pillars cracked under the force of a hammer. Simply, the rebuilt QVS under the ‘Adopt A School Programme‘ would not be able to stand a Category 2 Cyclone and was an Occupational Health and Safety Hazard.

Despite this, the Education Minister tried to gloss over the problems through propaganda in a daily newspaper that QVS was ready and would open next week. The new principal was described as dynamic and the names of staff and their EDP Numbers were also published (Fiji Sun, January 11, 2017: page 1 and 3). Obviously this was in response to another daily the Fiji Times, which published a report on its front page on 10th January (a day earlier) highlighting the Prime Minister telling the Education Minister to fix the School’s kitchen that was shown to be in a state of neglect.

Then on Sunday 15th January, the Sunday Times newspaper published a front page report quoting the Ministry’s permanent secretary as saying students would be temporarily using tents as classrooms while “minor structural adjustments continue”.

On Sunday evening the Minister announced that QVS would open on 30th January saying there was “shortage of beds and polishing work needed to be done”.

We regard this as unacceptable. It is disgraceful for a Minister to keep repeating untruths and try and hoodwink the people. He must reveal the truth and put a stop to his chaotic behaviour. Otherwise he should step down.

Authorised by: –

Hon Prof. Biman Prasad
NFP

NFP Leader says put words into action

PS for Sugar is right: NFP Leader

By Shanal Sivan. Fiji One News, Tuesday 3 January, 2017

NFP Leader says put words into action

The NFP is putting politics aside and wants to work with Government to improve the performance of the Sugar industry.

The Permanent secretary for Sugar Yogesh Karan had said through the media last week that our sugar industry needs to be revived with proper consultation and that farmers need to be included in the dialogue concerning the industry.

The National Federation Party says common sense has now prevailed.

“For the first time in the last ten years there seems to have been some very positive statements from the Sugar Ministry and indeed from the Prime Minister’s Permanent Secretary the PS responsible for Sugar Mr Yogesh Karan, it appears that there is now some understanding as to the real issues facing the Sugar Industry.” said Dr. Biman Prasad.

Prasad says 2017 should not be a year to do trials and test new strategies to revive the sugar industry rather make solid decisions to increase performance in the industry.

“I think Mr Karan is right that we need to concentrate in the farmers we need to bring confidence back into the farmers of this country, and this is why the NFp in the last budget debate moved the motion that for the next 3 years we should allocate $50m a year for the next three years and provide a guaranteed price of roughly about $90 per tonne, so that we can bring back the confidence we can ensure that farmers have some income left after taking away the cost and that they have an incentive to remain Sugar Cane Farmers.”

The PS for Sugar Yogesh Karan told Fiji One News he is due to visit the farmers in the Western Division.

Karan wished not to comment any further to comments made by the opposition party NFP.

 

Fiji needs sound and sensible leadership: NFP

December 31, 2016

MEDIA RELEASE

The governance of Fiji needs to take a new direction in 2017 for all our citizens to witness genuine parliamentary democracy and full restoration of fundamental human rights and freedoms that are prerequisites for the social, political and economic advancement of our nation.

A New Year is naturally the culmination of the festive season. It is a time of rejoicing, reflection, making resolutions and welcoming the New Year with celebrations in a spirit of togetherness and harmony.

It is also a time to remember the sick and the infirm, the less fortunate and all those unable to celebrate New Year with the same passion and vigour as others due to various reasons.

The high cost of living, lack of meritocracy in the appointments to jobs and key positions in our civil service and statutory organisations, the staggering sugar industry, the devastating effects of Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston that has destroyed livelihood of many thousands of people, the bungling of a good policy like Help for Homes Initiative that has resulted in more than 3000 people still living in tents, the damage caused by recent floods, rising unemployment, rising national debt levels, derogations in the Bill of Rights of the 2013 Constitution, regressive and draconian decrees, a regulated media and the deteriorating health system and medical services as well as our public road infrastructure are fundamental problems that can only be resolved by a display of sound and sensible leadership.

To ignore these fundamental problems would be doing so at our own peril. In Fiji, calling everyone Fijians and saying they enjoy common and equal citizenry doesn’t guarantee fundamental freedoms like freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of the media.

It does not guarantee job opportunities based on meritocracy, rendering common and equal citizenry meaningless.

These are the challenges we face as a community and as a nation, which unfortunately are not highlighted by the media.

This reality may not be grasped by many of our people simply because of limitations in the Constitution and continuation of regressive Decrees that dilute provisions in the Bill of Rights, resulting in the inability of the media to disseminate such information.

The derogations in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution, regressive Decrees especially those impeding the conduct of truly credible, free and fair elections must be changed in accordance with the recommendations of the Multinational Observer Group (MOG) Report as well as the 2014 Report of the Electoral Commission.

And this can only happen if the Fiji First Government changes its confrontational approach in the spirit of goodwill and hope and facilitates the necessary changes through Parliament.

We recall the comments of the Prime Minister of India, the late Mrs Indira Gandhi when she visited Fiji in 1981. Mrs Gandhi said: –

“Most of us believe in a multiracial and multicultural society, the texture of which is rich in variety and ethnicity. Understandably, in such societies some tensions do arise but in a democratic set-up we must have checks and balances to safeguard the rights of each ethnic group. Hence a greater responsibility develops on leaders to show the way. The task is not easy. In every country there are some who think they have all the answers to the problems that beset us.”

Those sentiments are still relevant to Fiji as we strive for a harmonious future based on firm principles of democracy, good governance and economic growth.

This is the fundamental challenge facing the current leadership who must not pretend it has the solutions, but make a genuine effort in resolving the concerns in the best interest of the nation.

Parliament is the highest court of the land. Parliament must make decisions in the national interest. Narrow and sectarian interests must be discarded.

As a party born out of the struggle for dignity and justice of all our people, the NFP will continue the struggle for our beloved nation to once again become a beacon of hope and trust.

We wish you a happy, healthy, prosperous and blessed 2017.

Authorised by: Professor Biman Prasad, NFP Leader