FSC BREACHES MASTER AWARD FSC deduction from “Top-Up” to cane payment unlawful

October 20, 2017  

MEDIA RELEASE

The National Federation Party believes it is illegal for the Fiji Sugar Corporation to   deduct  loans and charges for commodities from the “Top-Up” of $6.54 per tonne of cane from taxpayers funds to the 4th cane payment of 44 cents per tonne of cane.

NFP General Secretary Jagannath Sami says Clause 21.1 of the Sugar Master Award is extremely clear and authorises FSC to only deduct from cane proceeds and nothing else.

“Under the Master Award, which is the contract of general application between the FSC and Registered Cane Growers, the FSC is only authorised to make deductions from the cane proceeds payable to cane growers”, says Mr Sami who was the Chief Executive of the Sugar Cane Growers Council until forcibly removed from office in January 2007 following the military coup of December 2006.

Clause 21.1 of the Master Award states, “Notwithstanding any other written law or any agreement between a grower and any other person, the Corporation may deduct from the amount payable to a grower any sum which the Corporation is required or authorised to deduct under the Master Award in priority to any lien, charge or assignment with regard to the grower’s cane or proceeds of sale thereof, and without in any way limiting the generality of the foregoing provisions.”

Mr Sami says, “the FSC has violated this provision by making deductions from taxpayers’ funds provided by Government as “Top-Up” to assist growers still reeling from the devastation caused by Severe TC Winston”.

“It is hypocritical for FSC on one hand to say the Top-Up will benefit growers, and defend its illegal action of making these deductions by wrongly stating that growers with low cane production in 2016 would have received little income!”.

“This is contrary to the objective of the Top-Up, which was to help growers recover from the effects of TC Winston. Naturally growers in Ba, Tavua and Rakiraki, who were in the direct path of the destructive winds, and had low production after their crops were destroyed”.

“The deductions therefore render meaningless the intent of the assistance”.

“In essence, the “Top Up” has benefitted the FSC and the Creditors who received the bulk of the pay-out”

“The growers have been used as pawns and sacrificial lambs. Surely the government would have known this even before agreeing to Top Up”.

“It is now proven that the claim of the Top-Up helping growers was hollow”.

“Also, the claim that cane price per tonne increased by 11% from the 2015 season is a cheap publicity stunt”.

“The fact is that 70% or over 9,000 of our growers, whose average production fell to 100 tonnes because of TC Winston received less than $1”. These growers and their families experienced a bleak and dark Diwali”.

“It is clear our growers have been fooled yet again by the government and FSC”.

“We once again call on Government to direct the FSC and the lending institutions like Sugar Cane Growers Fund and Fiji Development Bank to reverse the deductions, firstly because it is illegal under the Master Award and secondly because the intention of the taxpayers’ funds given to assist growers must be made good on”.

Authorised by:

 Jagannath Sami

General Secretary

National Federation Party

Mob: 9993049

NFP General Secretary- FSC deductions illegal – Media Release (2)

 

Let the spirit of truth, justice, and righteousness prevail

October 18, 2017

MEDIA RELEASE

The National Federation Party earnestly hopes that truth, justice and righteousness will prevail in our nation in the spirit of Diwali.

“The diya (traditional lamp) symbolises the illumination of the lives of all our people to dissipate the darkness and clouds of uncertainty hanging over a vast majority our people”, says Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad.

The NFP Leader says while Diwali is perhaps the most important event in the Hindu religious calendar, it is also of significance to all people in Fiji’s multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious nation because it renews and builds bridges of unity, harmony and solidarity.

“Diwali is about sharing and caring each other. It is about remembering the sick and the infirm, unemployed, under-privileged and the less fortunate. And together with every citizen of our nation, it is about illuminating the nation and the night skies to defeat darkness and celebrate triumph of good over evil”, he said.

Professor Prasad also says as a first step to illuminate the lives of some of our people in the spirit of truth, righteousness and justice, the Government should direct the Fiji Sugar Corporation to reverse all deductions made from the $.9.15 per tonne top-up to the 4th cane payment made to cane growers, that has left them with a pittance.

Cane growers are also multi-racial in demographics contrary to common belief, and every one of them will have also anticipated a good Diwali.

“Furthermore, in the spirit of Diwali, lending institutions like the Sugar Cane Growers Fund and the Fiji Development Bank should refund growers the loan amounts that were deducted by FSC. These deductions have left more than 70% or over 9,000 growers with zero balances or payments of less than $1”.

“The deductions from the top-up defeat the purpose of the payment which was made to rehabilitate the lives of growers still suffering from the effects of Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston especially in Ba, Tavua and Ra districts”.

“The lives of majority of our growers and their families are enveloped in darkness. The arbitrary deductions by FSC contravene the spirit of Diwali.”

“We pray that the spirit of Diwali, its religious importance and multicultural significance prevails all over our nation and sincerely wish all our people a happy and blessed Diwali”.

Authorised by: –

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

 NFP Leader Diwali Message Oct 2017

 

Top-Up Cane Payment a sham: Bleak Diwali

October 17, 2017

MEDIA RELEASE

The National Federation Party says more than 70 percent or over 9,000 cane growers and their families will have a bleak Diwali after deductions by Fiji Sugar Corporation for commodities and loans have left them with no income in the 4th and final cane payment for 2016.

This shows that Government’s decision to top-up the 4th cane payment of 44 cents per tonne by $9.15 per tonne was a sham, says NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad.

“We have cited several statements issued by FSC to growers. The statement itself is misleading. The deduction by FSC is listed as reversal of 50% of FSC debt. In reality, this means that a grower has paid 50 percent of debt owed to FSC for fertilizer, rice, sugar etc. Other deductions include rent to i-Taukei Land Trust Board, Sugar Cane Growers Fund and Fiji Development Bank”.

“In one case a grower who harvested 236 tonnes of sugarcane in 2016 is left with only 82 cents from a payment of about $1500 after deductions by FSC. This is preposterous. How can FSC and the Government expect this grower like thousands of others to celebrate Diwali?”

Professor Prasad said the fact that the FSC announced the payment even before the Sugar Industry Tribunal certified it raises serious questions about the payment like: –

  1. Was the Sugar Cane Growers Council Chief Executive Officer aware of the actual amount of the payment and the top-up?
  2. If the SCGC CEO was aware, did he request FSC and Government not to make any deductions from this payment because of Diwali?
  3. Why did the FSC announce the payment before the Tribunal certified the payment because any cane payment is first announced by the Tribunal?
  4. Why are $3.05 cents per tonne from the top-up to be paid in January 2018 when the payment is for the 2016 season?
  5. Does this mean that FSC and Government will use the deferred payment of $3.05 as a Special Payment that is advanced to growers from the previous season, in this case the 2017 season, for educational needs of their children?

Failure by those at the helm of the sugar industry institutions to answer these pertinent questions, namely the Sugar Industry Tribunal, Sugar Cane Growers Council, Fiji Sugar Corporation and the Ministry of Sugar will confirm the deviousness of these institutions.

This façade re-enforces our consistent call for the democratisation of the industry institutions, especially the SCGC that is the umbrella body of growers who are the largest and most important stakeholders in the industry.

It also confirms that FSC and Government are colluding similar to the CSR and colonial rule to subjugate growers. They have lost the plot and seriously undermined the livelihood of growers because the industry has been declining under their control since the military coup of 2006.

The NFP has already announced the implementation of a minimum guaranteed price of $100 per tonne of cane if it forms government. This will be part of sound and sensible measures to be implemented by an NFP Government to ensure the industry once again produces 4 million tonnes of sugarcane and at least 400,000 tonnes of sugar.

Authorised by: –

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

NFP Leader says 4th cane payment a sham- Media Release October 2017

Failure to recruit doctors shows Government has failed

The National Federation Party says it will establish a National Hospital Service that will be solely responsible for all aspects of our health and medical services including timely recruitment of specialists if it forms Government.

“The running of our public hospitals, health centres and pharmacies should be solely left to experienced and dedicated professionals and not politicians as evidenced by their absolute failure to improve our public health and medical service”, said NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad

Professor Prasad was responding to a report on the non-recruitment of specialists despite rushing through Parliament, legislation to this effect.

“The current Government has miserably failed to improve our health system with the latest episode being the non-recruitment of specialists for our hospitals despite rushing through a Bill for enactment in Parliament almost 6 months ago”.

“The question that arises is what was the need to enact the Medical and Dental Practitioners (Amendment) Act in Parliament under Standing Order 51 in April this year supposedly under the urgency to recruit specialists and bypassing the Medical and Dental Council preventing them from scrutinising the qualifications of those recruited?” asked NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad

Professor Prasad said when the NFP questioned the rush to enact the legislation and requested it to be put to scrutiny through a parliamentary select committee, both the Attorney General as well as the Minister for Health told Parliament there was no need for this as specialists were urgently needed.

“Six months later we are told that there is no confirmation of when the specialists will be available in our hospitals. This is despite the fact that the Health Minister visited India early this year before the enactment of the legislation specifically to recruit doctors and specialists”.

“The provision in the legislation for the Minister to circumvent the normal procedure of doctors serving for 4 months before being registered by the Medical or Dental Councils, we were told was necessary to speed up the process of recruitment. The relevant Council is now required to comply with the Minister’s directive and issue registration certificate to specialists recruited by Government.”

“Failure to comply with the Minister’s directive would mean a fine of up to $10,000 for the relevant Council and a fine of up to $5,000 or a term of imprisonment of 2 years or both for Council members”.

“Yet there is no compulsion on Government to comply with a stipulated timeline to recruit specialists. The current Government is seemingly oblivious to the plight of our people and the deteriorating state of our public hospitals”.

Land of Hope, Freedom and Glory

 

The evening of 10th October 1970: Celebrations at Albert Park  to mark Independence earlier that day: Pictured are Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, Mrs Amina Koya and Leader of the Opposition Siddiq Koya. Sitting on Mr S M Koya’s lap is his younger son Faizal Koya, now a Vice President of NFP.

The National Federation Party today paid tribute to the founding fathers of Fiji, hailing them as gigantic leaders who put national interest above everything else to negotiate Fiji’s Independence 47 years ago.

As we celebrate 47 years of our Independent history, it must not be forgotten that it was the NFP’s founding father and Leader of the Opposition Ambalal Dahyabhai Patel (A D Patel) and his successor Siddiq Moidin Koya (SM Koya), together with the then Chief Minister and later the first Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara (Ratu Mara), who put aside their deep personal and political differences to give Fiji true nationhood and sovereignty.

A peaceful transition from 96 years of Colonial rule to Independence on 10th October 1970 and constitutional and parliamentary rule is a monumental achievement and above all a monumental achievement through genuine dialogue, consensus building, negotiation, resulting in unanimity amongst our founding leaders for Fiji’s future.

This fundamental principle is a cornerstone of NFP’s foundation. We have always achieved solutions to our national problems, which to many people may have seemed insurmountable, through genuine dialogue, goodwill, consensus and bipartisanship.

Independence, a thriving sugar industry that was Fiji’s economic mainstay for 30 years of our independent history and will still remain vitally important to the livelihood of some 200,000 of our people and the 1997 Constitution are a few but perfect examples of what can be achieved by working together.

We should not also forget the 14 years of our Independent history during which we were under military rule due to 4 military coups since 1987.

We should not also forget that the most important symbol of our nation following Fiji being granted its Instruments of Independence, our noble banner blue flag, would have been changed had it not been for the widespread opposition of our citizens.

Unfortunately, consensus, goodwill, dialogue and bipartisanship are missing from our national political landscape. We believe it is time to re-dedicate ourselves to One Nation, One Destiny just as we did 47 years ago.

Let us all remember the giant strides made by our country’s founding fathers and to hold true to the spirit of unity and understanding of our Independence because freedom, hope and glory is still ours if we grasp it.

Let us in the spirit of unity and harmony through genuine Talanoa, so ably demonstrated by our founding fathers, bequeath to our future generations a nation of boundless hopes, endless dreams and aspirations and above all a Fiji that once again becomes a symbol of genuinely united, harmonious and a beacon of hope.

God Bless Fiji

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad                      Pio Tikoduadua

Leader                                                            President

NFP MESSAGE ON FIJI DAY

Stop Police Intimidation: NFP

The National Federation Party will alert the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) if officers of the Fiji Police Force do not immediately stop harassment and intimidation of executives of Public Sector Unions following their decision to hold a secret ballot to seek mandate for strike action following Government’s unilateral action to put civil servants on contracted employment.

The NFP has viewed correspondence from the Fiji Public Service Association (FPSA) to Public Services International (PSI) informing PSI that on Thursday 5th October, two of its Union Executives were interviewed by Police and emails and newsletters were confiscated. Furthermore, one of the Executives was warned not to talk to a Union Organiser.

We have also been informed by Trade Unionists and Union staff members who do not represent public sector employees that they have received calls from police seeking information from them on the proposed strike ballot.

The questioning by police is harassment and intimidation of Union Executives. This action is in gross violation and complete disregard of the dispute resolution machinery since a dispute on the matter is now before the Employment Relations Tribunal as widely reported by the media last Saturday.

The Commissioner of Police should reveal whether or not police acted on a complaint filed by Government or any other party.

The Attorney General and Minister for Civil Service as well as the Minister for Defence should immediately ask the Police Commissioner to tell his officers not to get involved in this dispute.

We are not a Police State. Such actions do not augur well for Fiji’s bid to become a member of UNHRC.

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

Attached: FPSA letter to PSI

FPSA LETTER TO PSI

NFP Leader – Stop Police Intimidation

Our Teachers deserve respect, recognition and reward

Our teachers deserve respect and recognition and should be rewarded for performing their role admirably under difficult circumstances instead of being unfairly treated by the current Government.

The role and responsibilities of teachers in a classroom, in the community and in the larger society are often forgotten.

Teachers are performing an admirable role under pressure and in a climate of uncertainty because this Government has made their employment conditional.

The contractual employment being forced upon our teachers as well as other civil servants is totally unjustified. The uncertainty amongst teachers about their future is further exacerbated by the fact that the recent salary adjustments are not commensurate with roles, responsibilities and their work experience.

The NFP in government will ensure that this uncertainty and regressive work environment created by unilateral changes to the education system becomes a thing of the past. We will revoke all contracts and ensure all our teachers as well as other civil servants have a permanent tenure of employment.

We will also increase the retirement age to 60 years as there is an absolute lack of experience in our teaching fraternity and the civil service at large.

Experience in teaching is vital and conducive to progressive learning and strengthening the profession.

Furthermore, we will review the working conditions of all teachers to ensure that their salaries are commensurate with work experience, roles and responsibilities.

We will restore our teachers’ professional, social and economic status. We will do this through proper consultations with teacher unions, school managements and all other stakeholders.

On the occasion of World Teachers Day, the NFP salutes the tremendous work teachers have done over the many decades to help shape the lives of our students.

Teachers are a beacon of hope and symbols of knowledge and strength in our society.

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

 

NFP Leader World Teachers Day Message

Minister Bala’s behaviour over e-ticket fiasco deplorable

The attitude and behaviour of a senior Cabinet Minister during Monday’s Speaker’s debate is a perfect example of thuggery and dictatorship following questions directed him by members of the audience over Government’s botched implementation of the e-ticketing system.

Minister for Local Government, Housing, Environment, Infrastructure and Transport  Honourable Parveen Kumar Bala’s answers, mannerism and tone showed his extreme arrogance and blatant disregard of the concerns of the members of the public  who undoubtedly like many thousands of people who use buses as the only means of public transport over the implementation of the e-ticketing system.

Naturally, this resulted in the reaction by a youth Mr Kelvin Anthony who could no longer tolerate Mr Bala’s arrogant behaviour and “my way or the highway” attitude and called him a thug.

This resulted in the Minister raising his voice and telling Mr Anthony that he (Mr Bala) knew who he is and where he works and lives. This constitutes a threat. Mr Bala should be ashamed of himself for displaying such behaviour, worse still in public.

When one views the Speaker’s debate, it becomes absolutely clear that Mr Bala came to the debate with a pre-meditated mind to simply disregard and crush all legitimate concerns raised on the problems associated with the implementation of the e-ticketing concept.

He wanted only his point of view  to prevail and wanted the audience to accept the fact that only the current Government has the ability, authority and mandate to implement any policy that it wants to without  widespread consultation. Along with stakeholders, the  people should have been consulted or given time to adjust to the system.

Every new concept has a transition period. E-ticketing is no exception. Government must understand that imposition hardens attitude. It is no use living in denial that immediate transition to e-ticketing is working.  Not only passengers, but bus drivers are also complaining.

The usage of e-ticketing is time-consuming for drivers and buses are unable to depart or arrive at their destinations on time. And we have seen in many cases that due to the rush to adhere to the timetable, drivers do not pick up passengers  along the route and the stranded passengers have no option but to catch taxis.

The best thing is to allow a transitional period of six months where both e-ticketing and cash should be allowed and accepted as fare. Even countries like Australia and New Zealand have both systems. A transition period will also allow bus operators to assess the level of increase in their income as this has been their basis for calling for the implementation of the e-ticking system.

And at the end of the six-month transition period, the  logical step  would be to increase the wages of drivers and other workers in the bus industry and also reduce  fares because due to the expected significant increase in income.

This is the right way forward and Mr Bala as Transport Minister must accept the reality and convince Government and the e-ticket service provider Vodafone to alleviate the plight facing the traveling instead of riding roughshod over people’s concern

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

 

NFP Leader blasts Minister Bala’s arrogance over e-ticketing issues

A lesson about freedom by KAMAL IYER

“Let us put Fiji First – the rest will fall in place” and “Reforms first elections later” were repeatedly emphasised in 2008 by Mahendra Pal Chaudhry, a former Prime Minister, Leader of the Fiji Labour Party, general secretary of National Farmers Union, and the Interim Minister for Finance and Sugar in the military regime from January 2007 to August 2008.

Nine years later, Mr Chaudhry talks about freedom as being more important that highlighting issues like cost of living, medical services and the $100 per tonne price of sugarcane. This is hypocrisy of the highest order.

“These are most important but what is more important is your freedom”, he was reported as telling FLP supporters in a meeting in Labasa – page 4 The Fiji Times 25/9/17

The Labour leader also stated that it seemed the plight of cane farmers seemed no longer important to be discussed during Parliament meetings.

While not naming any one, Mr Chaudhry was obviously directing his comments at the National Federation Party and its leadership. Because the NFP has been actively and consistently highlighting issues of cost of living, deteriorating health and medical services and a minimum guaranteed price of $100 per tonne of sugarcane.

Misleading

Nothing can be further from the truth.

Firstly, the FLP leader is wrong to state that the plight of cane farmers is not discussed in Parliament. Even a cursory glance at parliamentary Hansard will show anyone the importance being given by the NFP parliamentary caucus to the cane growers and sugar industry.

As recently as Wednesday 13th September, NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad outlined what the party do if elected into Government. On sugar, he spoke about the implementation of the minimum guaranteed cane price. Construction of a new sugar mill in Ra and highlighted the constant refusal of the current government to resolve problems facing the entire industry in a bipartisan manner.

A motion moved in February sitting of Parliament by NFP Whip Prem Singh on the establishment of a bipartisan committee to look at sugar was defeated in Parliament because government rejected it.

A petition by Ra growers in March for Government to look at building a new mill in Rakiraki was not allowed to proceed to the parliamentary select committee on economic affairs because the Prime Minister flatly said “NO”. This was well highlighted by the Fiji Times’ headline “Kicked Out” on the front page of its March 24 edition.

A petition by growers throught the cane belts in April for the implementation of the $100 minimum guaranteed price was not allowed to be tabled in Parliament. “Thrown Out” screamed Fiji Times’ headline of April 29.

Therefore, the NFP has meticulously highlighted grievances facing growers and impacting their livelihood. The FLP leader for all intents and purposes, is deliberately misleading growers.

Suppression of freedom

Mahendra Chaudbry should be the last person to talk about freedom of cane growers and the ordinary citizens when he himself is guilty of suppressing freedom by being a central player in the military regime’s interim Cabinet from January 2007 to August 2008.

He is guilty of either directly or having helped sow the seeds of suppression in the form of a restricted media and the dissolution of the Sugar Cane Growers Council (SCGC).

The democratisation of the SCGC and the need to have an absolutely free and fair media have, are and will be repeatedly highlighted by the NFP.

But what did Mr Chaudhry, who now laments lack of freedom, do as the regime’s senior Cabinet Minister? He: –

  • Took control of the SCGC in January 2007 after the sacking of the then CEO Jaganath Sami through Decree Number 1 of 2007
  • As regime’s sugar minister directed the Fiji Sugar Corporation to deduct $6.56 million to be lent by Sugar Cane Growers Fund (SCGF) to South Pacific Fertilizers Ltd (SPFL) and for it to be deducted from industry proceeds. This meant that growers without their knowledge were forced into paying $4.96 million (as 70
    % share of proceeds)
  • Said reforms first elections later and that democracy was flawed (FLP Annual Report – 2008)
  • Accused the media of bias and partiality (FLP Annual Report – 2008)
  • Supported a Fiji Human Rights Commission Report into the local media industry, urging for the Regime’s intervention to hold the media to account (FLP Annual Report – 2008) (This resulted in the Media Industry Development Decree in 2010)
  • Condoned the deportation of expatriate publishers of the Fiji Sun and Fiji Times – Russell Hunter and Evan Hannah in 2008, basically endorsing the regime’s claim they were a threat to national security(FLP Annual Report – 2008) (Ironically the deportations came soon after both newspapers highlighted the FLP Leader’s AUD$2 million he kept in Australia
  • Recommended to Cabinet in June 2008 to defer the elections of the Sugar Cane Growers Council to 2010 because elections would be an impediment to reforms being undertaken by the Regime (FLP Annual Report – 2008 & media reports) (This resulted in the dissolution of the SCGC in 2009 as well the reforms started under him has led to Bills 19 and 20 – Reform of the Sugar Cane Industry and Growers Fund Bills that subjugate growers under FSC and Government)

No Principles

There are countless other examples of Mr Chaudhry condoning or being part of a regime suppressing fundamental freedoms during his 18-month stint in the regime’s Cabinet.

For him to now talk about freedom, and point at others cannot go unchallenged.

Mr Chaudhry’s shirking of his principles and participating in a government born out of a military coup is best stated by an Editorial in the New Zealand Herald newspaper of 13th January 2007 and there is no need to say anything more. The Editorial titled “Chaudhry’s act muddies road back to democracy said: –

There is little more  melancholy than the sight of a person’s last shreds of credibility being burned. Such was the case when this week Fiji’s former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry threw in his lot with Commodore Frank Bainimarama, taking the post of Finance Minister in the military leader’s sham government. Here was a man who twice before had been deposed from government in coups lending his hand to the orchestrator of a reprise”.

“If politics sometimes creates strange bedfellows, this was totally beyond the pale. Mr Chaudhry has tendered just one justification for his decision. ‘The constitutionality or otherwise of the Government that I pledged to serve is yet to be determined’, he said. It was a crass excuse given the international condemnation of the coup. The defection from the cause of democracy of the leader of Fiji’s second-ranking political party and its first ethnic Indian leader muddies the road back to normality. Mr Chaudhry seemed to know better in the immediate aftermath of the coup”.

Then, he said he would not join the military regime because it was illegal, but was willing to work with it to restore democracy. He should not have deviated from that. His many qualms about the ousted Qarase Government’s divisive policies and governance shortcomings, and the election framework, could all have been addressed within Fiji’s democratic processes. Perhaps there should have been no surprise, however”.

“This was the same man who after the 2001 elections, craved power so much that he contemplated a coalition government with the party of George Speight, the man who overthrew his democratically elected Administration and held him hostage for eight weeks. Then, as now, saw no credibility problem”.

“Now, as then, his political judgment is horrendous. The moral authority with a figure brutally and illegally ousted from power has evaporated”.

 

A lesson about freedom – Fiji Times opinion Sept 2017