2018 NFP CONVENTION REMARKS BY NFP PRESIDENT MR PIO TIKODUADUA

Ba to Ba hai!

This morning I can tell you that there is a 2,000+ STRONG WIND for change right here in Ba, at the very school grounds that bestows our party founding father, AD Patel College, the honour he deserves. I am so very proud to stand before you and address you all as the NFP President.

I feel bolder still because of the team that I have beside me — our NFP Leader, our Management Board, our Youth Wing, our Provisional Candidates, our Party stalwarts and elders and of course all our party supporters here and abroad. We have been busy. Our teams are tirelessly out and about talking to people all over the country.

There is still much to be done, but I can guarantee the people of Fiji that our team of lionhearts do not bow to media intimidation or threats or administrative legal sanctions or the Special Branch.

The NFP has always followed the law. Team NFP is game ready any which way the Government chooses to throw the dice. The National Federation Party has come a long way from its first formative days from the day of mango tree with unshakeabl  ability, understanding and perception of the problems facing Fiji. They always put national interest above everything else. For them political capital or simply winning was secondary to principles of truth, righteousness, equality, dignity and justice. And 55 years later, these principles remain as strong as the unshakable roots of the mango tree.

They will not be shirked for political expediency. Many good policies of this government have been ideas of the NFP. The social policies like free bus fares, tuition free education for example were ideas in our 1982 and 2001 general elections manifesto. So they are not original ideas of this government.

However unfortunately, this government does not even copy our ideas well in its implementation so that it fully benefits the people. The latest example is $85 a tonne guaranteed price for a tonne of sugarcane. This is less than the minimum guaranteed price of $100 a tonne that the NFP is offering to cane growers. This policy means that growers will receive NOT LESS than $100. It means that if our sugar is sold on the world market at lucrative prices, growers will receive more than $100 a tonne.

This is not just our promise. It is our pledge as the Leader has said many times, to bring back smiles to the faces of our growers, their families, cane cutters, farm workers and indeed some 200,000 people who are directly or indirectly dependant on the industry for their livelihood. In the same way,

Today I am equally proud to announce one NFP policy decision for our Veterans, Retired Ex-Servicemen and Returning Soldiers to increase their monthly pension with a 50% increase from the current rate of $200/month to $300 dollars a month (OR FROM $50 a WEEK to $75 A WEEK) to keep pace with the burden of crippling cost of living.

On the same note we intend to review upwards the social pension scheme for our elderly citizens who are not on FNPF pensions, and our people living with disabilities. Many of you would have noted that in parliament our leader and two other MPs opposed the parliamentary pensions Bill because it did not provide for pension for those deposed from power by the four military coups, I they did not get re-elected into parliament after that. Yet those who grabbed power through the barrel of the gun qualify for pension despite being in interim governments.

We need to change this as well. In all fairness members of parliament overthrown by coups should receive pension because it is through no fault of theirs that they were removed from power. This includes their widows. Most importantly, the injustice heaped upon Fiji National Provident Fund pensioners needs to be corrected as well.

The reduction of pension from 15% to under 9% makes pensions meaningless. Government’s argument that no one would receive less than $100 per month is meaningless. Those who were receiving 25% have also lost out with Government claiming they received more than their share by dipping into other members’ funds. This is misleading.

There was a Buffer Fund worth $700 million that these members like others contributed to. They were benefitting from this Fund and not double-dipping. In Government we will restore your pensions because it is your contract that was breached. Ladies and Gentlemen, It should be a shame to us all when we compare those on the minimum wage of $2.68 who are struggling to put 3 square meals on the table, while those of our various communities who are the most vulnerable and for whom greater care and love is necessary, are even more marginalized. While $2.68 an hour is the minimum wage, the upper class enjoy tax benefits and lower corporate taxes.

As the Leader will tell you, the Prime Minister receives an average daily allowance of $3000 a day when on overseas travel. This is criminal. $5 an hour is what we will implement as a living wage. We will do so responsibly without hurting our businesses, particularly, small and medium businesses. Our manifesto will have details on how we will do it. But WE WILL DO IT.

Ladies and Gentlemen: The time for a two men rule in Fiji is soon going to be over. The time for the two men to rule by fear is going to over. The time for the two men to sing praises of each other and forcing 30 other Fiji First MPs to do the same is going to be over. Basically the prime for the PM and his right man – as the PM likes to call his Attorney General and Minister for Economy – is going to be over.

Fiji will no longer have a two men government. Fiji will so have an allinclusive genuinely multiracial government of TEAM NFP that you see assembled here in a large part. Because this is the TEAM that has the moral and political credibility rescue Fiji from two men and their circus tricks of cosmetic solutions that are dissipating before us to the great detriment and harm of all Fijians. They have caused irreparable damage to accountability, transparency, good governance and parliamentary democracy. I know that the current leader remarked that parliamentary democracy useless and coups are much better.

No wonder for half a year he is travelling or spending time on a first class aircraft seat than in office and parliament, leaving his right hand man to conjure con tricks. I know because I was there. I left them and a $200,000 salary after only 9 months in Government because I thought that after resumption of parliamentary democracy, the two men would practice genuine democracy, bipartisanship and rule in the national interest. But the two men heightened their resolve to suppress all. My Way or the Highway of the rule prevailed. And I could not tolerate it.

I decided to sacrifice my posh ministerial salary in the interest of all our people and our beloved country. I decided to join a party of principles that I would have joined before the 2014 elections had I not been a permanent secretary. But here I am- President of a party with a never say die attitude – A party that has never been and will never be feint hearted. It will not compromise its principles come hell or high water. Therefore two men cannot stop this tsunami of change. The day of reckoning is near.

Change is coming.

God bless NFP And God bless Fiji