A day to cherish

The Staff and Stalwarts of National Federation Party hosted a get together and lunch in presence of Former NFP Leader and Deputy PM (1987) Mr Harish Chandra Sharma.  Alot of meaningful  memories were shared which will surely guide us through this year’s battle and other future battles.

Parveen Bala Uncorrected

Hon Parveen Bala: Update on damages to roads, bridges, and water supply after TC Keni

I thank the Hon Minister for his statement. May I also welcome him back to the House after his Monday away with the involvement in the distribution of assistance to the flood victims in the West.

Once again Madam Speaker, we were hoping that the Minister would be using Parliament time to ELUCIDATE this august House on the new disaster rehab package called “Cyclone Assistance Relief Effort” — given the public interest around these initiatives.

Most particularly Madam Speaker, when the Hon Prime Minister in launching the Cyclone Assistance Relief package just prior to leaving for CHOGM in London had stated in his press conference that for those who lost homes, those who are entitled to the package:

will be able to use their electronic cards at approved retail vendors to purchase the items they need to rebuild their homes and replace the items they lost.Expressions of Interest for vendors will be in tomorrow’s Fiji Sun and we’ll announce the full list of vendors next week“.

We are still awaiting the Government to follow through its promise in the Fiji Sun six days after the relief measures were announced by the honourable Prime Minister – and might I add for god measure – the package was almost a replica of what the NFP Leader had proposed on 2nd April which was Easter Monday – a day after the devastating floods.

So Government may deny it 24/7 but it is copying the ideas and initiatives of this 54 year old Party.

But comping back to the delay in announcing and swiftly implementing the package instead of reporting o roads, rivers, culverts and bridges – Perhaps Madam Speaker, the Government side is wary of the Opposition asking the hard questions that would hamper their PR efforts after this sitting week? If so, we look forward to the upcoming budget session, and anticipate that to be a very active and robust one!

What needs to be told – and this is an indisputable fact – the neglect by what honourable members from the the side consistently refer to as the Bainimarama Government since January 2007 as well the current Fiji First Government from September 2014 of the waterways has caused severe damage to the roads, bridges and irish crossings.

Worse still this neglect of about 11 years has caused devastation to homes and properties,  in far greater magnitude than it did to roads and bridges. The honourable Minister’s hometown of Ba is a  painful example. I am sure even he would have been astounded at how raging waters from the Namosau river became a mini tsunami, causing damage to Xavier College and residential properties even  in Yalalevu on the morning of Sunday April 1st.

So if the raging floodwaters broke concrete retaining walls, then it surely would have damaged roads, bridges and irish crossings with small culverts.

And as far as our assessment of damaged areas was concerned, damages to roads and bridges was also caused by shoddy construction or reconstruction of old infrastructure. We believe this construction was a cosmetic exercise, leading to deterioration even after heavy rain, let alone flooding.

One only has to drive up Edinburgh drive to and from and city to see how a very recently re-constructed or re-sealed road has become bumpy. And still in Suva another major road – Mead road is being ripped apart and re-done when it was re-sealed last year!

Therefore clogged waterways caused by more than 11 years of neglect after the coup and releasing of roads and weak construction works purely as a cosmetic exercise are responsible for the damage .

 

“Criminal” says NFP

The National Federation Party claims a particular pharmacy in the Central Division purchased Meningococcal vaccines for $150 each from a pharmacy in the Western Division and retailed each vial of vaccine for $325 when the outbreak of the deadly disease was first made public.

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad described this is criminal saying this is not the first time a pharmacy in the country has exorbitantly overcharged people and taken advantage of the fact that many medications like Meningococcal vaccine are not under price control.

“The prices for the vaccine vary depending on which pharmacy one buys or orders the drug from. Most prices range between $150 to $220. But certainly not $325. How can a pharmacy purchase the vaccine locally for $150 and then sell it for $325 at a mark-up of well over 100%?

“This is a serious issue. We have the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission (FCCC) investigating the issue but this not enough. We had a similar case in 2016 following the outbreak of Conjunctivitis (Cika) where a particular pharmaceutical chain was selling Chloramphenicol eye drops for $17 when others were retailing it for just over $6”.

“At that time nothing happened. We wonder why? Is it because the owner of the pharmacy was a staunch Fiji First financial supporter?”

“If the pharmacy in question this time happens to be a Fiji First supporter and donor, will the FCCC take the necessary action?” Professor Prasad asked

“We are also concerned about the Health Ministry’s abysmal failure to inform pharmacies and people on the safekeeping and administration of the vaccine”.

“Like many other drugs Meningococcal vaccines have to be stored at a temperature of between 2 degrees to 8 degrees Celsius. We wonder if people who have purchased the vaccines from retail pharmacies were advised of this and given the vaccine wrapped in ice packs only to be taken out immediately before being administered”.

“Because if this wasn’t and isn’t being done then it is a huge waste of money because the vaccine becomes useless”.

The NFP Leader said the Health Minister and the Ministry should “wake up from their stupor” and decisively deal with issues related to the outbreak of Meningococcal.

NFP CALLS UPON GOVERNMENT TO DECLARE WESTERN DIVISION FLOOD AFFECTED AREAS DISASTER ZONE

The National Federation Party calls upon Government to declare the Western Division flood-stricken districts a State of Natural Disaster.

This would enable everyone affected by the devastating floods and freak winds caused by Tropical Cyclone Josie to be provided immediate assistance by the State. And money from the COP 23 Presidency Trust Fund should be diverted towards immediate relief work.

A similar move should be done for flood affected areas in other parts of the country that are in danger of being flooded because weather forecast shows the unpredictable nature of the cyclone that is causing widespread torrential rain.
It is clear from reports and initial assessments done by NFP teams comprising of stalwarts, national and branch executives and provisional candidates, as well as from media reports of widespread destruction and severe damage.

Many areas have suffered damage and destruction of unprecedented proportions caused by strong currents of raging floodwaters not experienced before in by the people.

Most parts of the Western Division are without electricity and water and limited communication. Because many rural areas have become inaccessible due to damage to infrastructure like roads and bridges, an aerial survey is immediately needed for an initial assessment.

We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to those families who have tragically lost their loved ones. We share their grief and pray that the Lord Almighty provides them courage to bear their irreplaceable loss.

We also extend our sympathies to the many thousands whose livelihood has been severely impacted as a result of damages to their homes, businesses and crops.

By now Government should have learnt from the experience of Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston and the widespread flash floods that hit the West and the North a month after the monstrous cyclone and be in a state of disaster preparedness both in terms of equipping evacuation centres with essentials and food items as priority number one. They have had extensive donor support and capacity building to support this preparedness.

Secondly, Government must have a rehabilitation package in place to assist victims and families following an immediate disaster impact assessment. In the immediate aftermath of Winston Government was caught off-guard and thousands of our people had to rely on immediate assistance provided by Australia and New Zealand.

However, this time Government does not have any excuses.

Government must establish the areas in the country worst affected that need immediate help. It will be of great relief to the victims if Government transports food and water in large quantities to the affected and identified areas immediately. Victims who have lost everything cannot wait any longer. They need food, water and clothing immediately.

Massive rehabilitation required.

Most of the municipalities in the Western Division suffered millions of dollar’s worth of damages. The business community has suffered damage and losses.

Hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed by flood waters. Farmers lost their livestock. Agricultural crops including sugarcane have been either destroyed or severely damaged.

It is clear that millions of dollars will be needed to bring some degree of relief to the flood victims in the affected areas of Fiji. As a priority, we suggest that Government’s machinery do the following:

1. Deploy army engineers to repair badly damaged infrastructure including schools and essential basic services like water supply. The personnel should also be used to help in the clean-up effort after the flood and distribution of food rations.

2. Approve a cash grant package to assist flood victims to re-build lost or damaged homes and purchase necessary household goods.

3. Approve a crop rehabilitation package to assist the agricultural sector including the sugar industry.

4. The businesses that have lost everything and those in danger of going under cannot survive even with assistance by their banks or delay in loan repayments. A rehabilitation package is also needed for them.

5. Funds from the COP 23 Presidency Trust Fund should be diverted towards relief efforts.

Professor Biman Prasad Leader

PM lying through the skin of his teeth on sugar

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama is lying through the skin of his teeth, blatantly misleading cane growers and the people of Fiji about sugar cane industry on the face of indisputable facts which prove beyond doubt the sharp decline of the industry under his watch in the last 11 years.
Mr Bainimarama is sounding like a broken record. He should be ashamed because sugar industry statistics paint a very bleak picture and confirm the failure of the military regime and the Fiji First government to revive the industry.
The PM said the Opposition are not providing real solutions but making big promises like giving $100 per tonne and spreading lies. The opposite is the truth.
No other leader of our nation in our independent history has such an abysmal record as far as our sugar industry is concerned and the statistics confirm this.
In 2006 the four mills crushed 3.2 million tonnes of cane and produced 310,000 tonnes of sugar.
Since then, both sugarcane and sugar production has declined steadily after the military coup of 5th December 2006. In 2017 the industry produced 1.63 million tonnes of cane and 180,000 tonnes of sugar. Active cane growers declined from a little over 18,000 to almost 12,000 over this period.
These are official industry statistics. How can someone, let alone a Prime Minister mislead people on the face of this?
The problem with the Prime Minister is he just reads speeches penned for him by taxpayers’ funded Qorvis Communications. He should realise that Qorvis is misleading him.

It is clear that Mr Bainimarama was attacking the NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad as he has announced that the NFP will implement a minimum guaranteed price of $100 per tonne as cane payment and also announced that we would build a new sugar mill in Rakiraki.

A motion moved by Professor Prasad during debate on the 2016-17 Budget in July 2016 for Government to allocate $50 million annually was defeated by Fiji First Government.
Another attempt by the NFP leader last year to get parliamentary approval for the plan’s implementation by way of a petition was rejected by Parliament.
Further, a petition by cane growers of Rakiraki for Government to build a new mill at Penang was kicked out in March last year after strong opposition by the Prime Minister.
Mr Bainimarama is using taxpayers’ funds to campaign and malign the Opposition. Taxpayers’ funds are being abused to spread lies in the hope that his circus tricks influence growers and their families to vote for him.
We challenge him to a debate together with his Qorvis spin doctors that will prove once and for all how the industry has been run down by people who cannot differentiate the root of a sugarcane from its top and are leading growers up the garden path.

Authorised by: –
Kamal Iyer NFP Headquarters
Ph: 9995000