NFP Leader Embarks on Talanoa and Consultation with Cane Growers for Next 6 Days.

With key growers reps from each sector in every district gatherin together to highlight issues and their concerns and what they want. Especially before start of 2018 harvestin and crushing season. Also to inspect and see if FARM CARE provided by government is reachin those in need.

The consultation has been oranised by Fiji Cane Growers Association (FCGA) and team led by the leaders includes FCGA Vice President Prem Singh, FCGA General Secretary Bala Dass

All Coups are Bad

MAY 14 remains ingrained in the minds of many Fijians, including those who have migrated to other countries. This day gives us an opportunity to ponder two major events that happened 108 years apart but intricately linked.
As it played out on May 14, 1987 and the period of events after that, the emergence of descendants of indentured labourers from India in both commerce and politics is contended to have played a role in the military coup led by Sitiveni Rabuka, now the leader of SODELPA (Social Democratic Liberal Party).
Fast forward to May 14, 2018, we are 139 years past from the arrival of indentured labourers and the first military coup is 31 years old. Standing alone, these are different events in the history of our country but have had significant impacts in the course of our nation’s social and economic progress.
Debate in Parliament this week provided an interesting take from both sides of the house regarding the coups. Most of the time, it seemed that coups were selectively used as a rhetorical tool to invoke good and bad from the past with the intention to amend it for political ends.
There is no scarcity of literature on the struggles and triumphs of the indentured labourers and their descendants. Unfortunately, the most notable writer around this theme and history, Professor Brij Lal and his wife (Professor Padma Narsey) remain banned from returning to the country of their birth.
When questioned about the ban in Parliament in March 2015, the then minister for immigration, national security and defence Timoci Natuva argued that Prof Lal’s actions were viewed by the government of the day as prejudicial to the peace, defence, public safety, public order and security after the 2006 coup.
As Prof Lal rightly argued, if this is the price one has to pay for standing up for freedom of speech, no one will ever be able to serve him the notice of bankruptcy.
If we really live a new and a better democracy than ever before, how come a humble professor of history continues to be harmful to peace, public safety and security? Indeed English novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton seems to live forever even though the term “pen is mightier than the sword” was phrased by him in 1839.
While May 14 also remains one of the darkest in Fiji’s history, May 19 in 2000 and December 6 in 2006 should be equally treated as darkest days as well. On all of these dates, democratically elected governments were forced out of power with the use of guns.
So, when we talk about coups in this country, let’s be honest. All coups are bad, regardless of the intention. One cannot disagree with the method but agree with the objective(s). That should apply to 1987, 2000 and 2006.
Whether you call it a clean-up campaign or a radical intervention, fundamentally coups involves undermining the rule of law and use of arbitrary power in the pursuit of political gain.
Giving a coup another euphemistic name does not change what it is. Doing so is setting a treacherous precedent as the English language is not short of euphemisms. Doing so means there can be good coups and there can be bad coups. With this type of reasoning, we are treading on dangerous ground.
If there is a good coup, it is possible to have better coups.
Bad memories started flooding into my mind of what I heard about the 1987 coup and the years thereafter, as a small boy growing up on a rural farm. I am certain there are children of both major ethnic communities who share such memories from the 2000 and 2006 coups.
Perhaps one can argue that the 1987 coup started all coups and that it is the worst of all the three coups. This could by implication mean other coups were not bad. Such an argument is also dangerous as the next coup maker can always claim an ingenious motivation for a coup with an innovative label.
Do we want to set the stage for a leader to carry out a coup in the name of promising a better way of life and quick solutions to the problems facing the population?
In the same breadth, one can also argue the next coup is as bad as the last coup (for whatever reason) but brings about a cycle of anarchy and economic hardship.
In December 2011, on the eve of five years since the 2006 coup, a joint letter signed by Human Rights Watch, International Trade Union Confederation, International Federation of Journalists and Front Line Defenders asked the interim government to stop “… the ongoing serious human rights violations in Fiji and realise the promises that your government made at the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2010”.
The letter also alleged that that “… four people are reported to have died in military or police custody and several people have been intimidated, beaten, sexually assaulted, or subjected to degrading treatment”.
As they say, history is the same old same old. That is usually the way when history repeats itself. Coups in Fiji have shown that when one group is targeted, all people are vulnerable.
Misrepresenting the past could muddy public understanding of influential events. Therefore, let us understand our history, our society and what we want for the future. Then only we can safeguard democracy and individual rights.

* Neelesh Gounder is a senior lecturer in economics at USP. These are his views and not of The Fiji Times or of USP.

NFP WILL CHAMPION TRUE ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

The NFP will advocate genuine environmental protection and advocacy, not simply because the talking about the environment is fashionable, but because it is the right thing to do to ensure that our generations to come inherit pristine natural surroundings that err on the side of precaution, rather than development that causes environmental destruction.

“The sudden interest in environmental advocacy outside Fiji by the Government is brow-raising. It is no secret that the Government has been advised that it can greenwash its credentials through international platforms like the COP23 Presidency and Oceans Pathway.”

“That would not be an issue IF right here at home, the policies and laws are in synch with our big, bold motherhood statements to the world’.

“A clear example is the 10c plastic bag levy. Has the government been able to independently assess and tell the public if single-use plastic bags currently choking our plants, oceans and landscape have been reduced after implementing this policy? Or was it just greenwashing a revenue measure”?

“A more sensible approach would have been to increase tariffs on all plastic manufacturers OR like China phase out single-use plastics across the board with a fixed and short timeline”

“If we look at carbon emissions, the Government is fond of saying that we have low carbon emissions. That is correct when we compare ourselves to the rest of the developed world, but it is not an excuse to then lower tariffs on hybrid vehicles without phasing down the number of car’s on our roads systematically. Not only are our carbon emissions increasing, the traffic congestion on our roads are leading to road rage and other headaches.”

“Similarly, our EIA processes are weak. This was admitted to by the Attorney General in Parliament. So we have to question all the developments like construction and dredging, that have occurred with dubious EIA processes, on their watch. We have a high rise coming up in the city area, that even at a glance causes concern to many people passing by.

ALL EIA’s should be freely available public documents. In fact the Ministry of Environment should be the first to make all these documents available in electronic format to save tree’s! Yet we have archaic laws that make these documents out to be some big secret. The Ministry of Environment should be protecting the environment, not commercial interests who may not want their records to be publicly available.”

“Any developer in Fiji whether local or international must know that NFP will be about putting our people first, so we will make all EIA reports publicly available. We will be sincere about public consultations on development, and we will most definitely be looking to amend archaic laws that do not err on the side of precaution.

We will ensure that Free, Prior and Informed Consent is adhered to on developments on native land so that the Nawailevu mess that this Govt put together and that was debated in Parliament earlier, is never repeated.

Our fisheries and ocean will be seriously researched and protected with innovation from our young minds. If breath we take depends on a healthy ocean, this is a no-brainer.

Green Bonds, Blue Carbon, Climate Insurance and all these high-flying approaches that try to treat Carbon like a commodity, will be carefully scrutinised to ensure that our people are the primary beneficiaries and know what is being negotiated in their name.

Our manifesto will be more detailed on these issues and we have many environmentalists in our party, like our Vice President, who I know will be keeping us on our toes about this.

End of Week Statement Review of Free Medicine Scheme

Parliament of Fiji

Friday, May 18, 2018

By NFP MP Hon Parmod Chand

Madam Speaker, I rise to present my End of Week Statement  on the Review of Free Medicine Scheme. This Statement will highlight the shortfalls as well as the need to review the Free Medicine Scheme.

Madam Speaker the Free Medicine Program was announced in the 2015 National Budget that was announced on 21st November 2014, to take effect from 1st January 2015. “Turning promises into deeds” was the Budget theme.  One of the promises of Fiji First was the provision of providing all price control prescribed medicine that would be  prescribed by doctors, even for Non-Communicable Diseases, for those earning less than $20,000 per annum.

Later when the scheme was rolled out, a Ministry of Health circular clearly stated that   those who qualify for the scheme are adults over 18 years of age earning less than $20,000 per annum and  individuals less than 18 years old if their combined parental income is less than $20,000 per annum.

But Madam Speaker, firstly when the scheme was implemented only 70 price control medicines were listed as free medicine, which was eventually increased to 142 prescribed price control medicine from 2016.

Secondly the contradiction in those eligible for the scheme is abundantly clear. For example if both parents in a home earn $19,000 per annum each, both qualify for free medicine. However their children under the age of 18 years will not qualify even if they don’t earn a cent or are students because the combined parental income is $38,000 per annum or more than $20,000 stipulated as a qualifying criteria.

So the parents will get free medicine for whatever its worth, while their children will not. This is totally unfair and discriminatory.

Just like the Fiji First promise to continue maintaining zero VAT on seven basic food items and medicines, the free medicine scheme has seen a promise turn into a mis-deed. At the last count that I am aware of, around 25,000 people  were benefitting from free medicine.

This is similar to the Fiji Electricity Authority subsidy or free electricity as it was called, or even free water when it is subsidy. Of course this number may have increased but certainly not proportionate to the  segment of our population living in poverty by government’s own statistics.

Madam Speaker while more than 28 percent of our population live in poverty and thousands of others earn less than $20,000 annually, one wonders  why the numbers are not significantly higher if the scheme is so highly beneficial as it is made out to be by Government?

The answer is bureaucracy Madam Speaker. Just as one spends  an average of $30 running around to get his or her documentation in order to qualify for the  water subsidy  or Electricity subsidy, so does an individual eligible for the scheme.

Electricity subsidy, when it was initially announced would have resulted in a saving of $19.08 in one year. This subsidy may have increased but is still far less than what people thought.

The water subsidy of 91.25 units will save you $13.96 in one year. Free prescribed basic medicine will save you a maximum of $400 in one year if you are sick for most days in a year and need prescribed price controlled generic medicine for more than 150 days in one year. That is indeed far-fetched because any worker has a maximum of either 18 or at the most 21 days sick leave each year.

Therefore, the bureaucracy and inability to get all prescribed medicine for free is a huge hinderance.

Madam Speaker, the retail pharmacies have been forced to participate in the free medicine scheme because if they don’t, they are liable to be slapped with a $100,000 fine. This is again unjust.

Retail pharmacies have to provide space to store free medicine or whatever stock is supplied. Then their staff have to manually record recipient’s details and also that of the prescription. All this is done manually.

They don’t have direct access to the Ministry of Health servers to electronically ascertain the eligibility of the recipient but manually record details of his or her card. The electronic link to MOH database was promised by Government almost four years ago but has not been fulfilled.

Worse still, pharmaceutical staff have to tolerate abuse when told medication prescribed by the doctors is either not available or is not listed as a free medicine. We have established that in many retail pharmacies the full list of 142 medicines is not available because they weren’t supplied in the first place despite being generic medicine.

Madam Speaker one pharmacy in Suva, which is one of the busiest and strategically located, had only 50 of the 142 listed medicines.

Furthermore, our investigation has established that there is only one designated staff at Fiji Pharmaceutical Service who looks after the stocks at 52 retail pharmacies. That is why stocks get either depleted or expire when not used.

Recently there was a case of $15,000 worth of insulin under free medicine scheme expiring in retail pharmacies when actual fact, stocks had run out in hospitals and patients told there was no insulin in stock.

Madam Speaker, simply the free medicine scheme is in a shambolic state and needs to be reviewed urgently to bring about efficiency and to ensure it is fully maximised by all those eligible recipients.

We therefore urge Government to: –

  1. Change the eligibility criteria so that individuals under 18 years of age, who are mostly students, are able to access this scheme, irrespective of their parents’ joint income reaching the maximum threshold of $40,000, if they earn $20,000 and themselves individually qualify for the scheme.
  2. Equip pharmacies with computers or if not link one of their computers to the Ministry’s database of eligible recipients.
  3. Remove list of 142 free medicines and implement a truly genuine free medicine scheme where those eligible can access any medicine as prescribed by the doctor, thus removing the risk of medicine being either overstocked, under-supplied or expiring.
  4. This will remove the need to supply pharmacies with a list of generic medicines, who in turn can dispense medication from their own stock and send bills monthly to Ministry of Health for payment, eradicating both patient and pharmacy frustration and giving true meaning to free medicine.

Madam Speaker, we sincerely hope Government takes on board our suggestions for the delivery of a genuine free medicine scheme.

Thank you.

 

Reply to AG’s Ministerial Statement – Funeral Rites facility

Parliament of Fiji – Thursday May 17, 2018

Madam Speaker, I thank the Acting PM for his statement. A funeral rites facility or a “ghaat” was long overdue. In fact such facilities should be built in all districts so that our communities who cremate their loved ones, can perform the final rites and prayers with dignity.

We are hopeful that the Vatuwaqa Funeral Rites Committee that has been tasked with looking after the facility, will do so to preserve the cleanliness of the facility and maintenance of the environment and surroundings. It is god to see all Hindu religious and cultural organisations come together  in unity to look after this project.

Madam Speaker it was the NFP through  the then honourable Sayed Khaiyum, who by the way was the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee for 7 years between 1992 and 1999,    first mooted the idea of a Ghaat for Hindu prayers in his Maiden speech  on  July 13, 1992 and again during his budget address in November  18. 1992.

Honourable Sayed Khaiyum moved an adjournment motion In Parliament on 4th December  and reiterated his 1992 statement that he was pleased that the Crown Law Office had clarified that offerings of religious nature by the Hindu community into rivers and the sea were not litter but clean offerings.

He said a ghaat should not be used  only for funeral rites but offerings from other Hindu religious events and prayers as well as weddings.

The Motion was agreed to unanimously and referred to the PM’s office to see under which Act it could be dealt with.

However four months later on 25th March  in 1999 Parliament was dissolved for the  May 1999 elections and both SVT and NFP lost. So nothing could be done.

But we are pleased that after almost 12 years in power, this Government has initiated and completed the project.

Madam Speaker, We do agree with the Acting PM that religion should be a unifying force. Indeed Madam Speaker mostly throughout our history, all our major communities have peacefully co-existed except  for those brief periods of political turmoil on four occasions between 1987 and 2006.

During these times racial and religious intolerance raised its ugly head  as seen after 1987 and 2000 coups. After  the abrogation of the   1997 Constitution on 10th April 2009 following the 2006 coup, the Public Emergency Regulations were imposed  permits were needed for any Hindu  religious event.

Unfortunately Madam Speaker, there was instruction from the controlling authority of Hindu Religious Organisation that only registered Ramayan Mandalis were to be granted permits to hold weekly prayers.

So after every political upheaval we have had brief flare-ups of religious intolerance and impositions. But by far and large we have peacefully co-existed in our multi-ethnic, multi-cultural ad multi-religious country. And as it befits this occasion, I wish our Muslim community and followers of Islam a blessed start to the holy month of Ramadan.

Madam Speaker while opening the facility last Saturday, the Honourable Acting PM turned the occasion into a political one by saying while NFP mooted the idea of building such a facility in the 1990’s , the Government didn’t do anything about it and it was a possibility that the NFP was likely to form a coalition with a party led by the same person who was the leader then.

Madam Speaker, nothing can be further from the truth.  These are wild and unsubstantiated allegations against the NFP  and is  yet another clear signal  of this Government going berserk in a bid to remain in power.

We have repeatedly stated publicly that we were not in a coalition  with any other party in 2014. And we are not in a coalition with any other party and are fighting the 2018 general elections on our own. We have not at anytime  since 2014 discussed a post-election scenario and are  solely focused on fighting the  2018 elections.

This is not the first time the AG has made such a statement. We have evidence of him saying the same thing in Vunivutu, Vanua Levu, in March, where he said NFP on its own will never will majority seats and were hoping to form a coalition with SODELPA. He  urged the voters of Vunivutu to prevent this from happening.

The Acting PM  and his minions should stop this fear mongering and intimidation by spreading lies about NFP’s policies”.

Instead of uttering a litany of lies, he should start advocating policies benefitting all the people of Fiji as well as god governance, transparency and accountability.

NFP Whip, Hon Prem Singh asks a supplementary question to the Minister of Defence

NFP Whip, Hon Prem Singh asks a supplementary question to the Minister of Defence on the progress of a planned purchase of a new hydrographic vessel for which $350,000 was budgetted for in the 2017-2018 allocation.

Hon Prem cited a media report where the RFMF Deputy Commander, Brigadier-General Mohammed Aziz had stated on 28 March to the Public Accounts Committee that the RFMF was looking to acquire a multi-role vessel.

Hon Parmod Chand contributes to the debate on the 2016 Annual Report on the Fiji Electricity Authority report that was tabled this week

Hon Chand also highlighted that late Annual Reports like the Fiji Broadcasting Commission Annual Reports for the years 2010 – 2015, only tabled yesterday, were a problem needing addressing if heads of organisations cannot follow the laws that bind them in terms of being accountable.

Parmod also cited committments made by the Government in Bonn last week in its ‘Talanoa Dialogue’ submission where in terms of Fiji’s renewable energy targets — an agreement was about to be finalised by FEA/EFL and a private company on a new 5 mega watt Solar Farm. The report in Bonn heralded that the solar farm would be the largest such venture in the South Pacific.

Hon Chand also said the Bonn commitment would see a ‘Solar Island Concept’ to electrify the islands of Taveuni and Ovalau.

He also expressed disappointment that the Bonn report was not tabled in the House this week but may be later, much like an after thought — like many of the late Annual Reports.

Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Limited makes loss from 2010-2015

“Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Limited made consecutive losses from 2010 to 2015 according to the company’s audited reports tabled in parliament.

However Chief Executive Officer of FBC, Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says they now envisage no more losses for FBC as the money given by the government for public service broadcast for radio and television is now going into their accounts as a fee and not a grant.

According to the annual reports, FBC made a loss of $516,943 in the year 2010, a loss of $1.137 million in the year 2011, a loss of $7.103 million in the year 2012, a loss of $5.602 million in the year 2013, a loss of $3.924 million in the year 2014 and a loss of $3.361 million in the year 2015.

According to the reports, FBC was getting annual public service broadcast grants of $2.9 million to run Radio Fiji One, Radio Fiji Two and FBC TV public service broadcast programmes.

The public service broadcast grant from government to FBC was increased to $11 million in the 2017/2018 National Budget.

This is now being inputted in FBC’s financial books as public service broadcast fees.

The reports also reveal that FBC is paying it’s loan with the Fiji Development Bank at variable interest rates.

As at 2015, the loan payable amount for FDB stood at $17.581 million.

Interest rates ranged from 12% to 5.5% between the years 2010 to 2015.

The loan has a government guarantee of $21.594 million.

The 2015 annual report also revealed that FBC was in advanced discussions with the Fiji National Provident Fund in regards to the refinancing of the loan held with the FDB.

The report states that an offer was received from FNPF which had been accepted by FBC’s board of directors and signoff was expected in April 2016.

We asked FBC’s CEO, Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum what the future holds for FBC knowing that it recorded consecutive losses from 2010 to 2015 after getting the public service broadcast grants from the government every year.

Sayed-Khaiyum says the public service grant should have always been recorded as a fee.”

http://fijivillage.com/news-feature/FBC-makes-consecutive-losses-from-2010-to-2015–5rks92/