A pre-election bribe doomed to fail

The National Federation Party says Government’s desperate attempt to offer pre-election bribes to the voters of Fiji through the 2018-19 Budget will fail to weaken the strengthening winds of change blowing all over Fiji.

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad said that what has been announced by the Minister for Economy will not reduce the skyrocketing cost of living that is strangulating a vast majority of our ordinary citizens.

“While the Budget has some good initiatives like increased maternity leave, introducing paternity leave and a $1000 allowance for birth of a child, there is nothing to alleviate the cost of living that is most serious concern of the people”.

“All it has done is to make noodle flavour duty free as well as zero duty on imported fruit and vegetables. But this is insignificant”.

“VAT remains on basic food items and prescription medication in a continuing betrayal of Fiji First’s  2014 promise to continue to zero-rate these items”.

“Ironically, the Fiji First Government has tried to copy some of our policies like a four lane highway between Nadi and Lautoka and a stabilization fund to ensure that cane growers receive $85 per tonne as price of cane. And this depends on Fiji Sugar Corporation  selling its under-utilized assets”.

“This has come too little too late and  is a desperate response to our solid and costed out plan to implement a minimum guaranteed price of $100 per tonne”.

“On one hand, Government is applying cosmetic solutions that are seen or perceived to be pro-people, on the other it continues to provide exorbitant funding to entities like Fiji Broadcasting Corporation to the tune of over $11million”.

“This Budget has also allocated a total of $12.5million for the Executive residence of the PM and a new PM’s Office complex. This is totally unnecessary”.

A pre-election bribery budget

The National Federation Party has described the 2018-19 Budget as a desperate attempt to bribe Fiji’s voters into voting the current Fiji First Government back into power during the general elections.

Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad said it is perfectly understandable why government has announced a budget full of goodies in its final year when it did nothing for the last three years.

“This government is responsible for strangulating our people with high cost of living, a deteriorating public health and medical service, cosmetic  road works, ruined  our sugar industry, implementation of a meagre minimum wage on the face of approving for themselves an exorbitant  salary and allowance scale,  re-imposed VAT on basic food items and put our civil servants on contracted employment”.

“Now its coming out with policies and initiatives that it desperately hopes will convince voters into re-electing them”.

“Our people are smart enough to differentiate real, practical solutions to bring lasting improvement to their livelihood from the cosmetic solutions”.

“We will scrutinize in detail this budget and reveal to the people of Fiji its fallacies during the debate on the budget from July 9-13”.

Is Sanjay Kaba involved in interviewing Fiji First applicants for elections?

The National Federation Party is asking a member of the independent Constitution Offices Commission to clarify whether or not he is involved in the interview of applicants for candidacy of Fiji First Party in the general elections.
NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad says they have reliable information that the COC member in question, Sanjay Kaba, together with Fiji First general secretary Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, is interviewing applicants seeking candidacy of the Party in the
elections.
“The onus therefore is on Mr Kaba to come out honestly and inform the people of Fiji if he either is or isn’t doing this. We emphasise honesty on his part because anything else would lead us to publicly reveal more information on what the applicants for Fiji
First candidacy are allegedly told by Mr Kaba”.
“And if he wants to play a political role, then he should resign as a Member of the COC because failure to do so after his honest answer will give credibility to the perception that the COC is not independent but politicised”.
“We also ask Mr Kaba to come out honestly and inform the people of Fiji whether or not he is also one of the prominent fundraisers of Fiji First”.
“His close proximity to Fiji First is well known. This also brings into question his appointment to several Boards of statutory organisations including the Fiji National Provident Fund”.
“It is for both Mr Kaba and the Fiji First General Secretary to come out publicly and provide honest answers”.
Professor Biman

PM’s lies causing division: NFP

The National Federation Party says Prime Minister Honourable Voreqe Bainimarama has created unprecedented history by becoming the first Leader of our Independent Nation to totally stoop low and read gutter-level speeches penned by his spin doctors.

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad says that no other Prime Minister has ever uttered so many lies and vilified other politicians and political parties in the manner that Honourable Bainimarama has done.

“The PM is fast losing the moral and ethical authority to govern and it is evident now to everyone”.

“This is a clear signal that the PM is clutching at straws and is prepared to spew gutter-level rhetoric in a desperate attempt to win votes and retain power, not caring at all that he is the one who is sowing the seeds of ethnic and racial division, and blatantly lying that the NFP is campaigning along these lines. This is despicable and most unbecoming of a Prime Minister, but not surprising given their level of desperation”.

“If the PM has conclusive and irrefutable evidence about NFP involved in such a campaign, he should reveal it. He should not rely on what the Fiji Sun reported earlier this year because even his right-hand man the Attorney General failed to gather conclusive evidence when he held a meeting in the particular area in the Northern Division, where one of our Members of Parliament was alleged to have made such a statement”.

“As the Chief Legal Officer of the State, the AG should tell his friend the PM that whatever he says should be backed by evidence. Not gutter level and desperate lies”.

“The PM is also rubbishing the role of Opposition by saying that the NFP was in the political wilderness for the last four years. Therefore in the eyes of the PM, there is no role for the Opposition in parliamentary democracy. This is the height of his hypocrisy, especially from someone who constantly preaches about Talanoa as the best form of dialogue all over the world,  but struggles to practice it locally”.

“The PM also selectively named former Leaders of the NFP. We remind him that all our leaders – A D Patel, S M Koya, Harish Sharma, Jai Ram Reddy, and our founding fathers and mother’s, were giants of their time, in their ability, understanding and perception of problems facing Fiji. They did not stoop to gutter-level politics but were statesmen and women. Their achievements are milestones etched in the annals of history”.

“They made NFP an impregnable and principled fortress. This is the unbreakable roots of our existence for the last 55 years and beyond, because we believe in the national interest, not our personal advancement like the PM and his Government that  fixed their salary through a Decree and voted for hefty increases to their travel allowances despite the fact that taxpayers were reeling from TC Winston”.

“The PM is being hit by the winds of change blowing all over Fiji, and that change is inevitable. The NFP is fearlessly pounding him and his party round for round, with our ideas and policies for the lasting social, economic and political advancement of Fiji”.

Professor Biman Prasad

Leader

Response to Times:Tebbutt Poll – Local Government

The National Federation Party says an NFP Government after the general elections will hold local government elections to ensure ratepayers and citizens in all municipalities have the right to choose their representatives

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad says the  fact that 66% of those polled in all demographics wanted elected municipal councils in the country shows people want to elect their  representatives  so that they are accountable to them.

“This right has been denied since the dissolution of the municipal councils in 2009.  And this has meant that ratepayers have no right  and voice whatsoever in determining how their rates and other fees and charges levied by the municipalities are used. This is unacceptable”.

“The Minister for Local Government Honourable Parveen Kumar Bala has reneged on his promise made on 24th September 2014 to hold local government elections as a matter of priority”.

“45 months on, this betrayal of promise is not lost upon the people of Fiji. All his excuses about the need to review the Local Government Act is farcical”.

“The bottom line is that this Government through the Local Government Minister simply has no interest in  democratising our municipalities.”

“We have conclusive evidence that the Administrators of the town and city councils are treated like puppets, allowed only to dance to the tune of the Minister because they are not allowed to make the simplest of decisions on their own” .

“We have conclusive evidence that the rates, fines and other charges cannot be spent without the approval of the Minister. In fact some funds are used to feather the political nest of the current government in the form of work being done by  some Councils outside their boundary while rate time ratepayers and citizens continue to suffer”.

“All this is affecting  leading to a demoralised workforce of municipalities who cannot even get the Administrators to resolve the simplest of issues as they are powerless and have to refer everything to the Minister”.

“This Government and the Minister do not even understand the meaning of a Council or fail to deliberately do so. A Council is defined in the Local Government Act as an elected body of a number of councilors elected in an election to be determined by the Electoral Commission”.

“It is not an Administrator-run toothless tiger body that is drowning in a cesspool”, Professor Prasad said.

 

Genuine empowerment of women

By National Federation Party Leader

Professor Biman Prasad

There are some parties who talk about the empowerment of women. And there are some parties who make it happen.

In May 1996, more than 2000 women  marched through the streets of Ba Town in a show of protest against  the dramatic increase in violent crimes, particularly violent robberies.

These women were either members of or supported the National Federation Party Women’s Movement that was formed only two years before.

While opening the formative meeting of the NFP Women’s Movement at Girmit Centre, Lautoka, the then NFP and Leader of the Opposition Honourable Jai Ram Reddy urged greater participation of women in politics  so that they would be able to shape the future of Fiji.

Within two years the NFP Women’s Movement had consolidated itself into a powerful movement, highly capable of influencing change for the betterment of women and girls, both within the NFP and in the society.

Why the success

The demonstrable show of force in Ba over 22 years ago by women was the result of a leadership willing to listen and having a genuine desire to empower women.

It was also a result of  concerted efforts to create greater awareness amongst women, of their need not to be bystanders or play second fiddle to men when it came to politics but stand up and be counted as equals and show that they were equally if not more talented.

Historically, the NFP has always encouraged women to participate in politics in any form. Because the NFP  knew more than 50 years ago that inclusivity was the only way forward. The participation of women in politics and decision making process is no exception.

And this objective remains true today.

National political participation

While 2014 saw a record number of women take leadership roles – Presidents of all political parties that participated in the 2014 general elections were women and women representation in parliament  is significant – it was the NFP that had the first woman legislator.

The late Mrs Irene Jai Narayan was elected to the Legislative Council in 1966 as a Member of NFP. She then served as an NFP Member of Parliament after Independence from 1972 to 1985. She was the NFP President from 1976 to 1979 – another first for Fiji. And yet in another first, Mrs Narayan served as the first woman Opposition Whip in Parliament.

Soon after the 1972 general elections, the first following Fiji’s Independence in 1970, Ro Asela Logavatu of Lomanikoro, Rewa became the second prominent woman to enter politics under the NFP banner when she was appointed an NFP Senator along with Mr Jai Ram Reddy and others. Ro Asela was also elected an NFP MP in the general elections of April 1977.

These are no ordinary achievements in an era when women were considered subservient even though they had political rights.

In 1996, the record number of women were elected from the NFP  during the municipal elections that year. In  the case of Nadi,  women elected under NFP’s banner have served as either Mayor or Deputy Mayor. The same was in Ba ,even in the decade from 2000 to 2009 when the municipal councils were dissolved  by the military regime and replaced with Administrators.

In March 2014, the NFP elected its first i-taukei President who was a woman. Indeed Roko Tupou Draunidalo’s mother, the late Adi Kuini Vuikaba, was the leader of the NFP/FLP Coalition after the death of her then husband, Dr Timoci Uluivuda Bavadra, deposed together with the coalition government in a military coup in May 1987. She later became one  of the two deputy prime ministers in the People’s Coalition Government between May 1999 and May 2000.

Militarization

1987 saw the beginning of the coup culture with four military coups from May 1987 to December 2006.  The current Fiji First Government is a product of the last coup, similar governments evolving after previous coups.

Unfortunately, the coup culture and the impact of militarisation has had a regressive effect on the genuine participation of women of substance in politics. It restricts them from having a forceful and meaningful role  on the national landscape. This is because the system and nature of governance of our nation, including the lack of bipartisanship in parliamentary democracy.

Therefore at the highest level, we as a nation are not encouraging or providing incentives to women to actively participate  and influence the decision making process affecting not only women, but  the people of Fiji. And we as a nation are not treating women equally.

Such decisions do not encourage women to actively participate in the governance of the nation.

Empowerment of women has been ongoing. However,  political empowerment of women has been reduced to tokenism in the last 12 years.

Enabling environment

We firmly believe that unless and until there is a change in the  national political landscape, genuine empowerment women and our rising female leaders will remain a mirage.

Women have to take leadership roles and act independently and decisively. And for them to be able to do this, they need an enabling environment.

The NFP is best placed to create such an environment. Our record from the 1960s speaks for itself.

Women retain a forceful and genuine role in NFP, ultimately rising to  leadership roles. Two of our Vice-Presidents are women.

The first is Priscilla Singh, who is a Member of the Party’s Management Board and the Deputy Chair of the Selection Committee. An NFP Management Board Member for 20 years, she has been a leader of the Women’s Movement and a long-serving  Suva City Councillor (until the military regime dissolved municipal councils in 2009).

The second is Seni Nabou,  who is also a Member of the Management Board and Selection Committee and a trusted advisor to the Party Leadership with wide policy and multi-skilling talents.

Many other women at our branch level swerve with men  as the “foot soldiers”. We have women candidates who are professionals in their own right.

NFP has shown that it has a formidable track record in promoting and recognising women as being worthy leaders  at various levels in the party hierarchy. We have and will always encourage more and more women to become actively involved in the party and in politics so that one day the aim of at least 50% of all positions being held by women – including that of candidates and Members of Parliament – is achieved. It will be a great day when that comes to pass.

Our policy

Our policy is simple – empowerment of women and our young leaders genuinely and not on tokenism.

Only then will our women and young female leaders have a forceful voice.

Empowerment doesn’t mean providing our young females tuition-free education, subsidized bus fares for their children or monthly maternity allowances when they are pregnant.

Genuine empowerment  is unshackling the restrictive environment so that more and more professional women can enter climb the ladder of political leadership and be recognised as the voices  of reason and faces of authority and change.

Only then will women and our young females be empowered for real progress.

FT Opinion June 23 – Empowering women

“Is it true Democracy”

WE are repeatedly told by the Government that we now have “true democracy”. But that is not how the rest of the world judges it.

In 2017, the highly-regarded Economist Intelligence Unit categorized Fiji as a “hybrid regime” and ranked us 81st out of 167 nations in its annual Democracy Index.

A hybrid regime is the second worst categorization. It is just above the category  of  “authoritarian regime” that describes countries like North Korea and Syria.

Fiji has a score of 5.59 out of 10 – something that we know in education as a C-minus grade.

So we are basically a C-minus democracy.

Yet the current FijiFirst Government’s mantra is that we have an A-grade Constitution. Once again, this is proving to be a pipe dream for this Government and its leadership.

Hybrid regimes are known to combine democratic values like holding of elections with autocratic behaviour like political repression.

A hybrid regime, also defined as an “illiberal democracy”, is also called a “partial democracy”, “low intensity democracy” or “empty democracy”.

It is defined as a governing system in which, although elections take place, citizens are cut off from knowledge about the activities of those who exercise real power because of the lack of civil liberties.

It is certainly not a “true democracy!”

The 2017 Freedom Index, published by another organization – Freedom House, which measures political rights and civil liberties around the world, ranked Fiji “partly free”.

Disappearing democratic ideals

How has it come to this? How has our nation plummeted from that historic day in November 1986 when the then Pope, His Holiness Pope John Paul II, described Fiji as a symbol of hope to the world?

We are sure the rest of the democratic world, including our neighbours, do not want to be like Fiji any more – in terms of the conduct of democracy, unilateral implementation of decisions and the manner in which parliamentary democracy is practised.

The categorization and ranking of Fiji’s democracy and freedom respectively is a slap in the face of the current FijiFirst Government, which trampled upon democracy in its former role as a military regime.

Government’s rhetoric about so called “unprecedented provisions and achievements in the 2013 Constitution”, imposed upon the people of Fiji, is fooling no one.

This Constitution does not promote true and genuine democracy. Nor does it guarantee common and equal citizenry and meritocracy.

The Government recently passed a law that changed the names of all of the previous military regime’s Decrees and Promulgations to make them “Acts”. Acts are laws passed by Parliament.

There can only be one reason for doing this – to pretend to the rest of the world that all of its Decrees and Promulgations – many of them draconian and regressive in nature and which restrict the rights of citizens, restrict media freedom and weaken democratic institutions – were debated and voted on by representatives of the people. In truth, no such thing happened.

All these are clear signs that Fiji is a democracy in name only. The reality is that it is an “illiberal democracy” or a “hybrid regime”.

An example of dictatorship

For all of its talk, there is no semblance of transparency, accountability and good governance in this government.  We offer you one simple example below. Basically, our democracy is being run like the Fiji First Party, whose decisions are made by two people.

On 3 October 2014 – three days before the first sitting of Parliament under its new constitution – the military regime issued its last Decree. This Decree was not about the welfare of the people of Fiji but about how much would be earned by the President, Speaker, Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, Leader of the Opposition, Assistant Ministers and Members of Parliament.

This was the Parliamentary Remunerations Decree.

This Decree was one of those laws later ludicrously re-named as an Act. The salaries set for Government Ministers were astronomical. To borrow one of the Government’s favourite words “unprecedented in our history”.

The Decree fixed the PM’s salary at $328,750 per annum, topped up by other benefits. The Attorney General’s salary was fixed at $235,000 per annum. The salaries of three Cabinet Ministers, namely Health, Education and Infrastructure & Transport was fixed at $200,000 per annum. The salaries of other Cabinet Ministers were fixed at $185,000.

The salary of the Leader of the Opposition has traditionally been the same as that of a Cabinet Ministers (at least before the military coup of 2006). Now it was set at $120,000 – that is, $65,000 less than than the salary of a Cabinet Minister.

Assistant Ministers received salaries of $90,000.

This is more than the basic salary of a full Cabinet Minister before the coup.

The PM’s salary was more than doubled compared to the PM’s salary before the coup ($106,000).

No transparency

In a democracy, there is accountability, transparency, good governance and ethical conduct. Not so under the current Government.

To add salt to the wound, an Emoluments Committee of MPs increased overseas travel allowances for MPs in 2016.

The travel allowance of the PM increased by a massive 300 per cent. The PM now receives a $3,000 daily allowance when travelling overseas. In one day he collects the wages of a minimum-waged worker for six months!

It was wrong for MPs to decide on how much they should be paid from taxpayers’ money. Where is the transparency and accountability in that?

Only the NFP opposed the increase. We said we would not receive the increased allowances. Parliament said that under the law we were forced to take the new rates.

So we decided to open a relief and welfare account. Whatever increased allowances we got we now spend on relief and welfare assistance.

Nowhere in the world does an employee increase his or her own salary and allowances. This is morally and ethically wrong. The proper practice is to appoint an independent parliamentary emoluments committee.

Independent people should judge what Parliamentarians are worth, and should recommend salaries based on submissions from all sectors including the public. This is the only fair method. Nothing else.

But FijiFirst thinks otherwise. FijiFirst thinks that fixing and voting for one’s own increase in salaries and allowances is OK!

No wonder the world calls us a “hybrid regime”.

If NFP becomes the government, one of the first things we will change is how Ministers and MPs are paid.

Saving democracy

As team NFP travels around the country, it is becoming clearer that our people can see through this façade.

The time for dictatorship and arrogance is over. Now is the time for dialogue. Now is the time for accountability, transparency, ethical conduct and good governance.

The time has come for bipartisanship in Parliament. It is time to free the media, and it is time to engage meaningfully with our development partners. It is time for the people to receive and be equipped with meaningful solutions to enhance their livelihood.

Most importantly, it is time to change course. Change is coming. Change is inevitable.

True nationhood, common and equal citizenry can only be achieved if we put aside our personal agendas and differences and work together. Reciprocity, humanity and national interest should be our guiding values. This is different from the “My Way or the Highway” approach of the current FijiFirst Government.

We cannot and must not be afraid of change for the better. Equality, dignity, justice and principle have been the cornerstones of NFP’s 55-year-old history since our birth in 1963.

Our existence is primarily based on our truly democratic ideals as a political party that was, is and will remain a principled impregnable fortress. The roots of our mango tree under which the idea of the party was first mooted in Rakiraki by Alparti Tataiya, are unshakeable.

Fiji is at a critical cross-roads. But we all must be brave, not faint-hearted in demanding that our leaders act democratically and accountably.

Together, we shall prevail.

 

Blessings for Eid-ul-Fitr

The National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad extends warm wishes to our Muslim Community, wishing them blessings and joy for Eid-ul-Fitr.

“In Fiji regardless of one’s religion or culture, we all know that Eid is a time of joy and reflection for our Muslim community. It is the end of 30 days of fasting throughout the holy month of Ramadan, the observance of which is considered one of the pillars of Islam”

“In our multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious country, Eid is a significant event. It is culmination of practice of self-discipline, increased prayers and charity towards all, especially our under-privileged and less fortunate”.

“The celebration of Eid reinforces to us all that unity, respect and peace is the way forward”

“The NFP sincerely wishes our Muslim Community a blessed and joyous Eid-ul-Fitr and further extends them blessings of good health and prosperity”.

 

Fiji First Government Has No Human Rights Standards

The National Federation Party has day questioned why the Government through the Constitutional Offices Commission is delaying the appointment of a Commission to oversee the Fiji Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Commission.

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad said they believe the term of the former Commission ended on 8th May and 5 weeks ;later there is still no new appalments.

“Today is World Albinism Day, a day where we should all be reminded that human rights standards apply to us all regardless of our external appearances. Fiji received the UN Special Rapporteur on Albinism only last December and yet today, a month after the contracts of the previous Commission expired, the Government does not see fit to appoint a new Commission with the urgency that such appointments are required.

This is a clear sign that human rights standards that are set by the oversight Commission, and certainly not the Director, are merely talking points and not a genuine priority of this government.

The independence and impartiality of the Fiji Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Commission was highlighted last year by the Special Rapporteur  Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, Mutuma Ruteere.

While Parliament just endorsed ratification of two core international human rights instruments the ICCPR and ICESCR, the lack of follow-through to ensure that Fiji codifies these international treaties in law AND application are exactly as NFP had warned about during the parliamentary debate on the treaties.

Unless there is rapid movement on the appointment of a new Commission, all taxpayers are entitled to question how their taxes are being poured in the Fiji Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Commission, while its annual reports are long overdue to Parliament for years.”

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

Why there is no Commission_ NFP Leader