31 January 2015: Resolutions of NFP Working Committee

January 31, 2015
MEDIA RELEASE

RESOLUTIONS OF NFP WORKING COMMITTEE

The National Federation Party’s Working Committee, which met at Hotel San Bruno, Nadi, today (Saturday 31st January 2015), has unanimously adopted the following resolutions: –

1. Parliamentary Office Resourcing

The Working Committee endorsed the decision taken by the Party Leader to reject the new formula pertaining to the allocation of parliamentary staffing and resources by the Secretary-General based on a directive by the Attorney General and Minister for Finance via his letter of 24th December 2014, as stated in a Government press release on the issue.

The Committee described it as illogical the formula of $15,000 per MP in the allocation of resources, leaving the NFP with 3 MPs and a paltry sum of $45,000 per annum.

The Committee noted that on 14th October 2014, when approving the staffing compliment of 4 for the NFP, the Secretary General said the positions would be advertised but this was not done and the resources slashed without notice.

The Committee further noted the 3 MPs need parliamentary staff support given their important roles in Opposition and therefore, this formula was not based on any fundamental principle.

The Committee rejected the allocation of $45,000 and endorsed the Party Leader’s efforts to secure funding initially allocated on 14th October 2014, is restored by the Secretary-General to Parliament.

2. Special Cane Payment

The Working Committee condemned the refusal of the Fiji Sugar Corporation to advance a Special Cane Payment of $5 per tonne to cane farmers to help them equip their children for the new school year and start preparations for the new season.

The Committee also described as deplorable, the lack of action by the Prime Minister and Minister for Sugar in failing to direct FSC to make the Special Cane Payment. The Committee described as inhumane, the decision to ask farmers to apply for a soft loan from the Sugar Cane Growers Fund to meet the expenses of their children.

The least expected of the State, which had no financial obligations in this matter but was morally obligated to alleviate the financial hardship of cane farmers, was to facilitate the payment.

The Committee regards the non payment of this Special Payment as treating farmers like beasts of burden despite they being the economic mainstay of the economy for more than a 100 years. The Committee resolved that the PM direct the FSC to make the Special Cane Payment to bring relief to farmers as they are genuinely in need of assistance.

3. Parliamentary Select Committee on Sugar

The Working Committee noted with concern the imminent decline of the Sugar Industry with the withdrawal of the European Union Sugar production quotas from 30th September 2917.

The Committee recalled the loss of the $350 million grant from the EU earmarked for the sugar industry due to the military coup of December 2006. The Committee noted that the injection of the grant over a 7 year period until 2013 would have boosted cane production to over 4 million tonnes and sugar production to over 400,000 tonnes, thereby enabling farmers to mitigate the adverse effects of price reduction by increasing production.

The Committee noted that 70% of a little over 13,000 active cane growers produce an average of 150 tonnes of cane annually, resulting in their gross income of $13,350 at $89 per tonne (last season’s payment), well below the tax threshold of $16,000.

Furthermore, the Committee noted that this money is paid over a period of 15 months, leaving farmers in debt. The net income therefore of 70% of farmers producing an average of 150 tonnes of cane annually was $6,600, $9400 below the tax threshold of $16,000.

The Committee noted that despite the so-called reforms and injection of funds in the last 8 years, the Bainimarama regime has failed to restore the industry to its glory days.

The Committee resolved that the Prime Minister agree to the establishment of a parliamentary select committee on sugar to address concerns in the sugar industry.

4. Repeal of the Media Decree

The Working Committee believes Fiji’s future as a social, economic and politically stable nation cannot be guaranteed unless freedom of expression is expressed through a free, fair and credible media.

The Committee noted the media industry in this country has been under siege since the military coup of December 2006. For more than 5 years, especially after the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution on 10th April 2009, have been turbulent and devastating for the media industry and media organisations.

The Committee recalled Article 19 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through the media regardless of frontiers”.

This freedom and right is reposed in the people, which the State and politicians must respect at all times.

The Committee noted the Media Industry Development Decree is regressive and suppresses Media Freedom because it imposes restrictions and prescribes heavy penalties.

Every international organisation of repute has expressed concern about the regressive and draconian provisions of the MIDA Decree. The latest was the United Nations Human Rights Commission late last year.

The Committee resolved that Government must through Parliament repeal the Media Industry Development Decree because we believe the media should not be regulated by the State or any Government.

Genuine democracy, equal citizenry, freedom of expression, accountability and transparency, which are ethics being paraded by Government, can only be achieved through a free, fair, credible, unfettered and non-regulated media.

5. Constitution Review and Repeal of Decrees

The Working Committee noted that Decrees impinge the Bill of Rights or Chapter 2 of the Constitution, notably the Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding & Disclosures) Decree, Electoral Decree and Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree.

The Committee noted that in December the Minister for Labour told Parliament that work would start on reviewing the ENI Decree which curtails the rights of workers and trade unions but so far no work had started.

The Committee noted Section 173 of the Constitution which allows Parliament to amend or repeal Decrees but at the same time makes the Constitution subservient to the Decrees.

The Committee found this to be regressive and unacceptable and inconsistent with United Nations Conventions, which Fiji has ratified.

The Committee resolved that to give true meaning to the Constitution and its intent as espoused by the Bainimarama Government through the non-negotiable principles, a bi-partisan parliamentary committee be established to look at reviewing the Decrees and the Constitution.

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