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POLITICS OF PANIC

May 16, 2017

MEDIA RELEASE

The $10 million assistance package announced by the Fiji First Government’s Minister for Economy to help cane farmers is not a
new initiative but part of Government’s rehabilitation programme
after the devastating effects of Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston.
Minister for Economy Honourable Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s
announcement can be likened to politics of panic following the
overwhelming rejection for the third time of the Reform of the
Sugarcane Industry and Sugar Cane Growers Fund (Amendment)
Bills (Bills 19 & 20).

Had Government not picked up the deductions as promised
earlier, farmers would have ended up with only $4.586 million
dollars from the total of $14.586 million paid out to them as 4th
cane payment of $10.57 per tonne. This confirms our long held
view that majority of our farmers are in debt in perpetuity.

Most importantly, 70% of farmers’ income has already been
deducted as debt, fertilizer, harvesting expenses and land rent in
the previous three payments for the 2016 season. So for most
farmers this help, which should have been implemented when
announced last year as part of Government’s post-Winston
rehabilitation package, has come too late.
The announcement also vindicates the National Federation Party’s
call for the implementation of a minimum guaranteed cane price of
$100 a tonne to ensure all our cane farmers, especially 70 percept
who produce an average of 150 tonnes of cane, earn decent
income. On Saturday a Fiji Times opinion poll showed that the Fiji First Party’s popularity has fallen by 10 percentage points in two
months. By Monday, the Economy Minister has suddenly found
$10 million for cane farmers. This announcement has come from nowhere. No thought has gone into it. It offers no long-term solutions for farmers. It is not budgeted for in the national Budget. It is driven by the politics of panic.

Honourable Sayed-Khaiyum is the man who, at the same time as
he spends public money for blatantly political purposes, attacks
other political parties for “using” cane farmers. Running around offering to pay their deductions for one cane payment, he must really think that the farmers are ignorant. There are at least four more cane payments before the election. Will he just throw more money at the farmers to save his political skin? After 10 years in power, this Government has no vision and no plan for the sugar industry. It refuses to listen to farmers and their representatives. It has taken away their democratic voice in the Cane Growers’ Council. The Prime Minister is the Minister for Sugar, but he spends more time overseas than in the cane belt. Only now, because elections are coming, has the government started to panic.

NFP says to farmers – these payments are like the Prime
Minister’s “small enterprise grants” and “Help for Homes”. So take
the money Government is throwing at you. It comes from our taxes
after all.
Nobody will be fooled by this vote-buying gimmick.

Professor Biman Prasad
NFP Leader

NFP Leader Politics of Panic Media Release May 2017 (2) (1)

Police intimidation sabotages NFP Talanoa Session 

Media Release. May 3, 2017

Police intimidation through repeated inquiries about the purpose and agenda of a National Federation Talanoa session led to the Management of Khemindra Primary School in Savusavu withdrawing its permission and approval to the Party for use of the school resulting in cancellation of the Talanoa session on Tuesday evening.

We regard this as sabotage because of instilling of fear into the public by police.

Police has no right whatsoever to interfere in any meeting to be held by a political party. The Public Order (Amendment) Act gives freedom to political parties and other organisations to hold meetings without the need to obtain a permit from police except when the venue is a public place like parks and roads.

The presence of plain clothes police officers at political meetings and even informal Talanoa sessions like the one the party held with the youth in Suva last Saturday, and grilling members of the public and those giving their venues for such meetings is detrimental to the conduct of free and fair elections.

The nation being governed like a Military and Police State should have ended with the resumption of parliamentary democracy in October 2014. But it is clear that police doesn’t understand and respect fundamental rights and freedoms of our citizens and the need for political parties to operate in a free and fair environment where our people are unafraid and totally free to ask questions, raise issues and express dissent against any policy of Government.

The Khemindra Primary School Manager had earlier given permission for the Talanoa session to be held at the school at a cost of $150. It was to be hosted by the NFP Leader, Hon Parmod Chand, Mr Pio Tikoduadua and other management board members of the party. Notices of the session to be held between 5.30pm-7.30pm on Tuesday were distributed to the public.

However before midday Tuesday, the School Manager informed the Party to find another venue because they felt intimidated by police who were making queries as to the purpose and objective of the Talanoa/meeting, as well as who would be in attendance.

The Manager stated that they feared the school would not get funding for a school project if the Party held its meeting at the school. The intimidation plus the presence of Education Minister who was in Savusavu conducting a workshop led to the school management taking the decision to cancel the use of the venue.

It is worth noting that the School’s head teacher and manager were with the Education Minister when the NFP Leader questioned the Minister as to whether he influenced them to take such a decision. This is after the Minister failed to reply to a message by the NFP Leader on the issue.

The climate of fear and intimidation is still prevalent despite resumption of parliamentary democracy. We demand that police and other State agencies diligently perform the duties required of them, instead of trying to find out what political parties are doing.

They should stop becoming law unto themselves because it only erodes efforts to have free and fair elections by preventing political parties from amplifying the voice of 
the ordinary people.

Authorised by: –

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

 

 

 

NFP will repeal Media Decree

Media Release. May 2, 2017

WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY – 3 RD MAY

An NFP Government will repeal the Media Industry Development Decree because we believe the media should not be regulated in any way by the State or any Government.

An NFP Government will also: –

1. Ensure taxpayer funds are justifiably used by spreading advertisements by Government and Statutory organisations across all media outlets and end the exclusivity enjoyed by one newspaper as is currently the case

2. Ensure funding for Public Service Broadcast for all mainstream broadcast and television media and not exclusive to Fiji Broadcasting Commission

3. Ensure Fiji Airways provides both daily newspapers to its passengers instead of providing only Fiji Sun

NFP upholds and promotes media freedom at all times despite falling victim to biased and unfair reporting by some media outlets.

We do not blame the journalists but those leading those organisations using exclusive access to taxpayer’s funds to trumpet only Government’s view.

As we observe World Press Freedom Day tomorrow (3 rd May), we also remember Individual journalists who were either removed, or re-assigned other duties when they tried to uphold media ethics.

In this regard we once again call upon Fiji Television Limited to re-instate journalist Shanal Sivan to the Fiji TV newsroom. Mr Sivan was removed from the Fiji TV newsroom by the Group CEO of Fijian Holdings Limited for amplifying the voice of ordinary citizens  who expressed their disappointment over Government’s broken promises.

This is the kind of State interference in newsrooms through management of news organisations that has seen Fiji ranked the lowest of Pacific Island nations of Samoa, Tonga and Papua New Guinea, in a recent report released by Reporters Without Borders.

Generally, the media industry in this country has been under siege since the military coup of December 2006. The last 8 years, especially after the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution on 10th April 2009, have been turbulent and devastating for journalists and the media industry.

While the promulgation of the Media Industry Development Decree in 2010 ended State’s presence in the newsrooms and direct censorship, self-censorship is being practiced in most newsrooms with journalists awaiting responses from Government before publishing and broadcasting any statement by the Opposition.

Only cosmetic changes were made to the Decree in July 2015 with fines against journalists removed but heavy penalties against

Editors, Publishers and the media organisations remain like a noose around one’s neck.

Media throughout the world is generally regarded as the Fourth Estate – the last line of defenders of democracy, human rights, dignity and justice.

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 Media Industry Development Decree is regressive and suppresses Media Freedom.

A free, fair and unregulated media is absolutely vital for true and genuine democracy as well to amplify the voices of not only Government but also the Opposition, without fear.

Authorised by: –

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

Privileges Bill suppresses freedom of speech

Media Release. May 1, 2017

The people of Fiji must know that Clause 24 of the Parliamentary Privileges Bill, if it became law, would allow the Government to jail and fine people if they “defame, demean or undermine the sanctity of Parliament.”

It goes without saying that we oppose it. An NFP Government will ensure clause 24 of the Parliamentary Privileges Bill will never see the light of day.

Parliamentarians are the people’s servants. The people elect them and the people pay them. The people are also allowed to criticise them, even if we as Parliamentarians think the criticism is unfair. Freedom of expression is also the freedom to differ with the government.

There is no democratic country in the world where such a law exists.

The Fiji First Government has become arrogant and out of touch. Its Ministers are surrounded by bodyguards and drive around in motorcades (and NFP will ban those too). Now Fiji First is so scared of criticism that it would put people in jail and fine them up to $100,000 if they spoke up against Parliamentarians.

Politicians who cannot accept criticism should leave Parliament – or the voters should throw them out!

Authorised by : –

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

PETITION BY CANE GROWERS SEEKING MINIMUM GUARANTEED PRICE

POINT OF ORDER  – PETITION BY CANE GROWERS SEEKING MINIMUM GUARANTEED PRICE

Madam Speaker I rise on a Point of Order seeking clarification on  why I was not allowed to move a petition that I submitted to your good self as required under Standing Order 37, on Tuesday 25th April.

I respectfully submit the fact that I was not allowed to move a motion for a petition to be referred to the relevant standing committee is violation of the Standing Order 37 of Parliament, as well as breach of Section 72 of the 2013 Constitution.

The provision on presentation of petitions is extremely clear. A petition must be in conformity to the Constitution and must not create ill-will and hostility.

The Petition that was submitted to you Madam Speaker is about cane growers seeking parliamentary intervention to help them achieve a minimum guaranteed price for a tonne of cane. The petition, signed by 404 registered cane growers throughout the Western Division cane belt from Rakiraki to Sigatoka, doesn’t violate this provision, nor any other provision of the Constitution and the Standing Orders.

Madam Speaker, the merits and de-merits of this or any petition can only be determined after it is moved in Parliament.

Standing Order 37(5) and 37(6) lays out the procedure of what happens when a petition is moved.

There is nothing that overrules it once the Speaker decides a petition is in order. It is the Speaker’s call because a petition is sent to the Speaker. I am surprised that you have not made any decision, based on your previous rulings of 8th July 2015 and again on 23 rd March 2017.

No aspect of it clashes with Bills No. 19 and 20. Bills 19 and 20 before the parliamentary standing committee on economic affairs do not address the issue of implementing a minimum guaranteed cane price. It is all about amending the Sugar Industry Act.

Neither has the issue been raised and voted upon in any motion, previous petition or question that was asked in the last six months.

In any case your rulings of 8 th July 2015 and 23 rd March 2017 make it extremely clear why petitions are important. On 23 rd March you re-iterated your ruling and I quote: –

“The right of citizens to petition their Parliament and the power of Parliament to deal with petition is an ancient right and was affirmed by the House of Commons in 1669. It is a fundamental right of the citizen, which is preserved in our Standing Orders. It is the only means by which individuals can directly place grievances before the Parliament on matters which the Government has jurisdiction”. – Unquote

Madam Speaker, Section 72(b) of the Constitution says Parliament must facilitate public participation in the legislative and other processes of Parliament and its committees. Section 72 of the Constitution relates to Petitions, public access and participation.

Denial of a petition, more so, if it complies with Standing Order 37 is a breach of the Constitution.

In any case, Government under Standing Order 37 has the right to reply to the petition and also vote either for and against it.

Essentially Madam Speaker, this Petition is in order and I once again respectfully submit that it should be moved in Parliament without delay, based on your previous rulings and in conformity to both Standing Order 37 and Section 72 of the 2013 Constitution.

Any delay in determining the future of the petition (when there is no need to since it conforms to every provision required for acceptance and moving of a petition), will deny the cane growers who signed the petition their right to be heard by Parliament and constitute a breach of Section 72 (b) of the Constitution.

It concerns their livelihood and future before the start of the crushing season.

I await your ruling Madam Speaker.

NFP response to Health Minister’s statement on medicine shortage

RESPONSE TO MINISTER AKBAR – Ministerial Statement

By Hon Parmod Chand (Tuesday April 25, 2017)

Madam Speaker, I thank the Minister for her statement. At the outset, let me say that we are thoroughly disappointed with her explanation. Like many other issues affecting our nation, this Government is paying lip service to the fundamental issue of providing basic health care to our citizens in our health centres and public hospitals.

Madam Speaker two months ago, we highlighted the shortage of chemicals used to process x-ray films were denying patients the right to get x-rayed and diagnosed.

This problem remains unresolved. The Minister has to be reminded what she said in Parliament when this issue was raised by Hon Prem Singh on 10th February 2017.

And what transpired in the last two months is relevant to what was said by the Minister regarding the issue of medicine. I will demonstrate how this will be another one of the same old story – they call it NATO Madam Speaker – No Action Talk Only.

The Honourable Minister had said only wet film processing, which is processing a film after an x-ray is done was not being conducted but dry film processing and digital imaging were being conducted.

She said wet film processing was being phased out but chemicals would be arriving at the end of the month (which is February).

February has come and gone. The situation hasn’t changed.

I want to ask the Minister: –

Does the Minister know what is happening in her Ministry?

For example, despite her assurance to this Parliament two months ago– the major hospitals don’t have chemicals to process X Ray films? Patients incur costs to come to hospitals only to be told they cannot get x-rayed.

Last week a patient from Nadi who has a fractured femur (thighbone) hired a taxi and came to Lautoka hospital on his designated day of review and x-ray. He was told x-ray could not be done and he had to pay $100 as taxi hire charges. Will the Ministry compensate him because it is not his fault that x-ray could not be done. The Hospital did not even have the decency and courtesy of informing him and the public through the media that x-ray service was out of order.

Again last week a woman who is a cancer patient was taken for review and x-ray at the CWM Hospital. She could not be x-rayed because there were no chemicals to process the film.

Is this the kind of treatment that our citizens deserve?

They don’t want handouts, they want access to fundamental and basic service, Madam Speaker.

The 2013 Constitution has been much talked about as the savior of our nation and providing common and equal citizenry through its Bill of Rights.

Section 38 (1) of the 2013 Constitution (Right to health) states, and I quote, “The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realization of the right of every person to health and to the conditions and facilities necessary to good health care services…”

38(3) of the Constitution states “…if the State claims that it does not have the resources to implement the right, it is the responsibility of the State to show that resources are not available”.

Does the State have sufficient resources to provide access to health care for all? If it has then shortage and lack of medicine and medical supplies should not be an issue. We ask what has happened to allocation of a quarter million dollars in the last two budgets to hire consultants to streamline procurement procedures of medical supplies.

If private pharmacies can be sufficiently stocked with the list of medicines being listed as being in short and nil supply, why can’t the Fiji pharmaceutical service, which has millions of dollars at its disposal, or that is what is shown in the budget, be in a state of preparedness at all times?

And even when there is a shortage, why cannot it swiftly order medicine instead of the health ministry saying there is no estimated time of arrival when we have flights into our country daily and goods and services by the private sector are air freighted within a week?

Madam Speaker where there is a will there is a way. The Minister should know that cosmetic solutions and changes couldn’t be implemented to improve the fundamentals in the health ministry. Health is not about applying cosmetic and band-aid solutions.

It is about getting fundamental rights because health is wealth. Unfortunately the state of our public health has become blight on our nation.

Thank you Madam Speaker

Drug shortage not urgent, Speaker rules

 

On Monday 24 April, 2017, the NFP leader, Professor Biman Prasad, filed an urgent question in Parliament about medicine shortage.
Here is the question that was filed and the response from the Speaker of Parliament (The Fiji Times, 25 April, 2017) who ruled that the shortage of medicine in hospitals was an ongoing issue and therefore did not qualify to be raised as an urgent question.

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=398009

Biman ‘removed’

 

The Fiji Times – page 3 : Nasik Swami Friday, April 28, 2017

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=398397

OPPOSITION Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa has removed National
Federation Party (NFP) leader Professor Biman Prasad as the shadow minister for economy after the party’s decision not to form a coalition with SODELPA or any other party for next year’s general election. Ro Teimumu told The Fiji Times yesterday that this was the decision of SODELPA caucus.
However, she personally believes Prof Prasad is the best person and most qualified to fulfil the role of the shadow minister for economy and chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) until his resignation.
In a letter to Prof Prasad on Wednesday, Ro Teimumu said: “As you have publicly stated that NFP will not partner or coalesce with any other party prior to the 2018 election, it is therefore imperative to SODELPA to find a parliamentary platform to make known and publicise issues that will benefit us from the 2017/2018 Budget”.
“Our members (SODELPA MPs) now believe that it is now an opportune time for a member of the Public Accounts Committee to make the appropriate response to the 2017-2018 Budget addresses,” Ro Teimumu said.
“So now he (Prof Prasad) has resigned from the PAC and Standing Orders have changed and the chair for the committee is now a government nominee.”
Ro Teimumu said she was not forced by SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka to remove Prof Prasad.
Prof Prasad confirmed receiving the letter from Ro Teimumu.
“I have been removed as shadow minister for economy. While it means I will not deliver the official reply to the 2017-18 Budget, this will not prevent the NFP from effectively dissecting the budget and advocating issues affecting all our citizens,” he said.
He thanked Ro Teimumu for having the confidence in him to perform the roles of shadow minister for economy and chairman of PAC until he resigned in May last year after changes to the Standing Orders.
“These were important Opposition parliamentary roles required to be performed effectively and efficiently,” Prof Prasad said.
“These are parliamentary roles and have nothing to do with the fact that the NFP is a party on its own and not in a political or parliamentary coalition with any party.”

Response to Budget

Lt. Pio Tikoduadua replies to Nemani’s article.

April 20, 2017

 

Mr Nemani Delaibatiki

Managing Editor (Training)

Fiji Sun

SUVA

 

Bula Nemani

You wrote an interesting analysis piece yesterday on my understanding of Parliamentary caucus rules. Of course, you are entitled to your opinion, but I beg to differ. I believe under the Media Code of Conduct I am entitled to the opportunity to reply to any commentary on me, so I am offering to you this short reply for your consideration. I hope that as a responsible newspaper and in the interests of balance – and considering an alternative viewpoint – you would consider it for publication.

 

You may reach me on my mobile 719 6802.

Pio Tikoduadua

 

On Wednesday 19 April Nemani Delaibatiki wrote an “analysis” piece in the Fiji Sun headed “Pio Tikoduadua’s Lack of Understanding of How Parties Work Shows Through Now.” He was commenting on the incident that caused me to leave the Fiji First Government in 2015. This was my disagreement with Prime Minister Honourable Voreqe Bainimarama and Attorney General Honourable Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum on how to handle the dissent of Fiji First MP Dr Neil Sharma.

Nemani suggests that I do not understand how political parties work or the need for party discipline in parliamentary voting.  This criticism is certainly new. I never suffered such criticism when I was a member of the Fiji First Party government!

You do not need to be a genius to know that a governing party needs all of its MPs to vote for its position on important legislation. If its MPs do not, the governing party does not achieve its policy aims and it is not being faithful to the voters who elected it.

But Dr Sharma did not vote against government legislation. He voted with the Opposition on a Friday afternoon adjournment motion, the kind where Parliament expresses a view about a particular issue, often raised by the Opposition.

Adjournment motions do not spend government money. They do not create new laws. They are a chance for MPs to discuss with each other what the people are talking about.  Often the Opposition takes advantage of this opportunity. The Opposition also represents citizens of our country and their voices should also be heard.  Adjournment motions are an opportunity for the Government to talk less and listen more.

I do not even recall the exact terms of the motion. I think it called for action on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).  Dr Sharma is a medical doctor. He is a former Minister for Health. No doubt he felt strongly about these issues. He voted with the Opposition.

There is a paranoid element in the Fiji First Party that treats any sign of dissension as a threat which must be immediately suppressed.  This is similar to the Soviet Union in the time of Josef Stalin. In Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s words, Dr Sharma had to be “made an example”. He had to be forced out of Parliament to warn other MPs not to do the same.

The Fiji First Party has 32 out of 50 seats in Parliament.  This was an adjournment motion. It did not compel the Government to do anything (except listen to some opposing views for a few a minutes).

For anyone who is paying attention, NCDs are right now the biggest threat to the health and well-being of Fiji’s people. If a Government MP votes with the Opposition, that is a wake-up call for the Government.  The Government needs to listen and learn about why that MP feels so strongly that he would put at risk his relationship with his fellow party members.

Dissent, in the right measure, strengthens, not weakens, organisations. It means that we are keeping an open mind and looking for better ways to meet our goals.

Weak people fear dissent. They are not confident that their arguments are better than the dissenters.  They are afraid of other people being seen to be better than they are.

So, Nemani, party discipline certainly has its place in Parliamentary government. But imagination, tolerance and listening to other points of view is how you strengthen your party for the future.  People who know that you are listening to them, not dictating to them or threatening them, are the people who will vote with you when you really need the support.

That is how strong political parties work. The same is true of nations.

 

NFP WILL REPEAL PARLIAMENTARY REMUNERATIONS DECREE

A National Federation Party Government will repeal the Parliamentary Remunerations Decree and will, through Parliament, establish an independent emoluments commission to look at salaries, perks and privileges of Members of Parliament.

 

Until the determination is set by a Parliamentary emoluments commission, the salaries of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers will be automatically reduced by 25% from the current exorbitantly highly and self-determined salaries done by the Fiji First Government.  Similarly, rates of allowances and per diem will be reduced.

 

The independent emoluments commission will determine the salaries of all public office holders including the President, Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, Leader of the Opposition and the Speaker.  Unlike before there is no relativity of the salaries of office holders to those of the Leader of the Opposition and Members of Parliament.

 

It must be recalled that the Parliamentary Remunerations Decree was promulgated by the Fiji First Government on 3rd October 2014, 3 days before the resumption of parliamentary democracy. This basically means that the Fiji First Government prescribed for themselves what their salaries should be!

 

Furthermore, while paying themselves exorbitant salaries, Government is stifling resources and funding for the Opposition. Worse of all, the weekly salary and allowances of the Prime Minister is manifestly more than what an ordinary worker would earn in a year on the meagre minimum wage rate of $2.32 an hour.

 

The Attorney General and Minister for Economy’s excuse that large salaries for Government Ministers avoids corruption is pathetic and self-serving. He conveniently sidestepped the issue that was raised by students during his Budget consultation who probably know much better.

 

 

There continues to be one rule for Government Ministers and one rule for everybody else. The lower ranks of public servants are under intense scrutiny through anti-corruption laws and FICAC (Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption).

 

Against this backdrop the Attorney General justifies payment of unilaterally imposed large salaries for Government Ministers under the pretext of preventing them from being tempted into corruption.

 

On 29th September last year, parliamentarians voted for themselves, the PM and Cabinet Ministers, a massive increase in allowances and per diem. Only the NFP voted against it and refused to accept the increased allowances or personally benefit from it. Any increased allowances paid to our Members is used for relief assistance. Members of Parliament voting for a monetary increase for themselves based on a report done by themselves breaks every fibre of transparency, accountability and good governance.

 

The Leader of the Opposition and Opposition MPs have also contributed 10% of their annual salary of $50,000 towards relief work for TC Winston. The NFP Leader has contributed 50% of his annual salary of $50,000. There were no such reciprocal measures done by Fiji First Government despite enjoying massive salaries.

 

The salary levels of the PM and Government Ministers is unprecedented in our history. All except four Cabinet Ministers are earning $185,000 per annum. Three Ministers are receiving $200,000 per annum. The salary of the Attorney General is set at $235,0000 annually.

 

 

And the Prime Minister is paid $328,750 per annum. This is a 210% increase from the base salary of the PM in 2006 before the coup. The Prime Minister’s overseas travel per diem has increased by 200% from post election levels. If he travels to New Zealand, he will receive almost $3,000 per night. This is the least amount of per diems that he will receive, if compared against travel to Europe or the United States or Asia.

 

The people of Fiji need to be reminded that at the time of the coup, Commodore Josaia Voreqe famously claimed no one in his team would profit from the coup. Ten years on, he now pays himself the biggest prime ministerial salary in Fiji’s history. This is yet another forgotten and shattered promise on the part of Fiji First.

Authorised by: –

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

 

NFP LEADER- We will repeal Remunerations Decree – Media Release April 2017

 http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=397348