Category Archives: News

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

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

Pio opens up

Nasik Swami
Monday, April 17, 2017, Fiji Times

FORMER minister for infrastructure and transport in the FijiFirst-led government, Pio Tikoduadua, says he is not an opportunist and can not stand to take the back seat in national affairs.

Mr Tikoduadua made this strong statement while retorting to public queries on his silence from two years ago when his resignation based on medical grounds was announced. With the 2018 General Election less than a year away, Mr Tikoduadua bounced off comments from some members of the public and on social media that his announcement of joining the National Federation Party (NFP) and revealing his reason to resign from the FijiFirst Government was opportunistic in nature.

Yesterday, the new NFP member said he had no interest in power and it took him two years to come out and make his reason for resignation public because he needed time.

“I am not opportunist,” he said.

“I have absolutely no interest in power and the thing is I want to make a contribution and that is something that has emanated after two years of my staying in the village, I just could not stand to take the back seat.”

Mr Tikoduadua said certain things needed to come out at the right time.

“The answer for that is that there is a time in space where certain information comes up that is relevant to the time, particularly, as I am sitting in the village” Mr Tikoduadua said.

He said after staying in the village for two years following his untimely resignation, he needed to get things off his chest.

“And I needed to get this off my chest. Because there is no doubt about me being sick, and I am still sick. I am taking a lot of medication.

“But it needs to come off my chest so it frees me, I am free.

“That’s why it is coming now and in my current state I want to make a contribution and I cannot make a contribution for the future, unless I, first of all, acknowledge that gap, particularly in my life.

“So that’s why it came out today (yesterday) and relevant enough, it came out on Easter Sunday.”

He said he needed a platform that reflected his inspirations in the political realm.

Mr Tikoduadua said he felt free now and was ready to engage constructively in political activities.

At a press conference on Saturday, the new NFP member claimed that apart from his health condition, another factor that led to his resignation was a disagreement he had with Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

“In 2015, a FijiFirst party member of Parliament who was a backbencher voted with the Opposition on a parliamentary motion on health issues. He did this for reasons of conscience.

“This was courageous and principled, even if it was politically unwise. Some of my fellow ministers called for him to resign. I was not one of them.

“I gave my opinion to the PM that we should show flexibility and forgiveness,” he claimed.

“For me, this was an opportunity for the Government to listen and learn about why that one of its MPs had felt so strongly about an issue that he would vote with the Opposition.”

He claimed Mr Bainimarama had initially accepted and agreed with his recommendation and he later informed the MP that the matter was resolved.

“Unfortunately, the PM then took advice of the Attorney-General and changed his mind. I went back to argue my case again. He then informed me that my opinion did not matter,” Mr Tikoduadua alleged.

“I took that statement as an order that my services were no longer required. I then left the Government.”

Mr Tikoduadua said loyalty must be given to a leader but it must also be returned.

Mr Bainimarama has brushed aside claims made by Mr Tikoduadua, saying his comments were “irrelevant”.

Several attempts to get a comment from Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum remained unsuccessful when this edition went to press last night.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum is in Washington on an official trip.

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=396953

RA Cane Farmers Were Kept in Dark for a Year

Mill no more

Felix Chaudhary
Tuesday, March 28, 2017

THE Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) board has announced the permanent closure of the Penang sugar mill in Rakiraki.

Board chairman Vishnu Mohan said the decision to close the mill for good was one not made easily, but it was something that had to be done.

“The reasons are many, but fundamentally if we were to refurbish the mill, it would cost us between $40 million and $50m and honestly I don’t think we can afford it at this point in time,” he said.

“We have to get our priorities right and in any business, we need to be very careful in how we spend our money.

“It is a 136-year-old mill and we have not spent any money in the upkeep in the last 20 years.”

Mr Mohan assured the Rakiraki and Tavua farming community that they would not be affected by the closure as plans were in place to formalise transportation from the Penang mill area to Rarawai in Ba.

He also said the Rarawai sugar mill would be maintained to handle the increased load.

“We can assure that it is not going to impact production.

“We are looking at 2.1 million tonnes of cane and more than 200,000 tonnes of sugar. We have done some work on it and we feel we can handle the increase.”

FSC chief executive officer Graham Clark said Rarawai had handled the situation well last year and the miller had strategies to cope with the additional cane this season.

“The options that we’ve got is running more efficiently, crushing through Sundays, which we haven’t been doing and extending the season slightly to take in the extra cane. I think we’ve got enough options to handle all the cane.”

Mr Clark said FSC would look at redeploying as many of the 110 employees from Penang to other mills.

“Nobody will be prejudiced by this decision in terms of their own personal circumstances and that refers to employees or our farmers for that matter.

“We are very mindful of the position of employees.

“A lot of employees were redeployed within the organisation since its closure over the last two years and we will take this as an opportunity to find them alternate employment around the group. We’ll find positions for those that we can and take care of those that we can’t.”

Mr Clark said FSC would initially secure the mill yard and then begin dismantling it over a period of time.

Growers’ representative organisations have labelled the decision as a slap in the face of Tavua and Rakiraki farmers and the Rakiraki business community.

“Growers and the business community in Ra had pinned their hopes on the mill reopening and now all their dreams have been shattered,” said National Farmers Union general secretary and former prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry.

“Everyone will be affected by this decision, farmers will slowly lose interest in farming and the loss of income from employees of the mill will affect the Rakiraki economy. Ra has potential for cane production growth as opposed to the Sigatoka-Nadi corridor where a lot of farms have given way to tourism and industrial developments.”

Fiji Cane Growers Association president Attar Singh said it was a sad day for the industry.

“This is a decision that is not going to be accepted by the farmers,” he said.

“Last season, farmers and stakeholders put up with the transfer of cane as a temporary inconvenience but this decision changes everything.

“Carting the Penang mill area cane to Rarawai places a huge burden on the Ba mill and this could mean an extension to the crushing season. And farmers will be faced with increasing labour costs because of this.

“The FSC needs to seriously look at the costs to growers and there needs to be an indepth study in terms of transportation and the expected losses to farmers.”

Rakiraki Chamber of Commerce and Industry president George Shiu Raj said the decision would impact significantly on the business community.

“We will lose between 60 and 70 per cent of our business, it’s a very sad day for Rakiraki,” he said. “Why didn’t they explore other options like giving this mill up for lease to the private sector instead of closing it down completely?

“I produce 2000 tonnes of cane and was looking at extending my farm but this decision has made me lose interest in investing because of the inconvenience and additional cost of transporting cane from Rakiraki to Rarawai.”

Sugar Cane Growers Council CEO Sundresh Chetty said nothing had been communicated to him from FSC when contacted yesterday.

“We are the legitimate representative of the farmers and have not been officially informed as yet,” he said.

Enslavement of Growers

Truth about sugar should be told

By Bala Dass
The Fiji Times. Saturday, March 11, 2017

I believe the FijiFirst Government has enslaved canegrowers and subjugated them under the Fiji Sugar Corporation.

This follows revelations by the former director of sugar, as reported by The Fiji Times that former FSC executives in December 2008 recommended the termination and dissolution of the democratically elected Sugar Cane Growers Council as well as dissolution of two other industry organisations — the Sugar Commission and Fiji Sugar Marketing.

This is a very serious issue. This is similar to the days of the CSR (Colonial Sugar Refining Company), which throttled the rights of growers subjecting them to injustice. It was the founder of the National Federation Party, the late AD Patel (Ambalal Dahyabhai Patel), who led the struggle to drive out CSR from Fiji.

Patel’s impressive and comprehensive submissions led to the formulation of the Denning Award that stipulated the 70/30 sharing of proceeds formula in favour of growers in 1969. Lord Denning himself had stated that it was the persuasive arguments of Mr Patel that led him to rule in favour of growers.

I believe this released the growers from the shackles of CSR and its subsidiary the South Pacific Sugar Mills (SPSM).

FSC’s role

Who is FSC to determine the livelihood and future of canegrowers?

And worse still it was done by a group of former FSC executives who compiled a report within a few weeks that formed the basis of Viliame Gucake’s Cabinet paper recommending the termination of the 38 elected growers councillors and dissolution of SCGC.

And with the dissolution of SCGC, the last vestiges of democracy in the sugar industry that safeguarded the interest of growers, disappeared, forcing them under total control of FSC and Government.

And not satisfied with terminating elected representatives of growers, I believe the Government is now attempting to tear apart their livelihood by introducing Bills No 19 and 20 — Reform of the Sugar Cane Industry and Sugar Cane Growers Fund (Amendment) Bills — in Parliament that are being scrutinised by the Parliamentary select committee on Economic Affairs.

We demand that Government through either the prime minister or minister for sugar or his permanent secretary publicly reveal the report and recommendations of the former FSC executives.

Similarly, Government must make public the FSC’s strategic plan that was referred to in Parliament two years ago as being in existence by the prime minister as well as the report of a consultant (Professor Steven Ratuva) hired to look at reviewing the Master Award.

Mr Gucake’s revelation of government’s underhand manner of adopting the recommendations of former FSC executives, confirms why Government doesn’t want bipartisanship in collectively overcoming challenges facing the industry so that it remains vibrant.

Decline in production

When Voreqe Bainimarama became Prime Minister and named his military cabinet and on January 16, 2007, Decree Number 1 was promulgated to terminate the chief executive of the Sugar Cane Growers Council Jagannath Sami.

Decree Number 1 of 2007 stated Mr Sami was being terminated because of the “moribund state” of the sugar cane industry and because of mismanagement of the said industry.

This decree was promulgated after the High Court granted Mr Sami a Stay Order following his removal.

I believe the decree’s intent was to portray that the dismissal was legal.

And what of the reason given — “… moribund state of the industry and mismanagement”.

Moribund means the industry was regarded at the point of death, in terminal decline, lacking vitality and vision. An industry that produced 3.22 million tonnes in 2006 and 310,000 tonnes of sugar, and on the verge of benefiting from $350 million grant from the European Union for the next seven years, was described to be at the point of death.

And within a year what was considered moribund started a death dive — in 2007 cane production declined by over 750,000 tonnes and sugar production declined by 73,000 tonnes.

This free fall towards death has continued and last week NFP leader Professor Biman Prasad pointed out statistics prove sugarcane production declined by a massive 1.84 million tonnes or 57.14 per cent in 2016 from 2006.

Sugar production (despite improvement in TCTS) declined by 170,638 tonnes or 55.02 per cent in 2016 from 2006. And the number of active cane growers decreased by 5764 in the past 10 years.

Now the revelation by the former director of sugar that former FSC executives recommended the termination of appointments of the elected Growers Council almost two years after Mr Sami’s termination confirms the intention of totally suppressing the rights of growers.

And all this was done under the pretext of reforming the industry — and statistics show that the so called reforms did not restore the industry’s vitality, but has genuinely made it moribund.

Exorcising the ghosts

It is time to exorcise or drive out the ghosts of what transpired in the sugar industry since the military coup of December 2006.

Those responsible for the decimation of the sugar industry, starting from the events of January 2007, must be bold enough to admit that they tinkered with the industry and politicised it like never before through appointments based on nepotism and cronyism, and implementation of ill-conceived policies.

In this regard the PS for Sugar is more honest and truthful of what actually transpired in the industry and the FSC and that problems facing the industry can only be resolved by working together.

The following questions need to be answered truthfully:

* who held the portfolio of the minister for sugar in the military government when Jagannath Sami was terminated as Growers Council CEO?;

* who replaced those holding legitimate positions in the industry and the Growers Council before the coup?;

* who twice recommended to the military cabinet that Growers Council elections originally scheduled for April 2007 be deferred because elections would be an impediment to reforms?;

* who stated that if the European Union refused to give $350 million as grant to the sugar industry because of the coup, the military cabinet would look for money elsewhere?;

* who ordered the deduction of $1.98 per tonne of cane or a total of almost $4.6m from cane growers’ share of income to be pumped into the cash strapped South Pacific Fertilizer Ltd?;

* under whose watch in December 2008 former FSC executives recommended the dissolution of the Growers Council?; and

* who implemented the recommendation of the former FSC executives to terminate the elected councillors and dissolve the SCGC in 2009?

This is just the beginning of what could be an endless list of committal of acts and implementation of policies that has led to the decimation of the sugar industry. Let the truth telling begin.

* Bala Dass is the general secretary of both the Fiji Cane Growers Association and the National Federation Party. 

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=392333

 

The truth about the high cost of living and the lack of jobs

Biman: Families feeling the pinch

By Nasik Swami
The Fiji Times. Monday, March 13, 2017

MANY young families in the country are struggling to make ends meet.

That’s the view of National Federation Party (NFP) leader Professor Biman Prasad after the results of the Tebbutt-Times poll which revealed the cost of living and employment as the top issues ahead of the 2018 polls.

The cost of living was ranked the number one issue by 46 per cent of those polled and employment ranked second by 32 per cent of respondents.

According to Prof Prasad, the polls pointed out that about 50 per cent of the voters were concerned with the rising cost of living and unemployment.

He said the FijiFirst Government in its manifesto during the 2014 General Election promised to keep value added tax (VAT) rate to zero on basic food items.

“Yet in last year’s budget, they raised the VAT on basic food items from 0 to 9 per cent, directly hitting the low income people.

“To make matters worse, they have increased duties on many items including fees, fines and charges, as well as increase in sea port charges, the cost of which is directly passed on to the consumers.”

He claimed all promises of free medicine, free water and free electricity put to the people before the last election had fallen flat and many of the lower income people who were supposed to benefit from this have not because of poor implementation.

“The second issue of unemployment with low wages has hit young and qualified people.

“The Government thinks that more job advertisements are a sign of increasing employment, far from the truth, many of the advertisements are replacement job advertisements.

“Many graduates coming out from tertiary studies are finding it very difficult to find jobs. Even when they find jobs they are low paid.”

“For example, a young person who completed his degree in accounting last year has started with an annual salary of $10,000.

“His net pay is around $177 per week.”

Prof Prasad said with this salary, the young person is also required to pay his TELS loan, which was more than $20,000.

“Many employers are also taking advantage of weak union representation and lack of unions to pay below poverty level wages to young and qualified people.”

He said the NFP in government would make it top priority to address the issues of rising cost of living, unemployment and low wages and salaries.

More than 50-percent affected by cost of living and employment concerns

Poll issues

By Nasik Swami
The Fiji Times. Saturday, March 11, 2017

AN independent national poll conducted last month revealed that the biggest issues in the 2018 General Election will be cost of living and employment.

Cost of living in Fiji was ranked the number one issue by 46 per cent of those polled, followed by employment with 32 per cent of those polled.

The Tebbutt-Times poll was conducted from February 4-7 by internationally-accredited world standard market researcher, Tebbutt Research, from a random national sample of 1001 adults 18 years and over.

Those interviewed were asked the question: “Looking forward to the 2018 elections, what do you think the top three election issues will be?”

The results showed tremendous uniformity across the nation on this question, with the top two answers being the same across all demographic measures – gender, age, ethnicity, urban/rural and division.

According to the poll, wages (21 per cent), infrastructure/development (21 per cent) and poverty (20 per cent) round out the top five responses across all people, and almost all demographics measured had the same responses in their top five.

The only exceptions were noted from women where crime was ranked higher than wages and for other ethnicities, good governance ranked fourth, pushing poverty out of the top five.

For those aged 45 years and over, education replaced wages in the number five spot and for those in the Northern/Eastern divisions, land issues ranked high, pushing wages to a lower position.

According to the poll, each of the top five responses were named by at least one in five people. Other answers given as part of the top issues included education (15 per cent), crime (12 per cent), and land issues (12 per cent).

Significant demographic differences were seen for land issues (mentioned twice as frequently by rural respondents than those in urban locations), political stability (7.3 per cent of iTaukei vs 1.8 per cent for Fijians of Indian descent), and jobs (40 per cent for those 18-29 years compared with 23 per cent for those aged 45 and over).

While the majority of people provided three answers, 15 per cent were unsure what the issues would be, and two per cent declined to answer.

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?ref=archive&id=392302