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How Government is destroying the sugar industry

Sugar sector analysis: Caught up in cobwebs

Professor Biman Prasad

The Fiji Times, Saturday March 4, 2017

ON February 10, 2017, the FijiFirst Government trampled upon a National Federation Party motion in Parliament calling for the establishment of a bipartisan parliamentary select committee on sugar to collectively overcome challenges facing an ailing industry so that it remains a vibrant industry in future.

The ramifications of what transpired in Parliament that day as well as the rhetoric and logic used by Government in rejecting outright a motion that would have been a sound and sensible way forward to resuscitating an industry that is already staggering towards its demise, will be felt throughout our cane belts.

Government accused Opposition politicians of being responsible for the industry’s demise describing them as spiders weaving cobwebs. Government members of Parliament also claimed their leader Voreqe Bainimarama was a saviour for growers in the past 10 years (after the December 2006 coup).

“Madam Speaker, when we want to get rid of the cobwebs, we have to get rid of the spider.

“Unfortunately for the sugar industry for a long time, we were just trying to dust off the cobwebs but the spider was well alive and active and doing all the damage that it was doing.

“Madam Speaker, Government got rid of the spider so that we can get rid of the cobwebs… To me, this bipartisan approach is what I call crocodile tears.” — Inia Seruiratu, Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management — Parliamentary Hansard, February 10, 2017.

Undoubtedly Mr Seruiratu, like his FijiFirst colleagues who spoke and opposed the motion for the establishment of a parliamentary bipartisan select committee on sugar that was moved by National Federation Party’s parliamentary whip Prem Singh in Parliament on February 10, 2017, was rubbishing the motion that was eventually and not surprisingly defeated by Government.

The basis of FijiFirst Government’s rejection of Mr Singh’s motion was that the industry had been heavily politicised before Voreqe Bainimarama’s military coup of December 5, 2006 removed politicians and politics from the sugar industry.

All FijiFirst MPs who spoke against the motion adopted the same theme — Prime Minister Bainimarama has been the saviour of the industry and canegrowers for the past 10 years and therefore there was no need for the establishment of a bipartisan select committee on sugar.

Simply, FijiFirst did not want any politician from the Opposition to have a say in determining the future of the industry and canegrowers. So what is the record of the Bainimarama-led governments of the past 10 years and who actually has been the spider weaving cobwebs?

Myopic view and painful reality

The truth is that the views of the FijiFirst MPs were myopic. In truth, statistics of the industry’s performance in the past 10 years (that necessitated Mr Singh’s motion), prove that the spider that weaved and got entangled in the cobwebs was the interim/military and FijiFirst governments headed by Mr Bainimarama.

This is the indisputable truth and the painful reality that FijiFirst MPs must accept.

The statistics speak for themselves. Statistics prove that 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.

The number of active canegrowers decreased by 5764 in the past 10 years. FijiFirst is claiming that a vast majority of sugarcane land leases have been renewed.

If this is so, then why are canegrowers exiting the industry in droves?

FijiFirst is either deliberately avoiding addressing this issue or is simply clueless as to why this is happening.

But FijiFirst thinks that plummeting the sugar industry and the livelihood of canegrowers to record low levels is good riddance of influence of politicians and a sure sign that the industry is vibrant! This goes beyond the pale.

Mr Prem Singh rightly stated while moving his motion that, “in the last 10 years there has been no politics in the sugar industry. So this Government and the Honourable Prime Minister cannot blame the politicians but the blame lies squarely with his Government. This Government, led by the Honourable Prime Minister both in his capacity as military commander and elected PM, has been the judge, jury and executioner as far as the industry is concerned because they have total control of the industry.

“Madam Speaker, the industry’s best hope of recovery 10 years ago was derailed by the December 2006 coup. The military government deliberately sacrificed the injection of a $350 million grant to the industry by the European Union.

“Had this materialised, Fiji from 2011 onwards would have been producing a minimum of 4 million tonnes of cane and 400,000 tonnes of sugar, using more efficient methods than we are using now.

“Sugar is a ‘lifeblood’ industry. It is far too important for it to be allowed to die.

“But this government, both as a military regime and now as the FijiFirst administration, instead of providing both theoretical and practical solutions, has been adopting a firefighting approach, which in reality just like most fires witnessed in the country in the last two years has destroyed the properties it was supposed to protect.

“So again Madam Speaker, it is clear where the fault lies. Not with the politicians, but squarely with this Government, which has politicised the industry like never before. People who cannot tell the root of a cane plant from its top are tasked with making decisions to the detriment of the growers and the industry as a whole.”

Exodus of growers

Despite FijiFirst Government allocating millions of dollars so far for cane planting, production declined steadily and the exodus of growers continued. This is not likely to change.

And this factor, together with questionable management practices in Fiji Sugar Corporation under the leadership of Bainimarama in the past 10 years until recently has led to FSC being technically insolvent and unable to even advance a special payment of $2 per tonne of cane to growers at the beginning of this year.

I believe the problem is that this Government has miserably failed to instil confidence in growers or implement concrete solutions to boost their income on the face of rising cost of production, harvesting and delivery of cane to the mills.

The cost of producing, harvesting and delivery of one tonne of cane averaging $45-$50 and if the price averages $75 per tonne, some 9000 growers who produce less than the average 150 tonnes of cane earn a nett income of $4500 in a season.

This is $11,500 below the tax threshold of $16,000. That is why growers are in debt in perpetuity.

This low income declined even further last year — 9000 growers producing an average of 150 tonnes would have received $4029 as nett income for the 2015 season minus the average cost of production of $45 per tonne of cane.

This is almost $1400 less than the paltry $5428.80 earned annually by a worker on the meagre minimum wage rate of $2.32 an hour.

The need for bipartisanship

That is why Mr Prem Singh told Parliament on February 10 that with the abolition of European Union sugar production quotas on September 30, 2017, our industry will be doomed unless cane production is significantly boosted.

He rightly stated that Government must realise its reforms are unworkable and furthermore, its plans and reforms for the industry has been an exercise in futility, driving growers out of canefarming and making the FSC technically insolvent because the four mills do not crush sufficient cane to remain profitable.

“It is still not too late for this Government to reconsider our proposal that was flatly rejected last year.

“A kind and caring government, which FijiFirst professes to be, will gladly embrace any realistic and constructive solution proposed by anyone, even the Opposition, to fix problems that it has failed to resolve for 10 years.

“Despite bitter acrimonious debates, bipartisanship worked well in the past. We can do the same Madam Speaker — 200,000 people are looking at us for solutions. We cannot and must not wait any longer.

“A joint parliamentary select committee involving bipartisanship is the only way forward,” Mr Singh said while commending his motion to Parliament.

A joke

The attitude of FijiFirst towards a motion to save an industry that had been the economic mainstay of this nation for more than 100 years until the turn of the century is best illustrated by the contribution to the debate by PM Bainimarama, who is also the Minister for Sugar.

He described bipartisanship as “getting together of two parties”. And the PM said in the spirit of Valentine’s Day (which was four days later on February 14), NFP and SODELA should get together.

The laughter from FijiFirst MPs in response to their leader’s comments confirm the low opinion they have of canegrowers.

Here was a motion seeking co-operation and collective effort to overcome the challenges facing an industry that directly and indirectly impacts the lives of about 200,000 people of our nation.

Parliamentary Hansard will prove that SODELPA was genuinely concerned about the plight of growers and fully supported the motion by both through their contribution to the debate and as well as voting for the motion.

Not the FijiFirst, especially MPs who profess to be representatives of growers, hail from the cane belt or are average growers themselves, as proven by their cane production statistics that we have obtained.

But they too chose to be entangled in the cobwebs and weave half-truths from scripted notes provided to them, as has been the case since resumption of parliamentary democracy in October 2014.

Half-truths

PM Bainimarama, deliberately or otherwise even erroneously stated that former NFP president, Roko Tupou Draunidalo, boycotted the visit of Indian PM Narendra Modi (on November 19, 2014).

He was replying to Mr Prem Singh who had quoted Roko Draunidalo’s contribution to a debate on changes to the Sugar Cane Growers Council (Amendment) Bill on August 25, 2015 in Parliament, highlighting the positive role former NFP leaders and the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara played in making the industry the engine room for our nation’s growth and prosperity. Correspondence and the Secretary-General to Parliament will prove beyond any doubt that Roko Draunidalo conveyed her apologies because she was travelling to Wellington, New Zealand, to speak at Victoria University.

Her apology was conveyed to the Business Committee of which the PM is a member.

To distort facts and especially try and denigrate a person who is not in Parliament to defend him or herself is most unbecoming and unparliamentary of any MP, worse still if it happens to be the Prime Minister.

Misleading answer

That the PM in his own words was being economical with the truth, stated on February 6 when he was questioned by Mr Prem Singh as to why he did not authorise a special payment to growers in January.

The PM replied he wasn’t requested by anyone to do so.

We ask him to deny whether or not:

* the Sugar Cane Growers Council made a request on behalf of growers for a special payment to enable growers to meet the school needs of their children on January 6, 2017?

* the FSC declared its inability to make a special payment because of the lack of funds?;

* the PM’s representative met with industry stakeholders and conveyed his (PM’s) refusal to authorise a special payment?; and

* the publication of news reports by the daily newspapers The Fiji Times and The Fiji Sun declaring FSC’s inability to make the payment during meetings with growers in Ra and Tavua in the presence of the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Sugar?

Bipartisanship

Bipartisanship means co-operation between two sides of Parliament — Government and the Opposition — not two parties.

Our history since independence is full of examples of bipartisanship when it came to upholding national interest.

And the success of the sugar industry in overcoming challenges, until the 2006 coup, has been a shining example of bipartisanship despite bitter and acrimonious debates across the political divide.

Sadly however, the only example of bipartisanship or extension of a hand of co-operation from Government came on September 29 to increase allowances or parliamentary emoluments.

PM Bainimarama’s definition of bipartisanship as being co-operation between two parties maybe arises from the voting trend on September 29, 2016, when he led his party to vote for hefty increases to parliamentary emoluments and allowances. And in the PM’s case, a 300 per cent increase.

Only the NFP opposed and voted against and refused to accept the increase because we were not going to be part of MPs who voted for an increase for themselves.

But when it came to national interest, to try and resuscitate an industry that shaped and grew our nation from its infancy, bipartisanship was meaningless for FijiFirst Government.

But then maybe, climate change affected PM Bainimarama and FijiFirst’s definition of bipartisanship from personal interest to national interest, forcing it to be entangled in cobwebs and therefore clouding its vision of national interest.

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=391423

Biman: Report delay a breach

THE National Federation Party says revelations by the newly-appointed auditor-general that auditor-general’s reports for 2015 will be submitted to Parliament in March is a gross breach of the 2013 Constitution and the Audit (Amendment) Act of 2006.

Party leader Professor Biman Prasad said the delay in submission was causing grave doubts on the authenticity of the reports.

Prof Prasad said the auditor-general’s reports must be submitted to the Speaker of Parliament within nine months of the following year.

“Any tabling of the auditor-general’s reports now will be unconstitutional and a breach of the Audit (Amendment) Act of 2006,” he claimed.

“The 2015 audit reports should have been submitted to Parliament by September 30, 2016. That was the last day of Parliament for 2016.”

He said under Section 152 (14) of the 2013 Constitution, within 30 days of receipt, or if Parliament was not sitting, on the first day after the end of that period, the minister responsible for finance must lay the report before Parliament.

Prof Prasad claimed this was not done by the Minister for Economy, who was out of the country and could not be reached for comments yesterday. He said section 12(1) of the Audit (Amendment) Act of 2006 (Act No. 7 of 2006) states: “A report of the Auditor-General to the Parliament about an audit must be submitted to the Speaker of the House of Representatives (Parliament in this case) within nine months after the year to which the audit relates or within a longer period appointed by the resolution of the House”.

Prof Prasad said when the Auditor-General did not hand the 2015 reports within nine months or by September 30 last year, the Attorney-General and Minister for Economy should have sought parliamentary approval on September 30, which was the last day of sitting for 2016, giving the Auditor-General more time.

“But there has been no such resolution of the House (Parliament) giving the Auditor-General a longer period of time.”

He said the fact that the Auditor-General’s vacancy was not filled last year was not an excuse. “Surely the office had a Deputy Auditor-General who used to appear before the Public Accounts Committee when I was chairman of PAC.

“Even if, for argument’s sake, the delay was expected because the vacancy in the Auditor-General’s position, why didn’t the Minister for Economy and Attorney-General seek a parliamentary resolution to give more time to the Auditor-General.

“In the absence of any adherence to the rule of law as far as complying with tabling of Auditor-General’s Reports is concerned, the question arises as to the authenticity of the audits and the methodology used to scrutinise the State’s 2015 Accounts and financial statements and the compilation of the final report itself that has been greatly delayed,” said Prof Prasad.

In response, the newly-appointed Auditor-General, Ajay Nand said it needed to be understood that there was no Auditor-General in office for the past two years.

“So realistically, I am not sure how the reports would be tabled to Parliament, that’s our position,” he said.

On the question of the authenticity of the reports, he said the reports were based on facts and it was a matter of time for it to be disclosed to Parliament.

“We are working on other reports. There has been a delay and there are a lot of reports in the finalisation stages.

“So once we finalise 2015, then we will finalise the seven months accounts to end of July 2016 and then the current financial year which ends on July 17.”

Mr Nand said his office was also trying to clear the backlog.

“It is a big job because the seven months accounts have given us additional task to do.

“We are sort of working together and putting things in order so we are catching up a bit, but in time to come we should be there.”

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?ref=archive&id=391044

 

 

 

Changes to NFP Parliamentary Caucus and Presidency following Roko Tupou Draunidalo’s resignation

Media Release

Monday January 23, 2017

The National Federation Party’s Management Board has endorsed Mr Parmod Chand to be the next Member of Parliament following the resignation of Roko Tupou Draunidalo last Friday afternoon from the positions of MP and Party President.

Rakiraki lawyer and NFP Ra Branch President Mr Semi Titoko has been endorsed by the Board to be the Acting President of NFP.

Roko Draunidalo conveyed her resignation as an MP to the Honourable Speaker and as NFP President and Party Member to the NFP General Secretary and Registrar of Political Parties.

Acting President Mr Semi Titoko has proven himself to be an exceptional leader in Ra and his latest accomplishment was the successful hosting of the NFP Convention and AGM last September in the district, attended by 700 Party Members and delegates.

He will act in the position until the Party’s AGM later this year.

Mr Parmod Chand is a former NFP MP, having served the Party in Parliament from 1994 to 1999. He is a successful cane grower, a well-known businessman in the Northern Division and the President of Fiji Bus Operators Association. Mr Chand is also the Party’s Vice-President, a position he has held since March 2014.

He was endorsed by the Management Board as he has the fourth highest votes (1014 votes) in the 2014 general elections. Once Mr Chand is in Parliament, the NFP’s numbers in the House will be back to three.

From June 3 rd last year, the Party had two MPs following the suspension of Roko Draunidalo for the rest of the parliamentary term.

Roko Draunidalo’s suspension was harsh and unfair as noted by the Inter Parliamentary Union. Understandably, she was frustrated by her inability to effectively be the voice of her voters in Parliament.

Roko Draunidalo discharged her duties of both as an MP and Party President effectively and fearlessly. She has decided to move on and we wish her well.

Mr Parmod Chand and the Party now await the decision of the Electoral Commission, which has to formally write to Mr Chand.

However we note the term of the Commission expired on January 9. The Constitutional Offices Commission that is empowered to appoint the Chairperson and Members of the Electoral Commission has not made any appointments.

This is unacceptable and we have stated this very clearly in our statement last Saturday.

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

21 January 2017: Media Release – Delay in appointment of Electoral Commission constitutes election rigging: NFP

The National Federation Party is deeply concerned at the delay by the Constitutional Offices Commission to appoint the Electoral Commission which is critical for preparations for a truly credible, free and fair general elections.

The three year term of the Electoral Commission ended on 9th January 2017 and since then the Supervisor of Elections, who reports to the Commission and takes directions from it, has been left unsupervised and is carrying on with preparatory work for the elections.

We ask whom is the Supervisor reporting to and taking directions from? Is it the Minister responsible for Elections who happens to be the Attorney General as well as the General Secretary of the Fiji First Party?

The Constitutional Offices Commission (COC) is empowered under Section 133 of the 2013 Constitution to appoint the Chairperson and Members of the Electoral Commission. The COC is chaired by the Prime Minister and its members are the Attorney General, the Leader of the Opposition, two Members appointed by the President on the advice of the PM and one member appointed by President on the advice of the Opposition Leader.

The Member nominated by the Leader of the Opposition, lawyer Richard Naidu, resigned last year. The current COC is therefore totally lopsided in favour of Government. We also note that the COC Chairperson who is the PM has been empowered to make acting appointments for a period of three months. He used this to appoint the Acting Commander of the Army in August 2015.

Why couldn’t the PM extend the term of the Chenn Bunn Young Chaired Commission for a three-month term using his powers, pending the Commission’s re-appointment or appoint a Commission for another three-year term?

It is deeply concerning that the Elections Office has been running without the constitutionally mandated oversight of the Constitutional Offices Commission especially when the Elections Office is already preparing for the 2018 elections.

The next scheduled general elections can be constitutionally held as early as April 2018, three and a half years into the term of the current Parliament. This is 15 months away. We cannot have the Supervisor of Elections running election preparations at his own discretion against a backdrop of clear conflict of interest from his Minister who is the general secretary of the governing Fiji First.

Furthermore, the Court of Appeal judgment (Civil Appeal ABU 0069 of 2014) was crystal clear in its declaration when it said that:

“The construction to be placed on sections 76(3) of the Constitution read with section 8(a) of the Electoral Decree requires the Supervisor to comply with all decisions and directions given to him concerning the performance of his functions by the Commission.”

This is a very clear direction from the Court of Appeal and their declaration read against the Constitution places the onus on the Prime Minister to ensure that these legal principles are upheld expeditiously.

An Electoral Commission is needed to ensure the implementation of Recommendations by the Multinational Observer Group (MOG) that observed the 2014 General Election and the 2014 annual report of the Electoral Commission itself.

We know the reports, after a delay, were referred to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights. The Committee’s Report should be tabled in the February sitting of Parliament because there is no time for delay if there had to be a truly credible and genuinely free and fair election next year.

The full implementation of the report is a prerequisite to our electoral integrity and for totally free and fair and robust debate among and between political parties and candidates and, most importantly, for the media to amplify, without fear, their voices to the public.

For the sake of transparency and accountability of the electoral process, there shouldn’t be any delay in the appointment of the Electoral Commission. Otherwise, any further delay will in our view constitute systematic election rigging by ignoring the need for the continuous existence of an independent institution.

 

Hon Prof Biman Prasad
NFP Leader

16 January 2017: Media Release – NFP accuses Minister of peddling untruths over QVS

The misinformation disseminated by the Ministry of Education over the state of readiness of Queen Victoria School confirms beyond any doubt that the Ministry under the Minister for Education have become thoroughly incompetent and an unmitigated disaster.

The Minister for Education and his permanent secretary have been peddling untruths for more than a week and deliberately misleading QVS staff, students and their parents. They knew full well that the School would not be ready for the opening of the 2017 school year.

The NFP had raised concerns following confirmation from reputable sources that the construction works were shoddy and that the concrete walls and pillars cracked under the force of a hammer. Simply, the rebuilt QVS under the ‘Adopt A School Programme‘ would not be able to stand a Category 2 Cyclone and was an Occupational Health and Safety Hazard.

Despite this, the Education Minister tried to gloss over the problems through propaganda in a daily newspaper that QVS was ready and would open next week. The new principal was described as dynamic and the names of staff and their EDP Numbers were also published (Fiji Sun, January 11, 2017: page 1 and 3). Obviously this was in response to another daily the Fiji Times, which published a report on its front page on 10th January (a day earlier) highlighting the Prime Minister telling the Education Minister to fix the School’s kitchen that was shown to be in a state of neglect.

Then on Sunday 15th January, the Sunday Times newspaper published a front page report quoting the Ministry’s permanent secretary as saying students would be temporarily using tents as classrooms while “minor structural adjustments continue”.

On Sunday evening the Minister announced that QVS would open on 30th January saying there was “shortage of beds and polishing work needed to be done”.

We regard this as unacceptable. It is disgraceful for a Minister to keep repeating untruths and try and hoodwink the people. He must reveal the truth and put a stop to his chaotic behaviour. Otherwise he should step down.

Authorised by: –

Hon Prof. Biman Prasad
NFP

NFP Leader says put words into action

PS for Sugar is right: NFP Leader

By Shanal Sivan. Fiji One News, Tuesday 3 January, 2017

NFP Leader says put words into action

The NFP is putting politics aside and wants to work with Government to improve the performance of the Sugar industry.

The Permanent secretary for Sugar Yogesh Karan had said through the media last week that our sugar industry needs to be revived with proper consultation and that farmers need to be included in the dialogue concerning the industry.

The National Federation Party says common sense has now prevailed.

“For the first time in the last ten years there seems to have been some very positive statements from the Sugar Ministry and indeed from the Prime Minister’s Permanent Secretary the PS responsible for Sugar Mr Yogesh Karan, it appears that there is now some understanding as to the real issues facing the Sugar Industry.” said Dr. Biman Prasad.

Prasad says 2017 should not be a year to do trials and test new strategies to revive the sugar industry rather make solid decisions to increase performance in the industry.

“I think Mr Karan is right that we need to concentrate in the farmers we need to bring confidence back into the farmers of this country, and this is why the NFp in the last budget debate moved the motion that for the next 3 years we should allocate $50m a year for the next three years and provide a guaranteed price of roughly about $90 per tonne, so that we can bring back the confidence we can ensure that farmers have some income left after taking away the cost and that they have an incentive to remain Sugar Cane Farmers.”

The PS for Sugar Yogesh Karan told Fiji One News he is due to visit the farmers in the Western Division.

Karan wished not to comment any further to comments made by the opposition party NFP.

 

Fiji needs sound and sensible leadership: NFP

December 31, 2016

MEDIA RELEASE

The governance of Fiji needs to take a new direction in 2017 for all our citizens to witness genuine parliamentary democracy and full restoration of fundamental human rights and freedoms that are prerequisites for the social, political and economic advancement of our nation.

A New Year is naturally the culmination of the festive season. It is a time of rejoicing, reflection, making resolutions and welcoming the New Year with celebrations in a spirit of togetherness and harmony.

It is also a time to remember the sick and the infirm, the less fortunate and all those unable to celebrate New Year with the same passion and vigour as others due to various reasons.

The high cost of living, lack of meritocracy in the appointments to jobs and key positions in our civil service and statutory organisations, the staggering sugar industry, the devastating effects of Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston that has destroyed livelihood of many thousands of people, the bungling of a good policy like Help for Homes Initiative that has resulted in more than 3000 people still living in tents, the damage caused by recent floods, rising unemployment, rising national debt levels, derogations in the Bill of Rights of the 2013 Constitution, regressive and draconian decrees, a regulated media and the deteriorating health system and medical services as well as our public road infrastructure are fundamental problems that can only be resolved by a display of sound and sensible leadership.

To ignore these fundamental problems would be doing so at our own peril. In Fiji, calling everyone Fijians and saying they enjoy common and equal citizenry doesn’t guarantee fundamental freedoms like freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of the media.

It does not guarantee job opportunities based on meritocracy, rendering common and equal citizenry meaningless.

These are the challenges we face as a community and as a nation, which unfortunately are not highlighted by the media.

This reality may not be grasped by many of our people simply because of limitations in the Constitution and continuation of regressive Decrees that dilute provisions in the Bill of Rights, resulting in the inability of the media to disseminate such information.

The derogations in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution, regressive Decrees especially those impeding the conduct of truly credible, free and fair elections must be changed in accordance with the recommendations of the Multinational Observer Group (MOG) Report as well as the 2014 Report of the Electoral Commission.

And this can only happen if the Fiji First Government changes its confrontational approach in the spirit of goodwill and hope and facilitates the necessary changes through Parliament.

We recall the comments of the Prime Minister of India, the late Mrs Indira Gandhi when she visited Fiji in 1981. Mrs Gandhi said: –

“Most of us believe in a multiracial and multicultural society, the texture of which is rich in variety and ethnicity. Understandably, in such societies some tensions do arise but in a democratic set-up we must have checks and balances to safeguard the rights of each ethnic group. Hence a greater responsibility develops on leaders to show the way. The task is not easy. In every country there are some who think they have all the answers to the problems that beset us.”

Those sentiments are still relevant to Fiji as we strive for a harmonious future based on firm principles of democracy, good governance and economic growth.

This is the fundamental challenge facing the current leadership who must not pretend it has the solutions, but make a genuine effort in resolving the concerns in the best interest of the nation.

Parliament is the highest court of the land. Parliament must make decisions in the national interest. Narrow and sectarian interests must be discarded.

As a party born out of the struggle for dignity and justice of all our people, the NFP will continue the struggle for our beloved nation to once again become a beacon of hope and trust.

We wish you a happy, healthy, prosperous and blessed 2017.

Authorised by: Professor Biman Prasad, NFP Leader

 

NFP CALLS UPON GOVERNMENT TO DECLARE FLOOD AFFECTED AREAS DISASTER ZONE

December 20, 2016

MEDIA RELEASE

The National Federation Party calls upon Government to declare Rakiraki including (Vaileka Town), parts of Qamea and the other flood affected areas of Fiji, Central Division (Rewa, Tailevu-Nausori) and West (Nadroga/Navosa-Sigatoka, Nadi)-  Disaster Areas to enable everyone affected by the devastating floods and freak winds to be provided immediate assistance by the State.

A similar move should be done for flood affected areas in other parts of the country that are in danger of being flooded because weather forecast shows the unpredictable nature of the depression affecting Fiji.

By now Government should have learnt from the experience of Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston and be in a state of disaster preparedness both in terms of equipping evacuation centres with essentials and food items as priority number one.

Secondly, Government must have a rehabilitation package in place to assist victims and families following an immediate disaster impact assessment. In the immediate aftermath of Winston Government was caught off-guard and thousands of our people had to rely on immediate assistance provided by Australia and New Zealand.

However this time Government does not have any excuses.

Assessment based on pictures in many areas has shown damage and destruction of unprecedented proportions caused by strong currents of raging floodwaters in Ra not experienced in decades by the people in the district.

We extend our deepest sympathies to those families who have lost their livelihood, suffered damages to their homes, businesses and crops.

By now Government would have established the areas in the country worst affected that need immediate help. It will be of great relief to the victims if Government transports food and water in large quantities to the affected and identified areas immediately.

Victims who have lost every thing cannot wait any longer. They need food, water and clothing immediately.

Ra- Massive rehabilitation required

The town and district of Ra has suffered millions of dollars worth of damages. The entre town was submerged with some places inundated by as much as 10 feet of water. The entire business community has suffered damage and losses.

Hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed by flood waters. Farmers lost their livestock. Agricultural crops including sugarcane barely recovering from the impact of Winston have been destroyed.

Worse still, those families still living in tents 10 months after Winston  had to relieve the trauma of mother nature. They have been unable to rebuild their lives because of  unacceptable delays by two major hardware companies to supply them building material almost seven months after they were paid for under the Help For Homes Initiative.

It is clear that tens of millions of dollars will be needed in the short term to bring some degree of relief to the flood victims in the affected areas of Fiji. As a priority, we suggest that Government’s machinery do the following:

1.   Deploy army engineers to repair badly damaged infrastructure including schools and essential basic services like water supply. The personnel should also be used to help in the clean-up effort after  the flood and distribution of food rations.

2. Authorise FNPF to allow withdrawals by members affected by the disaster to help in rehabilitation of homes and purchase basic household items.

3.   Approve a house rehabilitation package with a minimum assistance of $5000 to re-build lost or damaged homes.

4.    Approve a crop rehabilitation package to assist the agricultural sector including the sugar industry.

5. The businesses that have lost everything and those in danger of going under cannot survive even with assistance by their banks or delay in loan repayments. A rehabilitation package is also needed for them.

6.   Two weeks ago, the Attorney General announced two hardware companies would have to pay a 4% penalty or surcharge for their failure to deliver material they were paid for under the Help for Homes Initiative. We call upon the AG and Minister for Economy to reveal what was paid to each of the two companies for non-delivery of material and the penalty amount to be revealed the funds to be used for rehabilitation.

7.   As a gesture of goodwill, Fiji First Government Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament should authorise 10% of their salaries to be deducted and go towards relief efforts, similar to what the Opposition did after Winston. This should be easily acceptable given the massive increase in allowances and per diems that Parliamentarians voted for themselves (except the NFP MPs)

Authorised by: Roko Tupou Draunidalo, NFP President.