Category Archives: Press Release

A fearful government

APRIL 17TH 2019

The frightened and paranoid government of Fiji is now threatening school teachers who might take part in a protest action for better working conditions – even in the school holidays. 

The 12 April 2019 internal memorandum from the Permanent Secretary of Education is an unbelievable document. 

First, she claims that a proposed Fiji Trades Union Congress protest action would be “in contravention of the laws of Fiji”. This is ridiculous. Protest actions can take many forms and many of them are clearly within the laws.

Then she claims that any “incitement or encouragement” of others to take part in protest action would be unlawful.  This is as nonsensical as the statement above. 

On 3 May teachers will be on holiday. The Ministry has no right to tell them where they should be. But the Ministry seems very anxious to tell them where they should not be!

This is a  government that is clearly trying to instil a culture of fear and suppression to mask its own fear of being exposed as a dictatorial administration cloaked in its version of pseudo-democracy.

The Government is afraid that worker protests will unmask its pretence, during the big Asian Development Bank conference it is hosting in the first week of May, that Fiji is a united country with a population that supports the government.

The trade union movement and its leadership should get more emboldened and fight such threats being dished out by a stuttering administration trying to divert attention from the fundamental ills plaguing the nation.

They can run from the people for a little while. But they cannot hide.

Authorised by

Hon. Prof. Biman Prasad

Leader – National Federation Party

RBF Governor shouldn’t mislead the nation

APRIL 16TH 2019

The National Federation Party says the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji must realise that the Fiji First government’s reckless and unsustainable spending is ruining real economic growth as evidenced by several factors instead of politicising the issue.

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad says recent remarks made by the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji in defence of liquidity levels and economic growth are misleading and far from the reality. 

“The RBF Governor is reported to have told both an economics workshop at University of the South Pacific last Friday and the Fiji Chamber of Commerce economic summit on Monday that there was no liquidity crisis”.

“The Governor said RBF had the authority to reduce its statutory deposits to zero (0) percent to allow liquidity to jump from the current level of $347 million to $1 billion if the need arises”.

“This is a highly irresponsible and illogical statement, similar to the Governor’s earlier statement of last month that there was enough money on RBF vaults to last for 5 years”.

“The Governor’s loose political talk is camouflaging the reality. He knows that his statements in defence of liquidity and the economy are illusory”.

“And he knows that the truth is that commercial banks are offering interest rates of as high as 6% to attract term deposits to boost liquidity levels. He also knows that because of this reason, commercial banks have increased lending rates”.

“The RBF Governor knows that it is impractical to reduce the requirement for statutory deposits to zero percent. It is a ridiculous proposition. Any financial institution, most importantly commercial banks are statutorily required to maintain a certain level of deposits”.

 “The Reserve Bank of Fiji’s Economic Review for February 2019 paints a bleak picture of lack of growth in key economic sectors. Therefore, instead of realistic growth, the economy is consumption-driven and not leading to sustained and real growth”.

“The RBF Governor must know that he has  put himself under the spotlight for being economical with the truth. Despite saying key economic sectors that generate real growth have declined, both the RBF  and Government continue  to forecast positive economic outlook”.

 “This raises questions yet again about RBF’s independence and impartiality”.

“The RBF Governor is obviously parroting a political view despite the harsh reality staring directly at us”.

“The RBF Governor should maintain neutrality and independence of his office and refrain from parroting government’s political position on the state of our economy.  Right now, we seem to be going  through a crisis of confidence in the country”.

“What we need is more confidence building measures in all sectors of our economy  and this can only be done by a properly constituted economic summit to address some of the fundamental concerns that the business community and indeed the general population has”. 

Authorised by

Hon. Prof. Biman Prasad

Leader – National Federation Party

Aviation safety seriously compromised

MARCH 20TH 2019.

Aviation safety has been seriously compromised with both Nadi and Nausori International Airports unable to provide correct air traffic control information to pilots of both departing and incoming aircraft.

This is due to an acute shortage of air traffic controllers who are not at work over Air Ports Fiji Limited’s handling of their employment conditions.

National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad says he has been informed that both Nadi and Nausori Airports have been classified as Category G – which means pilots taking off or landing their aircraft are doing so at their own determination of aviation safety.

“They are not able to receive information from air traffic controllers due to acute shortage of staff. Both Nadi and Nausori airport control towers are severely under-manned by over-worked controllers, Further, training, recreational and helicopter flights have also been stopped”.

“Aviation safety is seriously compromised. We have been informed pilots do not receive information about Fiji’s Flight Region that also covers regional airspaces. We are surprised that CAAF (Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji) that is supposed to be the regulatory body is silent on such a serious issue”.

“This is unacceptable. We question whether the CAAF Board, which is made up of non- aviation experts, understands the seriousness of the situation caused by Airports Fiji Limited’s handling of the employment issues of air traffic controllers”.

“Worse, the Minister responsible for Civil Aviation, who is the Attorney General is also silent. Ironically, he is also responsible as Public Enterprises Minister for Airports Fiji Limited whose Executive Chairman’s handling of talks with air traffic controllers has worsened the situation”.

“We question does this mean that profitability and declaration of hefty dividends is more important than aviation safety and lives of the people?”

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Professor Biman Prasad

Leader

Shooting in christchurch a barbaric act

March 17th 2019

The National Federation Party is deeply shocked and saddened by the death of three people who are Fijian nationals in the massacre carried out by an extremist in two mosques in Christchurch.

One of the three, the Imam of Lautoka Mosque Haji Musa Patel had served as Head of the Lautoka mosque for almost three decades. He was a well-respected an embodiment of wisdom.

We feel the pain and suffering of the three families who lost their loved ones in this barbaric act. Their loss is immeasurable and irreplaceable. No words can bring solace and comfort to them in their hour of grief.

The gruesome killing of worshippers inside their place of worship in a nation known for its peace and tranquillity will never be forgotten for a long time to come. Killing Muslim worshippers while they were praying is cowardly and despicable.

Like New Zealand, Fiji is a multiracial, multi-religious and multicultural country. We believe in co-existing peacefully. That is why New Zealand and Australia are main destinations for Fijians who have or are planning to migrate.

So, the last thing one expects is for the peace and tranquillity to be shattered in such a gruesome manner.

This is a time for all our beloved citizens to galvanise into a united force and support our Muslim community here and elsewhere in overcoming their grief.

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Professor Biman Prasad

Leader

Government will never implement MOG Recommendations: NFP

February 21, 2019

The National Federation Party believes the current Government will
never implement the recommendations of the Multinational Observer Group (MOG) on the conduct of future elections.

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad says the Party’s belief is based on the fact that scant regard was paid to the MOG Report as well as the Report of the Electoral Commission following the 2014 general elections.

“The Reports were referred to the parliamentary standing committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights but he committee did not report back to parliament for 28 months from then until 1 st October 2018 when parliament was dissolved”.

“The MOG Report should have noted this but failed to do so. This is most unfortunate”.

“And this MOG Report will face similar fate because the recommendations if implemented will prevent government from giving handouts and freebies once parliament is dissolved and writs for elections are issued”.

“It will also prevent deliberately orchestrated social media hate campaign that we fell victims to when fake news sites carrying legitimate logos of mainstream media were created and published malicious and frivolous claims that NFP was in a coalition with SODELPA and further that Sitiveni Rabuka would abolish Diwali as a public holiday”.

“This was noted with concern by MOG. The sites were eventually mremoved but by then irreparable damage had been done.”

“Similarly, MOG also noted with concern the manner in which Ministers campaigned and discharged their duties by opening buildings and handing out grants because there is no caretaker provision in the Electoral Act”.

“MOG has recommended a code for Government and MPs but we seriously doubt that this will be done by this Government because apart from racial bigotry, handing out grants and walesi decoders and launching free Wi-Fi were other campaign tactics in gross abuse of taxpayers’ funds”.

“This report is similar to the last one in terms of key recommendations like changes to official election material that should include the ballot paper, to carry party identification, changes to the Political Party (Registration, Conduct, Funding & Disclosures) Act that was initially promulgated as a Decree in January 2013, and review of the Media Industry Development Authority Act, which was also promulgated as a Decree in 2010”.

“We will await and see whether this Report is referred to the parliamentary standing committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights during the next sitting of parliament from April 1st to 5th and whether the Committee prioritises its scrutiny of this report and submissions that will be made to enable it to report back to parliament quickly instead of putting the Report on the backburner”.

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

Leader, National Federation Party

IMPORTANCE OF HINDI CONFERENCE TO FIJI

Monday 4th February 2019

The National Federation Party believes Fiji’s hosting of the first ever regional international Hindi conference next month provides a platform to local participants to reinforce the importance of the Hindi language and not conversational Hindi as prescribed in the 2013 Constitution.

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad says the Party welcomes Fiji’s hosting of this international conference and its inauguration by India’s Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj.

“And local Hindi scholars, religious and cultural organisations who participate in the event should raise concerns on how the 2013 Constitution would undermine Hindi language”.

“Section 31(3) of the Constitution prescribes the compulsory teaching of conversation and contemporary i-taukei and Fiji Hindi languages in all primary schools”.

“Fiji Hindi is not a language. Fiji Hindi is a dialect. Similarly, conversational i-taukei is not the official language of our indigenous community”.

“A few years ago religious organisations made an attempt with the then Education Minister to formalise the teaching of formal Hindi language in all primary schools but this never eventuated”.

“During last year’s election campaign, the Attorney General who was also the Education Minister said the Constitutional provision did not prevent the teaching of formal Hindi in primary schools but this too disappeared into thin air”.

“Therefore the 2013 Constitution quite erroneously prescribes both dialects as languages to the detriment of the rich traditions, culture and unique languages of the two major communities”.

“This will in the long term result in loss of both formal Hindi and i-taukei as the official languages. This must be prevented at any cost because of its catastrophic consequences on religion, tradition and cultural values”.

“It must be noted that Hindi scholars in Fiji were renowned for being extremely proficient in Hindi language – not conversational Hindi. They all spoke, taught and preached Hindi language. This uniqueness found in Fiji, and now in our regional neighbours Australia and New Zealand due to migration from Fiji and India, is a pride of the Indian diaspora”.

“All scriptures and religious discourses are in Hindi language. Tradition, culture and customs were preserved and basis of consolidation of Indians after the end of Indenture or Girmit because of the Hindi language”.

“The 2013 Constitution should not be allowed to destroy this rich history”.

The conference to be held from March 15-17, is being organised by the Government of India in partnership with the Fiji government and close cooperation with the University of the South Pacific.

Authorised by:

Prof. Biman Prasad

Leader of the National Federation Party

Electoral Petition Withdrawal

December 21st 2018

Joint Press release by NFP and SODELPA:

Nearly half of Fiji’s voters supported our parties in the 2018 election. This statement is issued to explain to them why we withdrew our election petition this week, after the ruling of the Court of Disputed Returns on our evidence.

The Court would not allow us to call 6 of our proposed 8 witnesses. Without that evidence, most of our case could not be proved. We would then be going into court to lose, risking a substantial order for costs.

What the Petition was about

Our petition claimed breaches of the Electoral Act by some Fiji First Party members. This included specific instances of campaigning in breach of the Electoral Act. We will now pursue these matters with the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC).

We also wanted the Court to rule on the legality of the so-called “small business grants” scheme. The Fiji First government gave away more than $4.4 million to more than 4,000 people in the three weeks before the election.

Our petition also wanted to clarify the legal right of the Supervisor of Elections to re-count (or partially re-count) the contents of 27 ballot boxes, and the process he followed to verify postal ballots.

Court rules

The Electoral Act permits the Chief Justice to make rules for how the Court of Disputed Returns will operate. Two general elections have now taken place without any rules.

Where there are no rules, the High Court Rules must be followed. But those rules are not clear for electoral petitions. This is what led to yesterday’s ruling.

The 2013 Constitution says that an electoral petition must be decided in 21 days. So it was important to settle the procedure quickly. On the day we filed the Petition, we sought directions from the Court. As we know, the process was famously delayed by the 48-hour Fiji First Party “strategic workshop” when all Fiji First Party MPs avoided service of our petition.

Evidence

When they finally came to Court, the Fiji First Party argued that an electoral petition must be supported by affidavits (sworn statements). Our lawyers pointed out to the Court that this is not a requirement of the Electoral Act.

The Court ruled that only certain witnesses were allowed to give oral evidence. Based on our legal advice, we respectfully disagree with that ruling and the reasons for it. Unfortunately, the law gives us no right of appeal.

Effect of the ruling

The ruling means that there will be no clarity on the important legal issues that we raised. We urge the Chief Justice to now make proper rules for the Court of Disputed Returns. The legal process for challenging election results should be transparent and clear. Elections belong to the people. All electoral processes – including court challenges – should be clear.

Because we are commenting on legal issues and on legal advice, this will be our last official statement on the case.

The memory of “Level 9”

Fiji’s people will always remember this electoral petition, not for what was in it but for how the Fiji First Party responded to it. This may be the first time in history that a whole government would not come out of a room for two days to face a bailiff.

Authorised by:

Sitiveni L. Rabuka                         Prof. Biman Prasad

Leader of SODELPA                     Leader of NFP

Fiji more polarised than ever before

December 5, 2018: On the Occasion of the 12th year anniversary of the 2006 Military Coup

The National Federation Party says the country is more polarised than ever before 12 years after the 4thmilitary coup because of compartmentalisation of the two major ethnic groups due to racial bigotry used by the ruling Fiji First party during general elections campaign.

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad says the myth from Government that the 2013 Constitution promotes common and equal citizenry has been destroyed as clearly seen from the results of the recent general elections.

“We recovered from the past coups. 10 years after the first coup in May 1987, the much acclaimed 1997 Constitution was passed by the House of Representatives, Senate and the Great Council of Chiefs”.

“Six years after the May 2000 coup a genuinely multiracial Cabinet based on power-sharing was appointed but overthrown on 5thDecember 2006 by the then military commander who is now Prime Minister”.

“Commander Bainimarama and his interim military Cabinet promised to return Fiji to normality and parliamentary democracy no later than 2009 but never did. Instead, it disregarded the rule of law by trashing a Fiji Court of Appeal ruling declaring the coup illegal and for elections to be held by August 2009”.

“They re-appointed themselves, imposed Public Emergency Regulations and violated all norms associated with a democracy. They abrogated the 1997 Constitution. Their decision to formulate a new Constitution through a participatory process turned out to be a cosmetic exercise when in December 2012 they burned a draft constitution formulated by the Ghai Commission”.

“Instead they imposed the 2013 Constitution with a view to entrenching their rule”.

“12 years later, their actions, both under the military regime and the Fiji First government, have resulted in compartmentalisation of the two major ethnic groups, resulting in a polarised nation”.

“This is the painful reality facing Fiji. The only way to restore harmony and peaceful co-existence is for all leaders to work together and for government to embrace bipartisanship in Parliament”.

 Authorised by: Professor Biman Prasad, Leader of the National Federation Party

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