Category Archives: Press Release

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

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.

Message from the NFP President on Aleppo and West Papua

December 14, 2016

Message from the NFP President on Aleppo and West Papua

“I am very saddened by the atrocities that are currently happening in Aleppo and West Papua.

I ask all Fijians to say a prayer for those who are living in terror in those countries.

And I also ask all Fijians to drop an email, letter or note to the Prime Minister of Fiji to not associate Fiji with the tyranny that's killing men, women and children in Aleppo (Syrian Government + Russia) nor the killing in West Papua (Occupying Indonesian Government).

All men and women are born free and equal. God bless them too.”

Authorised by: Roko Tupou Draunidalo, NFP President

NFP President blasts FRU and Vodafone-led consortium

December 14, 2016

MEDIA RELEASE

FRU IS NOT A CONSORTIUM OF CORPORATE AND FAMILY INTERESTS: – OUR GOLDEN OLYMPIC TEAM DESERVE JUSTICE, DIGNITY AND RESPECT – NOT PITTANCE: NFP

The President of the National Federation Party, Roko Tupou Draunidalo has today called on the Fiji Rugby Union and Vodafone-led consortium to fully explain the details of their sponsorship arrangements and clarify why the $40m sponsorship provides insufficient resources to allow for members of the national 7s team to receive anything more than basic allowances.

‘The game of rugby holds a special place in the hearts of all Fijians,’ said Draunidalo. ‘Time and time again when politics and our political leaders have failed this country, it is rugby that has bound us together as a community, lifted us up as a nation and shown us the way forward.’ ‘But we appear to be the only country in the world who wins Olympic gold but then fails to secure any commercial benefit for the players. Is this because of the Vodafone sponsorship deal? The FRU’s leadership is so shambolic we appear to have won gold but actually lost sponsors. Certainly what we now know is that our national 7s players are expected to play like professionals but live like paupers on the World 7s Series.’

“This government might claim there should be a separation between politics and sport. But they chose to end that separation when the prime minister accepted the presidency of the Fiji Rugby Union in 2014, and then handpicked a succession of his closest allies as chairmen of the FRU through their appointment as the PM’s nominee to the board”, said Draunidalo.

‘What is shocking is that despite all that they have achieved, it is clear the 7s players have no voice. Like so many in this country, they find themselves unable to reach out to the media to explain their situation and to press their case.’

‘That is why Fiji should be grateful that Ben Ryan has spoken up. He has shone a light where the FRU would rather was kept dark. Thanks to his commitment to do what is right, Ryan has made us aware of this deplorable state of affairs. ‘Sadly it is typical that Ryan’s legitimate concerns have been treated with such contempt by the FRU leadership. Rugby House is showing an intolerance to criticism and an inability to admit mistakes that mirrors this government, which is addicted to secrecy and only too happy to arbitrarily arrest its opponents, deport them or place them on immigration blacklists.’

In February 2014, the Fiji Rugby Union signed a five-year sponsorship agreement with a consortium of local companies led by Vodafone Fiji Ltd. Other companies included are Telecom Fiji Ltd, Fiji Airways, HFC Bank and CJ Patel.

The then-chairman of the Fiji Rugby Union, Filimone Waqabaca, announced that the Vodafone consortium was pledging sponsorship worth $8m a year or $40m over the five years of the agreement. We were promised this would be ‘a game changer’ for Fiji rugby.

Waqabaca, who was the Bainimarama government’s permanent secretary of Finance at the time, was appointed directly to the board by the prime minister. He is now Fiji’s High Commissioner in New Zealand.

‘The FRU’s 2015 financial report shows clearly that instead of the promised $8m income, the total income from the Vodafone consortium is just over $3m a year, covering cash and value in kind such as airfares. There was even less recorded cash and value in kind income report in the 2014 audited report.’

The FRU’s own financial reports show that in spite of being promised $8m a year, Vodafone and its consortium partners have paid $5m less for each of the first two years of the sponsorship agreement – a shortfall of $10m in total against a promise of $16m.

‘Now is the time for the Government to reveal what was in the June 12, 2015 letter sent by the then FRU Chief Executive Radrodro Tabualevu to the Vodafone CEO. We are reliably informed the document was a 30-day termination letter, alleging a failure by Vodafone to account for more than $5 million worth of sponsorship support in the first year of their sponsorship agreement.’

We know that the June 12, 2015 letter was also copied to the prime minister’s brother-in- law Francis Kean, as FRU chairman, the Prime Minister himself as president of the Fiji Rugby Union, and Ajith Kodagoda, as the chairman of the parent company of Vodafone Fiji Ltd.

‘Is it not the case that had the FRU followed through and terminated the relationship with Vodafone in 2015, when Fiji had already won their first of two World 7s  series titles, then the FRU would now be many millions of dollars better off?’

‘With the FRU freed from the Vodafone deal, Rugby House would have been able to build a structure of sponsorship support that reflected the success Ben Ryan was already bringing to the country, and which reached its peak with the Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro.’

Sadly this did not happen. What happened next is familiar to many who have watched this government in action. At the same time that this threat of termination was being discussed between the FRU and Vodafone, the mobile phone company announced that it was paying for the Prime Minister and his wife to attend the 2015 Rugby World Cup opening match.

Kodagoda was quoted as telling the local media that Vodafone was happy to foot all of the estimated $60,000 costs. ‘As the head of Fiji Rugby Union in the country and as Prime Minister, Mr Bainimarama has a done a lot for the development and good administration of the sport in the country and deserves to be at the Rugby World Cup.’

Vodafone and the FRU then patched up their differences but on surprising terms given the amounts at stake. Vodafone were being asked by the FRU to explain $5m in missing expenditure from 2014, but eventually settled by paying only an additional $100,000 in cash to the FRU in September 2015. This extra payment represented only two percent of what the FRU were chasing.

Tabualevu resigned from the FRU in November 2015. No explanation has ever been offered of this extraordinary compromise nor the effect that continuing with Vodafone on the same terms has had on the financial fighting power of the FRU to do its best by its players. It is with great regret that we note the FRU continues to ban media from its Annual and Special General Meetings.

As the NFP, we say that the Prime Minister has done too much for himself, for his family members at the FRU and for his allies in Vodafone and its consortium members. All of his advancement has been built on the back of the players – our best and rarest resource – of whom so much is expected and so little provided by Rugby House.

‘The government needs to come clean once and for all about this wretched Vodafone deal. Why is this country’s national sport strapped into commercial arrangements that only seem to profit the Prime Minister and his allies?

We re-iterate Vodafone’s relationship with Fiji rugby is short-changing all of the rest of the game’s stakeholders from the provincial unions and 7s players right through to those in secondary and Kaji rugby and the families who keep this great game alive.’

Authorised by: Roko Tupou Draunidalo, NFP President

Remove excessive authoritarian immigration powers: NFP President

December 7, 2016

MEDIA RELEASE

The NFP President, Roko Tupou Draunidalo has called for the removal of the excessive powers given to the Minister responsible for the Immigration Department, which infringes on basic civil and political rights.

These include ending the willful deportation of individuals without any recourse to redress and the removal of the “black-list” which prevents former and current Fiji Citizens from returning to Fiji, the land of their birth.

Ms Draunidalo said the arbitrary and humiliating deportation of Koro Island resident and investor Karen Seaton for allegedly uttering a swear word to a public official, but which is not confirmed by any independent witness, reeks of a typical authoritarian and dictatorial methodology.

“The Immigration Director then confirms that it is the acting Prime Minister, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum who signed off on the deportation order,” said Ms Draunidalo.

“This is the same minister who as Minister for Economy glowingly tells the whole world that Fiji is great for business, or as Attorney-General – that Fiji fully conforms to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.”

“The deportation of Karen Seaton and prior to that the deportation in September of two consultants from MWH Global, the lead contractor for the Fiji Roads Authority – is deeply worrying and troublesome.”

“The acting Prime Minister and Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum is fully responsible for these and must inform the people of Fiji as to why he feels the need to be authoritarian in declaring individuals persona non grata, without much of a thought.”

“He must also come out and explain why he is adamant that Professor Brij Lal and his wife Dr Padma Lal, should not return to their country and homeland, Fiji.”

The NFP President reaffirmed that the NFP will fight for the removal of the blacklist and the limiting of the powers on immigration given to any minister or public official and be guided by recognised international benchmarks and our commitments rather than anyone’s own personal version of what the standards are.

Authorised by: Roko Tupou Draunidalo, NFP President

NFP Leader calls for independent investigation into Help for Homes Initiative

December 5, 2016

MEDIA RELEASE: Independent investigation needed into Help for Homes Initiative

Government must institute an independent investigation to determine how many millions of dollars of taxpayer funds has been paid to two hardware companies despite them failing to supply building material under the Help for Homes Initiative specifically designed for swift rehabilitation following devastation caused by Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston.

The Attorney General and Minister for Economy’s announcement that hardware companies Vinod Patel and R C Manubhai will not be part of the 2 nd phase of this Initiative and would have to pay a nominal interest and penalty due to their failure to provide hardware material to victims of TC Winston is simply not good enough. The AG’s statement is like “shutting the gate after the horse has bolted”.

These two largest hardware companies in the country have already been paid millions of dollars after they swiped the Help of Homes Initiative cards despite knowing fully well that they did not have the rebuilding material. This is similar to obtaining money under false pretences. Any ordinary citizen who would have done the same thing, would have been swiftly charged and hauled before the Court. It also shows Government’s calling for expression of interest and selecting companies to supply material appears to have been a cosmetic exercise because it failed to ascertain whether each company had the stock necessary to supply material. And in the event it was out of stock, what was the timeframe to obtain, import and supply material?

Cyclone victims are still waiting for supply, six months after they visited these hardware outlets and purchased building material under the Initiative. Many are still living in tents and temporary shelters, and even under the open sky because the small tents are being used for safekeeping of their household items. But the hardware companies have already been paid.

The AG is treating this as a trivial matter when it is an issue of rebuilding lives. He should be transparent and accountable to the taxpayers and inform the nation how much each of the two hardware companies ( Vinod Patel & R C Manubhai) have been paid from the $88 million provided under phase one of the Initiative. And what is the total amount paid to each of the two companies for non-supply of material.

The AG must also revisit his statements on this issue from April 2016 and how he glorified the whole Initiative and the ability of Government and hardware companies to help the victims swiftly rebuild their homes. At the same time Government moved the False Information Bill in Parliament, which was enacted on 26 th April, prescribing heavy fines and imprisonment terms for people who falsified claims of damages to their properties.

The Opposition had then pointed out in Parliament that while Government was going beyond the Crimes Decree to penalise people under the False Information Act, there was no legislation prescribing strict compliance by hardware companies to the Help for Homes Initiative. We had also pointed out that Government should have accepted our suggestion of providing a sum of $5,000 each to TC Winston victims to rebuild homes. This would have allowed people to shop for building material at different hardware outlets and would have been more efficient and effective.

The seconnd phase of Help for Homes Initiative is worth $20 million. But the first phase was worth $88 million. The two largest companies of R C Manubhai and Vinod Patel would have enjoyed the largest share of funds worth $88 million allocated for the Initiative, given their dominance of the local hardware industry. It is only fair that an independent investigation is instituted into the Initiative to establish claims of possible corruption and mismanagement as well as why and how these two companies received payments without supplying building material. Government seemingly ignored concerns raised by the Opposition very early into the Initiative that cyclone victims were not being supplied the material they paid for with the Help for Homes Initiative cards.

No business must ever be allowed to charge money for service it cannot provide. To do so would be considered a scam.

Authorised by: – Hon Professor Biman Prasad, NFP Leader

NFP President welcomes Appeals Court ruling

November 30, 2016

MEDIA RELEASE: REMOVE ELECTION PORTFOLIO FROM AG AND EXAMINE ELECTIONS SUPERVISOR

The President of the National Federation Party, Roko Tupou Draunidalo today welcomed the decision of the Fiji Court of Appeal in favour of the Electoral Commission against the Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem.

The judgment by the Appeals Court confirmed that the Supervisor must comply with all decisions and directions given to him concerning the performance of his functions.

The judgment concluded saying the time limits of 3 days after objections to proceed with the candidate draw ends at midnight on the 3rd day and not at 4pm as argued by the Supervisor who had proceeded to conducted the draw for the 2014 General Election, without hearing the result of the Commissions deliberations.

Ms Draunidalo said that the judgment validates the concerns of the National Federation Party and other opposition parties during the time of the ballot draw where the Supervisor of Elections unilaterally acted with only advice from the Solicitor-General’s Office, to proceed with the draw at 4pm that day.

“That decision of the Supervisor with legal advice from the SG’s Office, allowed the entry of Fiji First Minister Parveen Bala to be a candidate for Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s party – and at the same time removed the constitutional right of Steven Singh of the Fiji Labour Party to be a candidate.”

“It was an unprecedented move by any Supervisor of Elections in the history of Fiji’s governance, who out-rightly defied the Electoral Commission and rushed into having a ballot draw which favoured the political party of the ruling Government.”

“At this point, I also emphasise my earlier call to the Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, to remove the General Secretary of his Fiji First Party, the Attorney-General Mr Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, as Minister for Elections.”

“The fact that the Minister for Elections and the General Secretary of Fiji First was publicly commenting on the case, supporting the decision of the Supervisor and even suggesting that the Electoral Commission take legal advice from his own chief legal advisor, the Solicitor-General, was extraordinary and totally inappropriate.”

“The Prime Minister should retake the responsibility of elections and ensure that that responsibility is for merely administrative purposes like that of all previous Prime Minister’s. He must ensure that this responsibility is not used to influence nor control the independence of the Fiji Electoral Commission and the Fijian Elections Office.”

“I again state that it appears that the SOE Mohammed Saneem has not displayed the competence, neutrality, non partisanship and maturity to hold the all important constitutional role he has been given.”

“The people of Fiji deserve the highest ethical and professional standards from its election officials leading to the 2018 General Election.”

Authorised by:

Roko Tupou Draunidalo

NFP President

Government’s seed distribution policy an example of bureaucracy gone mad

November 27, 2016

The stringent requirements required by the Ministry of Agriculture in order for agricultural and subsistence farmers to qualify for vegetable seeds donated by the Government of India is yet another painful reminder of this Government’s bureaucratic and dictatorial policy.

It is adding insult to injury of victims of Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston who are struggling to feed their families and in places like Koro Island are forced to rely on wild food suitable for animal consumption, as recently highlighted by the Fiji Times newspaper.

Last month the Government of India sent to Fiji five tonnes of vegetable seeds to help in cyclone rehabilitation efforts after the devastating effects of Cyclone Winston.

Cyclone-affected farmers suffered heavy losses. You would think that with five tonnes of seeds, it would not be a difficult thing for the Government to hand these out.

Instead, farmers – even subsistence farmers, who need only a few grams of seeds to re-establish their gardens – are being made to fill out a two-page form prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture. The form requires them to give the Ministry:

– their birth certificate, FNPF card or TIN number

– a passport-sized photo

– a copy of their land or lease title

– for vakavanua lessees, a consent letter from their turaga ni mataqali.

They must then write down the background of their faming experience and

sign the form.

But filling out the form does not mean the farmers get the seeds. The next step is for civil servants in the Ministry of Agriculture to process the form. They must “verify” the farmer’s

– land ownership

– consent for use of land for farming

– total acreage to be developed

– distance of farm from main road

– “accessibility”

– type of vegetation cover

– distance to market

– crops to be established

– seeds and planting materials availability

– farm labour availability.

Only then will they consider if the farmer can get the seeds. This is bureaucracy gone mad. It is worse than simply receiving the $1000 handout to supposedly start the establishment of one’s own small business.

How does the Ministry think it can distribute five tonnes of seeds with this amount of paperwork? By the time the civil servants are finished, it will take a farmer weeks or months to get his seeds. A subsistence farmer needs these seeds now, not after the Agriculture Department has worked out his “distance to market!”

Why does a farmer have to pay for a passport-sized photograph and to photocopy his land titles to get a few free seeds? It will be cheaper for him just to buy some seeds at his local store.

The Government is so out of touch with the people that it makes them run around like this, just to get a few seeds to re-establish their crops, feed their families and maybe earn some cash by selling the surplus.

Does the Indian Government know that this is going on?

Perhaps the Prime Minister should stop his climate change globetrotting for a few weeks and stay in Fiji long enough to help cyclone victims be self-reliant, feed their families and improve their food security.

Authorised by: –

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP CALLS FOR INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION INTO FSC

November 22, 2016

An independent and impartial investigation must be immediately instituted into the operations of the financially stricken Fiji Sugar Corporation and its former Executive Chairman Abdul Khan.

This follows announcement that the FSC recorded a loss of $31.7 million for the 2015 financial year after making a profit of $6.9 million in 2014.

Only an independent and impartial inquiry and forensic audit will be able to establish how Mr Abdul Khan has been responsible for running the Corporation for five years as Executive Chairman. As the sole authority in charge of everything including even marketing of sugar, Mr Khan must be held responsible for making FSC technically insolvent and totally dependent on loans guaranteed by Government and the taxpayers of this country.

And Government as the largest shareholder is equally responsible for this disastrous result. Both the Prime Minister and the Attorney General and Minister for Economy have misled Parliament and the nation respectively by claiming FSC and Mr Khan were doing a remarkable job and that the Opposition was trying to politicise the industry.

In his ministerial statement in Parliament on 11th February 2015, the PM and Minister for Sugar said, “…one of the remarkable success stories of the last few years is the remarkable turnaround of FSC…”

“…. The FSC is now able to stand on its own two feet. Government does not need to provide it any direct funding since 2013”.

On 27th May 2015, the AG and then Minister for Finance, while announcing that FSC would top up the 4th cane payment for 2014 season by nearly $8 said in the Fiji Sun newspaper “We are able to do this only because of the tremendous performance of the FSC under its present management especially its Executive Chairman Abdul Khan. We have taken politics out of the industry and given the FSC the guidance and support it needs to properly manage the industry”.

The disastrous financial performance of FSC paints an entirely different picture.

If the PM and AG can claim credit for any good that happens, in this case FSC’s profit in 2014, then they must also, under doctrine of ministerial responsibility, take the responsibility for their abysmal failure in monitoring the performance of FSC under Abdul Khan, which resulted it plummeting from a so called profitable organisation to a colossal financial disaster. This is unprecedented.

That is why we reiterate that Abdul Khan should not have been allowed to quit FSC without an independent investigation. Relinquishing his position immediately with several questions remaining unanswered about both his and the FSC’s performance and the Corporation’s lack of direction during his reign was unacceptable and against good governance in a organisation in which taxpayers have a stake through majority ownership by Government.

For the sake of accountability, transparency and good governance, we call upon the Chairman of FSC to appoint an independent investigation comprising of personnel who are experts in financial and forensic accounting and audit to extensively scrutinise all aspects of FSC’s operations and management practices in the last five years.

Professor Biman Prasad, Leader