Category Archives: Press Release

NFP will repeal Media Decree

Media Release. May 2, 2017

WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY – 3 RD MAY

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

An NFP Government will also: –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article 19 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights states,  “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through the media regardless of frontiers”.

This freedom and right is reposed in the people, which the State and politicians must respect at all times.

The Media Industry Development Decree is regressive and suppresses Media Freedom.

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

Authorised by: –

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

Privileges Bill suppresses freedom of speech

Media Release. May 1, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Authorised by : –

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

RESPONSE TO STATEMENT BY SODELPA LEADER AIRED BY FBC NEWS

MEDIA RELEASE TO FBC NEWS

 

The National Federation Party once again, makes it absolutely clear that it wasn’t, isn’t and will not be in coalition with any other political party for next year’s general elections. This decision was first made by the Working Committee of the NFP on 26th June 2016, formally adopted by the Annual General Meeting of the Party on 3rd
September 2016, and ratified by the NFP Working Committee on 19th November 2016.

It simply means that this decision is irrevocable. We wish to clear the air yet again following the confusion a
statement made by SODELA Leader broadcast by FBC News created amongst our members and supporters.

Professor Biman Prasad
Leader

March 28, 2017

 

RESPONSE TO FBC NEWS-1

Release Meeting Minutes: NFP

March 16, 2017

MEDIA RELEASE

The National Federation Party has called on the Electoral Commission to be transparent and release the minutes of their meeting of 7th March in which the Commission resolved to increase the number of parliamentary seats from 50 to 51 in the 2018 elections.

While the Section 4 of  the Electoral Act mandates the Commission to only make public their decisions within 5 days, it is at extreme odds with the assurances made by the Attorney General and Minister for Elections when he was trying to sell his amendments in Parliament during the debate on 9th  February 2017.

The Attorney General and Minister of Elections distinctly stated in Parliament that the minutes will also be made available in the interest of transparency, and in line with the cherry-picked recommendations of the Multi-National Observer Group.

The Hansard of that debate on the Parliament web-site on page 603, in paragraphs 3-6 (http://parliament.gov.fj/getattachment/1e85b01d-2833-4ad4-ae21-f8c5c90621f9/Thursday-09-02-2017) confirms this and we quote what the Minister for Elections said: –

“Paragraph 5, Madam Speaker, on page 9 of the Multinational Observer Group (MOG) Report states, and I quote:“Despite a general invitation for the MOG to observe the meetings of the Electoral Commission in practice, invitations were not forthcoming. Furthermore the Minutes of the Electoral Commission’s meetings were not published, which limited the transparency of administrative preparation.”

“In other words, the Electoral Commission’s preparations and what they have discussed in the meetings were not available. The Minutes were not available and that is what the MOG observed”.

“So, in order to do that, we made an amendment through Subsection (4A) to say they must publish the Minutes and the decisions. The requirement for the publication of decisions will greatly enhance the transparency, as I have highlighted on the electoral process.”

Since the Minister of Elections has made these pronouncements in the highest court of the land, it behooves the Electoral Commission to then follow through, in the interest of transparency and accountability.

The NFP cannot simply accept carte-blanche what the Commission said in arriving at the decision. The Commission Chairman told the media they considered population data provided by the Fiji Bureau of Statistics and the National Register of Voters. Together with the Minutes, the Commission should also release statistical data namely like projected population trend that led it to make the decision.

This is a simple matter and there is no reason why the Commission cannot adhere to the assurances provided by the Elections Minister.

Furthermore, the NFP anticipates that the Electoral Commission will open itself up to wider consultations with political parties and NGOs to have regular discussions in the lead up to 2018 elections.

Authorised by: –

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

 

 

NFP LEADER- Release EC Minutes Media Release

Privileged caste assertion insulting: NFP

Media Release.

Friday March 10, 2017

Fiji’s Ambassador to Geneva’s reference to the indigenous Fijian or i-Taukei community institutionalizing discrimination and becoming a privileged caste before the promulgation of the 2013 Constitution is demeaning to our indigenous community.

We question whether it is the official policy of Voreqe Bainimarama’s Fiji First Government to castigate ethnic groups of our multicultural community to justify their case to be elected a member of the UN Human Rights Council.

“It is simply astonishing and worrying that Ambassador Nazhat Shameem chose to use a global megaphone to make a demeaning statement while conveniently steering clear from the human rights stock-take that the UN Human Rights Council is due, and ignoring the appalling state of human rights in Fiji.”

Ambassador Shameem has basically camouflaged the real issue of human rights abuses in Fiji through limitations in the 2013 Constitution’s Bill of Rights, as well as several complaints made against police for alleged brutality, even resulting in death of one while in police custody, and the lackadaisical attitude adopted by the law enforcement agencies to promptly investigate such cases with impartiality.

For example, there has ben no official word on the circumstances surrounding the death of Vikarant Chandra while in police custody.

In another incident case has been bought to our attention, a female victim who was allegedly stripped naked in public view by police in January, is still awaiting answers and crying for justice more than a month later.

She suffered cruel and degrading treatment but the police response has been lackadaisical and has even gone to the extent of accusing the victim of manufacturing her sorry saga.”

“Very recently in Nadi, Ashneel Kumar was viciously assaulted by police who entered his residence by force, and he has lodged complaints to the Director of Fiji Human Rights Commission as well the Attorney General on 6th March.”

“The onus on these appalling issues of recurring serious human rights violations by organs of the State, that we know about, is on the Government. It must show its sincerity as a measure of its worthiness of recent ratification to the UN Convention on Torture, and prove that to the nation that it is ready to be considered by the world as an upstanding candidate for the UN Human Rights Council seat.”

Ambassador Shameem’s conduct of playing the blame game, without providing statistical data on what happened, and whether equal citizenry and the Bill of Rights under the 2013 Constitution is eradicating racism, is hallmark of this Government.

Unless and until this happens, Fiji is not worthy of a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

Authorised by: –

Professor Biman Prasad
NFP Leader

Calling for Removal of Supervisor of Elections

OPPOSITION PARTIES’ JOINT STATEMENT ON ELECTIONS SUPERVISOR
AND AMENDMENTS TO THE ELECTORAL DECREE

17 February 2017

The Social Democratic Liberal Party, National Federation Party, Fiji Labour Party, the
Peoples’ Democratic Party and the Fiji United Freedom Party.

In a joint statement issued following a meeting on Thursday 16​
th
February, the leaders of the
five Opposition Parties called for the removal of the Supervisor of Elections and the
scrapping  of the elections portfolio assigned to the Attorney General.

“Free and fair elections are not possible in a situation where the ruling Fiji First Party is
exercising extraordinary control over the electoral machinery and the electoral process,” the
leaders said.

Supervisor of Elections

The Leaders said Mohammed Saneem’s initial appointment in 2013 had been questioned as
he did not meet the minimum qualifications required for the position, as advertised.

The previous Electoral Commission has drawn attention to the impropriety of his
appointment in its Annual Report for 2014 (para 3.1) in which it pointed out that Saneem’s
name was submitted by the Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum after he had informed
the Commission “​ that overseas applicants who had applied for the position were either not
suitable or were not available due to the passage of time​ .

“However, the Commissioners expressed some reservations in the manner the position of
Supervisor of Elections had been allowed to protract for such a long period since
applications for the position had been advertised in 2013”​ .

The Commission then suggested to the Attorney General that the position be re-advertised.
This was not done and Saneem was appointed despite the Commission’s reservation.

Hence the Electoral Commissioned appeared to have no choice but to accept the
recommendation of the Attorney General as the Minister for Election for Saneem to be
appointed as Supervisor of Elections.

Subsequent rulings by the Supervisor particularly in relation to the eligibility of political
party candidates nominated for the 2014 election showed his clear bias towards the Fiji First
Party. He made decisions knowing that they were wrong and then defied the rulings of the
Electoral Commission on a mere technicality.

The recent Appeals Court ruling has only confirmed Mr. Saneem’s unsuitability for this
important constitutional office. The Leaders said that it is unprecedented for a Supervisor to
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boldly defy the Electoral Commission.

2017 Amendment to Electoral Decree

The Leaders also objected to the recent amendment to the Electoral Decree which was fast
tracked through Parliament last week, appointing the Supervisor of Elections as secretary to
the Electoral Commission.

The amendments also prescribe powers to the Supervisor to overturn the results of the count
of a ballot box by a Presiding Officer and to do a recount. The amendments also impose
limitations and impediments on the Electoral Commission in the conduct of its
constitutionally mandated work.

“The amendment compromises the Electoral Commission which is the appeals body from the
decisions of the Supervisor and is a subversion of the independence of both the Supervisor
and the Commission which are two separate bodies with separate constitutional functions.

“It was aimed at ensuring the newly appointed Electoral Commission remained subservient to
the recently disgraced Supervisor of Elections,” the Leaders said.

The current situation has the Fiji First General Secretary actually controlling and
commandeering the process and making the rules as we move towards the next general
elections.

The rushed amendment also subverts the parliamentary process and interferes with the work
of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice which is still reviewing the
report of the Multinational Observer Group (MOG) on the 2014 Elections. The Leader’s
maintain that th​ e bill should not have come to the House until the report of the Standing
Committee on the same issue was tabled.

The MOG report includes recommendations for improvement of the electoral processes, laws
and procedures, which many political parties agree with. The Attorney General has cherry
picked and decided to implement only three of the thirty-eight MOG recommendations in the
recent fast-tracked amendment to the Electoral Decree.

Minister for Elections

In calling for the Elections ministerial portfolio to be scrapped, the Leaders said:

“The portfolio has been held by Attorney General Aiyaz Khaiyum since 2008. It is wrong in
principle for the General Secretary of the ruling party to hold the elections portfolio at the
same time as being Attorney General drafting laws and changing the rules for elections in
which he will participate.

“The current situation allows the Fiji First General Secretary to actually control the process
and make the rules as we move towards the next general elections, a serious conflict of
interest that the Prime Minister must remedy to assure the people of Fiji that their right to
2
vote in free and fair elections is not being compromised by the Attorney General controlling
the electoral process.

“Free and fair elections require that all political parties operate on the same level playing
field, and have access to information about the upcoming elections at the same time.

“Both the Supervisor of Elections and the Electoral Commission are constitutional offices
and as such, should be independent of the executive arm. Besides, both the Prime Minister
and the Attorney General hold office in their political party and will likely contest the next
elections.”

The Leaders pointed out that in the past there was no ministerial portfolio for elections. For
necessary administrative accountability, the Prime Minister only tabled the Elections Office
submissions for budgetary allocations. ​ The PM’s administrative responsibility ended there.
He did not exercise control over the elections office or advise the Electoral Commission, or
otherwise interfere with its operations.

The Leaders also rejected several provisions of the Electoral and Voter Registration Decrees
promulgated unilaterally by the Bainimarama administration in March 2014 just 6 months
before the elections.

These matters will be pursued and more concrete actions deliberated on by the Party Leaders
in the coming weeks.

Authorised by:

➢ Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) Party Leader Major General (Ret’d) S.L.
Rabuka
➢ Fiji Labour Party (FLP) Leader Mr. Mahendra P Chaudhry
➢ National Federation Party (NFP) Leader Dr. Biman Prasad
➢ Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Party President Ms. Lynda Tabuya
➢ Fiji United Freedom Party (FUFP) Party Leader Mr. Jagath Karunaratne

3

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

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