Category Archives: Speeches

President of NFP, Hon, Pio Tikoduadua’s Maiden Speech – Parliament of Fiji

Video of Hon. Prof. Pio Tikoduadua’s Speech is available here.

NOVEMBER 30, 2018

Madam Speaker, It is good to be back in this august House after some three-and-a-half years. And it is a mighty relief not to be sitting here as Leader of Government business, something that I had to painfully endure for 9 months until May 2015.

Madam Speaker, I join other honourable Members in thanking his Excellency for his most gracious address when he opened the new sitting of parliament on Monday 26thNovember. While many have rightly stated that His Excellency was ungraciously compelled to read a Fiji First campaign speech, His Excellency is made of far sterner stuff that most Fijians do not know of.

I can vouch for this as I have known him for the last 30 years since 1988 when I joined the RFMF as an Officer Cadet. Like His Excellency, I have known three other honourable Members for the last 30 years. The honourable Prime Minister was the navy Commander back then. The honourable Minister for Defence was an Officer Cadet like me. And the honourable Leader of the Opposition was the  Commander.

Unfortunately, the words I heard him speak were not the type of words that I would know that he’d speak. His Excellency during his military days stood for the people. Stood for peace. Building bridges, mending fences and standing up for principles. That came out quite distinctly during his term as Chief of Staff, Deputy Commander RFMF and later as Force Commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. I am saddened that His Excellency found it fit to read that speech as I heard it.

Because, it is a stark contrast of what I know his person to be. I hope to see in the next four years of the term of this parliament that HE would demonstrate more of the traits and characteristic that I once knew him for.

Of course, yesterday we all heard from the honourable Leader of the Opposition of the bravery of His Excellency while serving our nation on peacekeeping missions. I am sure that the camaraderie, leadership and bravery displayed by His Excellency during his time as a decorated army officer, will come to the forefront in his role as symbol of unity of our nation.

Madam Speaker, I congratulate you on your re-election as Head of Parliament for the next four years. Your role as Speaker has become even more important than the last four years due to the numerical composition of Parliament’s opposing sides, with Government having a wafer-thin majority of only three seats having just got to the tape with 50.02% of votes.

Like your erstwhile predecessors, you have a chance to make history Madam Speaker – and for all the right reasons in being the authoritative but calm and rationale voice of reason. This is critically important given the bitter and acrimonious nature of debate hurling fire and brimstone from the Government side – just like business as usual like the last four years.

I only hope that they will be magnanimous and start talking to us – instead of talking at us. Because talking at us will not bring equality, dignity and justice to all our people. Talking at us will not result in lasting social, economic and political advancement. Above all, talking at us will cause irreparable damage to race relations in our beloved nation.

Madam Speaker it is easy to differentiate truth from lies. And we were bombarded with gutter-level lies by Fiji First and its leader during election campaign, resulting in polarisation of the nation like never before.

The nation has been divided right down the middle – instead of promoting equality, common and equal citizenry, this imposed Constitution and its framers have perpetuated ethnic division through their racial bigotry, demonization of SODELPA and its leader, preaching fear, attacking the NFP and its leader, and handing out freebies. Tragically, this Parliament resembles the true portrait of Fiji.

And the blame for this must squarely lie on the shoulders of the Fiji First Leader. He set the ball rolling of spewing statements that were full of lies and racial bigotry during his party’s fun day at Nausori on 6thOctober. This was the launching pad of what would be a case of repeating lies ad-nauseam throughout the country, including through print media, television and radio advertising.

It is no use repeating them here. But the end result is this tragic portrait of parliament – racially compartmentalised. The onus is on all of us to ensure this compartmentalisation does not filter down to our ethnic communities and result in volatility because as we know from world over, fanning flames of racism can be catastrophic.

Since Tuesday, that election campaign has been brought to this Parliament. And for the past three days we have been hearing the Government side accusing the Opposition and its supporters of promoting racial bigotry.

It is a case of the pot calling the kettle black Madam Speaker. While social media has been mentioned, there is no mention of fake profiles and trolls who are for all intents and purposes, FijiFirst supporters. There has been no mention or condemnation of fake Facebook pages with logos of Fiji One News or Fiji village.com accusing SODELPA and NFP of forming a coalition or SODELPA removing Diwali as a public holiday. Surely, we are not living on an Animal Farm here – or are we?

Yesterday  we heard Government interjections of VHP – Vishwa Hindu Parishad when the honourable Leader of NFP was speaking. VHP has been described as an extremist organisation by the honourable AG. But ca he furnish evidence that VHP Fiji is an extremist religious organisation?

For argument’s sake if it is, then why didn’t the honourable AG say this in 2014 when VHP executives openly campaigned for and provided financial support to FijiFirst?

And what is a Trustee of an extremist organisation, Honourable Ashneel Sudhakar doing on Government benches as a Minister? Why did he become the founder general secretary of VHP?

Talk can be cheap Madam Speaker – just because VHP Fiji didn’t support FijiFirst, it became an extremist organisation. But the honourable AG forgets one of his key Cabinet Ministers is still a Trustee of VHP! That is why I am saying this racial nonsense has to stop as it is doing us great harm as a nation.

Madam Speaker, I have returned to this House after 3 ½ years of leaving and recovering in my home village of Delasui. I had resigned from this House giving health and my personal wellbeing as reasons for doing so.

Madam Speaker, I treasure every day I live because managing Cancer, High Blood Pressure and a Blocked Artery is not a matter of beauty but of courage. The kind of courage that requires the patience to endure the challenges of everyday life. I amliving with this condition. However, I will not allow it to impede my passion for serving this country.

But Madam Speaker, 18 months ago I revealed that there were more reasons than just my health that caused me to leave the FijiFirst Party. Essentially it boiled down my lack of confidence in the leadership of Honourable Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama.Primarily, my differing opinion to that of the Prime Minister about the method of realising his vision for Fiji. A vision that I inherited with him from the year 2000.

During my maiden speech in 2014, I said one thing that I still remember quite distinctly. Madam Speaker, it was that I shared the vision of the Hon. PM that the RFMF should return Fiji to the Government that was voted for by the people. This was a vision of a Prosperous, United and Democratic Fiji. A Fiji of Talanoa, Consultation and an Appreciation of each other’s differences.

Madam Speaker while I still share that vision, it is of great concern to me that the Prime Minister has shifted in his methods of achieving that vision. As I alluded to earlier, he set the ball rolling by hurling racial bigotry and false accusations at NFP and malicious claims about the NFP and its Leader ducking for cover and running in the cane fields. Its like we owe our existence to him! This is not the Voreqe Bainimarama that I have known for many, many years. A leader proclaiming election campaign to be a battle of ideas changes tune three months later and spews racist venom!

I wonder Madam Speaker – Why? Has the honourable PM done an about-turn? Yes, for all intents and purposes. Has the honourable PM shirked collective responsibility in favour of making decisions solely or together with few of his loyalists? Yes again!

Two-man rule is what Fiji will have to endure for the next four years – unless the Court of Disputed Returns have something else to say. Two men Madam Speaker – who in my firm and unequivocal view are behaving like the political judge, jury and executioner. And I can say this with absolute authority.

Madam Speaker, unknown to the people of Fiji, even to FijiFirst supporters, members, financiers or even its Members of Parliament, only three people under the party’s constitution can become the party leader. They are the founder President, Founder Leader and Founder General Secretary. Unless things have changed of course in the unlikeliest of events.

The Founder President is out because that is you Madam Speaker. So it leaves just two – the honourable PM and his right-hand man the honourable AG. All three are foundation members of FijiFirst. And only they, and they alone can become leaders. No one has any say. There is no vote taken in an AGM.  Simply Madam Speaker, dictatorship at its worst. Now that you have been out as a Foundation member for the last four years, the PM and his right-hand man will have to out-vote each other in the event there is a contest. Even dictatorship can sometimes look ridiculous!

A most undemocratic constitution that has been accepted by the Registrar of Political Parties in direct contravention of the Code of Conduct of Political Parties under the Political Parties Decree or Act.

And now the same dictatorship is trying to entrench itself upon the people of Fiji through another imposed law – the 2013 Constitution.

This is a stark contrast to the principles of democracy that gives power to the people. The power now is vested in the constitution. A constitution in which the people did not have a voice in its making.

There are many other things that the Constitution endorses that I do not necessarily agree with. But the Prime Minister is not willing to change. And disagreement with the Constitution, despite taking Oath to uphold it doesn’t mean that one cannot aspire to change it.

Madam Speaker, 27 Indo-Fijian MPs led by NFP’s then Leader Honourable Justice Jai Ram Reddy, 37 indigenous Fijian MPs, 5 General Elector MPs and 1 Rotuman MP, twice took an oath to uphold the 1990 Constitution. Indo-Fijian MPs, particularly from NFP were elected after solely campaigning to seek changes to the Constitution. For them, this was paramount.

The NFP MPs, 20 after the snap elections of 1994, led by Honourable Jai Ram Reddy, worked together with honourable PM Rabuka to get the racist 1990 Constitution changed. It was an historic and a unanimous decision of the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Great Council of Chiefs. Impossible was nothing for them.

Because each side, from their own perspective of change and resisting change respectively, came to the middle ground,  purely for national interest. The oppressor and the oppressed came to the same table, just as Nelson Mandela did for his people three decades ago. And the Indo-Fijian MPs had sworn an Oath under the very same Constitution they wanted changed.

The indigenous Fijian MPs took an Oath to uphold the supreme law of the land that permanently put them into power. So this argument of one being hypocritical by asking for changes to the 2013 Constitution after taking an Oath to uphold it – is warped logic. And the honourable AG knows this too well, but as usual is being overly dramatic.

Madam Speaker returning to the 2013 Constitution, specifically, the role of the Military under Section 131(2), the Commander, his senior officers, former Military commanders, defence analysts and strategists would agree with me that an institution like the RFMF today does not have the capability, the ability and the capacity to objectively meet and deliver effectively the “well-being” of the Fijian People.

Being able to provide for the wellbeing of the people is much more than security and derogation of power. It is about a home, a loving family, security from climate change, fighting poverty and the pursuit of happiness. This is something that the Military cannot realistically do.

Madam Speaker, I know why that the provision of the “Well-being of the people” is there. That is to provide a net that would make as a reasonable excuse for military intervention. I refer specifically Madam Speaker, to the use of military personnel to stop the installation of Ratu Epenisa Cakobau as Vunivalu.

Madam Speaker, the next thing I would like to discuss from the constitution, is the perception of the people as to the unfairness and bias of various state institutions such as the FIRCA, FICAC, Police and the Military. The people view them as tools of subversion. I can only advise that it is important that state institutions not only need to be independent they must also seem to be so.  Currently, the perception is that they seem to always lean on the side of government when it comes to controversial issues.

Madam Speaker, I would like to speak about our equality, more so our inequalities under the Constitution. I would be the first person to stand for equality. However, I accept that we are not all the same. The dignity of the human person dictates that we must not treat people differently. However, one size does not fit all. Yes, we are One. But we are also many. To view equality from a simplistic approach of everyone getting the same, could defeat the very intention of pursuing equality.

Madam Speaker, finally, I would like to share with the house my experience of admission in the hospital. I am saddened to say that the government has blissfully ignored the continued deteriorating state of our hospitals.

I was on every occasion on my movement from ward to ward at CWM required to provide for my own linen and beddings. The furniture— even in paying wards were infested with bedbugs.

And, on one occasion an entire ward of more than 100 people both men and women were forced to use only one toilet and bathroom facility.

The only good thing that I am able to report on our nation’s hospitals is the commitment and kindness of its staff –Both medical and ancillary. I’d like to especially mention the young Doctor Rabukawaqa of whom I was well pleased. Vinaka Vuniwai!and also the Senior Medical Officer at Korovou, Tailevu. Doctor Lasaro. My sincere gratitude to you the nurses and ancillary staff that attended to me whilst I was admitted there for 2 days.

Dr. Rabukawaqa, if you weren’t there, death would have come sooner to me.

But now, Madam speaker, death has to wait because I still have a lot to say and even more to do for all our people.

And I look forward to the rock-solid support of all those who voted for me and provided me moral and financial support during my darkest days as well as for the elections. A special Vinaka vakalevu to Momo Tamai Kini from Dakuivuna who was my campaign manager and members of my team. And how can I forget my loving wife Sereana and my family. You have provided me strength and inspiration. To the vanua and people of Tailevu North especially the villages of Dakuivuna, Navunisole, Nalidi, Soa, Nailega/Vadrakula, vanua o Wainibuka, Namalata, Saukasa, Dawasamu, Verata, Vugalei and Taivugalei – I say thank you. Last but not least, my own people in the villages of Nakorovou and Delasui.

To Team NFP and all our supporters ably led by our Leader – you are part of a legendary 55 year old party that has survived because the roots of the NFP mango tree are unshakeable. We have survived many, many pitfalls, not of our making, and we will continue to survive for the next 55 years. Political parties  have dissipated before our own eyes – and more will disappear – but we will live on. Because we have been ably led in the past and our current Leader honourable Professor Prasad is doing exactly that. Together, we will overcome al the challenges that lie ahead because we are not feint-hearted.

Thank you Madam Speaker and May God bless Fiji.

Leader of NFP, Hon. Prof. Biman Prasad’s Maiden Speech – Parliament of Fiji

Video of Hon. Prof. Biman Prasad’s Speech is available here.

Thursday 29 November 2018

Madam Speaker

It is the tradition during the debate on the opening of Parliament to thank His Excellency the President for his most gracious address. But I must say that this time it is difficult to say it.

Madam Speaker, I respect our President. Just as you symbolise the unity of Parliament, His Excellency should at all times symbolise the unity of our multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious nation. He does not get involved in politics. His job is to give to Parliament the address prepared for him by the Government.

But I agree with my Opposition colleagues. Those who prepared his address were far from gracious. And they should not have put him in the position of giving a speech that was a continuation of the Fiji First Party election campaign.

It is also traditional for the Opposition in a new Parliament to congratulate the Government on its election win. That is, for now, the official result. The courts may still have something to say about it. But for now, we respect the official result.

And let me also, while I am here, remind the Government that we are the loyal Opposition. We are loyal to this country. We are loyal to the people. Our role in opposition is to serve the people. We do this by scrutinising the Government. We do this by criticising the Government when their actions require criticism.  We do this by offering alternative policies to the people. And I assure the people of Fiji today, that this is what we will do in this Parliament.

Madam Speaker, Last week, we reminded the country that the election may be over, but Fiji’s problems are not. We have serious poverty and economic inequality. We have a failing sugar industry. We have under-developed opportunities in agriculture. We have no new industries to create jobs and opportunities for our young people. We have poor public services. Our education, health, welfare and disaster relief is in a pitiful state. Fiji’s score on NCDs and domestic violence are rampant and amongst the highest in the world.

Madam Speaker, We can fix these problems faster if we work together. We have said that if the government wishes to work positively with the opposition parties we are ready. We will do it from the Opposition. I have said that we will scrutinize and criticize, because that is the Opposition’s job. The Government also has a job in this Parliament. It is to listen to that scrutiny and criticism, and to change where needed. This is what democratic governments do.

Madam Speaker, only one party is coming into this Parliament with fewer seats than before, the Fiji First Party. The people of Fiji have sent the government a clear message. They have asked it to change the way it behaves in government.

But the early signs are not good.  The Honourable the Prime Minister has been reported by the media to have criticised prisons officers for not voting for him.

On the campaign trail he described the villagers of Vunidogoloa in Cakaudrove as liumuri because they did not vote for them after they got new houses. Whatever message he gave those voters, Madam Speaker, they certainly sent him a message back. He got one vote there.

Madam Speaker, the Prime Minister needs to be reminded that the election is over. As long as he has the PM’s job, he must serve everybody, whether they voted for him or not. That is what the taxpayers of Fiji are paying him for. They are not paying him to complain about who did not vote for him.

The Prime Minister talks about the politics of fear. Yet it was his right-hand man, who sits next to him, who told an audience, in Hindi, that voting for the opposition was like “putting a dagger to your neck.” And even now, the Honourable Bala speaks in this House about how NFP and SODELPA are voting together. I will come back to him, Madam Speaker.  But yes, we are the Opposition.  And yes, we work together. We work together to make this a better country.  And we are not seeing this from the Government party. We are very happy to work with this honourable party.

Madam Speaker, the Prime Minister and his party spent the whole election campaign demonising SODELPA and attacking NFP.   Perhaps this is what won them the election. But this does not make Fiji a better place. It leaves us more divided.

And it is now continuing the same vitriol and venom in this honourable House. The Government’s MPs have spent this debate attacking the Opposition side, demonizing the SODELPA side and the new Leader of the Opposition. And I am now asking them – respectfully – to stop this.  The election campaign has left Fiji bitterly divided, including on ethnic lines.  Do not reinforce this division in this place.

I want to say to them, Madam Speaker, you are the government. You have won the election. Be gracious. Be generous. Talk about the future.  The people want to hear about the future. They do not want to hear your personal grievances about the 1987 coup. They do not want to hear about Mr Rabuka and the SVT Government. The 1987 coup is history – just as your leader’s 2006 coup is history. Just as all the violence and lawlessness of 2006 is history. So talk instead about how you will build national unity and make Fiji a better place.

Madam Speaker, one of the Government’s favourite themes is security and stability. But security and stability do not come from the armed forces. Security and stability do not come from passing laws in this House.  Security and stability do not come when the people of Fiji are not united. The Government’s performance in this debate is promoting, division, not unity. So I say again, Madam Speaker – stop demonizing the opposition side. Look for ways to work together. This is what the people expect from us.

Look at what happened on Monday, Madam Speaker. There, we witnessed the Government side doing what it does best – bullying, threatening and bulldozing its way to approval of the Standing Orders. We have asked the Government to re-visit the Standing Orders. This is so Parliament can be more effective.  We want Parliament to perform its role properly. We want stronger select committees; we want Parliament to hear and debate the people’s petitions.  We want the Public Accounts Committee to be chaired by the Opposition. This has been the rule in every Fiji Parliament until the Government changed the Standing Orders.

As usual, nothing from the Government side. As usual, they have just said the Opposition was lying. Madam Speaker, that is the only thing that the Fiji First Party can say. They never say what we are lying about; they never offer their version of the truth; they just say the opposition is lying.

Madam Speaker, on Tuesday honourable Minister Bala made remarks in this House which are typical of the way the Government has behaved in this debate.

He asked me if NFP had entered into a coalition arrangement with SODELPA at midnight on election night. The answer is that we did not – but why ask such a silly question?

Then he accused SODELPA of being greedy for wanting the return of the 1997 Constitution. He has joined the Fiji First Party chorus against that Constitution. They have attacked that Constitution. Fiji First has attacked the Great Council of Chiefs and its role in that Constitution. But Madam Speaker, let me remind the honourable Bala of a little bit of his own personal history.

Madam Speaker, the Honourable Bala is a former Mayor of Ba. He got there on NFP votes, but that is another story. And at the time of the new millennium, in 1999, our far-sighted Mayor – let us call him our millennial Mayor – invited a chief guest to the unveiling of a special millennial plaque.

This is what the plaque says, Madam Speaker:

This plaque was unveiled by Major General Sitiveni Ligamamada Rabuka (honours listed), Chairman of Great Council of Chiefs and former Prime Minister of Fiji, to commemorate the new millennium on 31stDecember 1999. The foundation of this symbolic millennium structure was laid by His Worship the Mayor of Ba Cr Praveen Bala on 8thDecember 1999”.

Our Millennial Mayor, Madam Speaker!

And on 6 October 2006, our Millennial Mayor was Chief Guest at the Fiji Day celebrations held in Ba. And what did he say about the 1997 Constitution and the multi-party government of the day? This is what he said, Madam Speaker, and I quote: “For the last 5 months, a Multi-Party Cabinet representing all races of Fiji has been governing the country. This concept of Government must not be allowed to fail. It allows us all to embrace our shared future”.

But that is not all our Millennial Mayor said, Madam Speaker. He went on: “Unfortunately, irresponsible elements who now see their personal and political ambitions derailed by the multi-party government are hell-bent on destroying this concept that is the way forward for this country. Such elements must not be allowed to succeed. They must be told in no uncertain terms that they are living in the past. If they cannot gauge the mood of the nation, they must eat their humble pie. Otherwise they can continue their destructive and divisive attitude at their own peril”.

So, what did our Millennial Mayor say 12 years ago about the 1997 Constitution, Madam Speaker? “A concept which must not be allowed to fail. A concept which allows us all to embrace our shared future”.

And now, Madam Speaker, our Millennial Mayor is happy to serve and sing praises of his Leader – the very person who led the overthrow of that Constitution and that multi-party Cabinet!

Madam Speaker, the honourable Minister Bala and his colleagues would be blind if they can’t see that their government now hangs onto power by its fingernails. Their mandate this election was 50.02 per cent. They must be able to see that they are already the government of the past.  But they are still the government.

So we ask them, use this debate to tell the people what you will do for them in your last term of office.

You say you will “study” the minimum wage.  Give us a plan, give us your timetable, to improve it.  Because it is shameful and wrong that while you are paid $200,000, $300,000 in salaries, while you are collecting your thousands of dollars in nightly allowances, while you are staying at fine hotels in Bonn and New York, you are leaving the poorest people in Fiji behind.

For the sugar industry, the Fiji First Party’s glossy manifesto said virtually nothing. They offered farmers a 10% shareholding in the bankrupt Fiji Sugar Corporation. As soon as the election is over, the Government calls for submissions on a sugar industry strategic plan.  For the best part of 12 years, this government did nothing for the sugar industry and allowed it to go into decline.  Only when it was facing elections did it begin to throw money around. It still has no vision, no plan. For the sugar industry, this has been a wasted decade.

There is a new Minister for Local Government, Madam Speaker. We do not wish to hear from her about her sufferings in the 1990s.  She is a Minister now. We want to hear from her about when local government elections will be held.  For four years her predecessor, the Millennial Mayor, famously stalled and delayed. Why? Because he was afraid of the results. Because for the Fiji First Party, it is never about allowing the people to have their say.  They know that big billboards with 688 cannot win them local government elections. So, Madam Speaker, the new honourable lady Minister is on notice from NFP. Make a commitment to give people local government – and stick to it.

And to the rest of the Government – what will you do for farmers, for unemployed graduates, for our health system, our education system? What new industries will you create to grow the economy? What will you do about NCDs, domestic violence and suicide? Talk about that. Be useful.

And finally, Madam Speaker, some advice to the Government. We know you do not take advice very well, but you must try. Don’t be arrogant. You can’t be arrogant with a 0.02 % majority.

You must now think about your place in history. Will you be remembered as a government that brought our nation together? Or will you be remembered as one that deepened our national divisions? The government that would not listen to the people when they asked you to change your ways?

Madam Speaker, if the Fiji First Party wants to continue on the road to its own self-destruction, we on the opposition side will be happy to see you go. But as the government it has a responsibility to work positively for the country, to build national unity and to show respect to the Opposition as the alternative government. So once again my plea to them, stop your vitriolic attacks and venom.  Focus on thefuture.

Thank you and May God bless Fiji.

Hon. Lenora Qereqeretabua’s Maiden Speech 2018 – Parliament of Fiji

Video of Hon. Lenora Qereqeretabua’s Speech is available here.

Thursday 29 November 2018

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I return all honour, glory and praise to my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who has sustained me, lifted my head, given me strength and provision during this journey.

It is an honour and privilege to stand in this house to deliver my maiden speech knowing my beloved parents and husband are sitting in the public gallery.

I congratulate you on your reappointment and wish you good health, Madam Speaker.  I also offer my congratulations to my former broadcasting colleague Hon Veena Bhatnagar, on her election to the position of Deputy Speaker.

I congratulate the Honourable members of the house especially the ladies on both sides for your election to represent our people here.

The voters definitely want to see a change. I believe that behind having 10 women voted in is the hope that we will transform this house into a place where we will see more inclusiveness and bipartisanship.

I acknowledge the brave and often outspoken contributions of former NFP MP’s Mr Pramod Chand of Labasa and Mr Prem Singh of Nadi.

Madam Speaker, I enter this house at a time when we face serious challenges as a nation;

  • Where the cost of living is high and the minimum wage is low,
  • Where the classroom is one of the most stressful places to work,
  • Where certain sections of the media are either muzzled or have completely lost our trust,
  • Where the elections campaigning has left many polarised and bitter.

I enter this house at a time;

  • Where the divide between the haves and the have nots continues to widen,
  • Where the threat of victimisation is a reality, preventing many individuals, communities and companies from actively and openly supporting political parties opposed to the Fiji First party,
  • Where returning home and contributing actively in their country is not an option for many intellectuals, academics and professionals because they dared to have views and opinions that differ from government’s.

I enter this house at a time where we lecture the world on climate change but refuse to do the simplest things to reduce carbon emissions, right here at home, in fact right here in this house.

Why I joined

At this time last year, I decided that it was high time I contributed to my country from within these walls.  This was after Govt announced that it was going to spend $35, 000 to welcome home a government delegation to the CoP 23 meetings in Bonn. A delegation that had gone to work, earning salaries and allowances.  I could not believe that this was happening less than 2 years after TC Winston, the most intense tropical cyclone in the southern hemisphere on record as well as the strongest to make landfall in the southern hemisphere, devastated much of the country and tragically claimed 44 lives in the Western, Eastern, Central and Northern Divisions.  I could not believe that Govt was prepared to spend $35, 000 on a celebration whilst huge parts of these same divisions still lay in ruin and many children faced the reality of beginning the new school year – January 2018 – still under tents.

I took to social media asking those who agreed with me to share my Facebook status using the hashtag Cancel the Party, and to write to the newspapers pleading with govt to have a change of heart and to instead channel the $35, 000 to more deserving projects including the rehabilitation of TC Winston victims, and ensuring hospitals had basic necessities.

The result of my letter being printed in the paper and the outcry on social media was quick;

  1. There was a flurry of media statements which at first defiantly claimed that my opinion was my own and that the celebrations would continue conveniently using the excuse that Traditional Protocols were important. Yes, these are the same Traditional Protocols that were shamefully set aside just last month for the Traditional welcome for the royals.
  2. The blame was passed onto “well-meaning but naïve civil servants”,
  3. The party was cancelled, and
  4. Finally a toned down and (I hope) cheaper welcome event was decided upon.

But I had made my point and people took notice. If this could happen with one issue, imagine the possibilities!  So I joined the fray!

Civics and Citizenship

After sitting the FJC exam at Shri Vivekananda High School, now Swami Vivekananda College in Nadi, I went to Canberra to complete high school. One of the units I took was Legal Studies.  This is a course that I believe we should seriously look to introducing to year 9 students, if we want to raise Civic minded citizens.

Civics and citizenship education builds students’ knowledge and understanding of the ways in which citizens can actively participate in their country’s diverse society. Students learn about the civic institutions and the processes through which decisions are made for the common good of the community and they also develop the skills and understandings that relate to the organisation of a harmonious democratic society.

These are the skills that will allow students to effectively participate in society and become responsible, informed and active citizens.

The challenge in Fiji right now is NOT that people are uneducated.  The challenge is that many are educated just enough to believe what they’ve been told. But not educated enough to question. And here is where tyranny can reign unchecked.

Media

The media provides a vital role in discerning fact from fiction and reporting thereof from a neutral, unbiased perspective.

We assume expertise as well as a professional attitude on the part of the journalists, the providers of our news. This assumption implies something that is of even MORE value than expertise and professionalism: that is TRUST.

In Fiji, our media is either muzzled or has lost our trust.

Misinformation matters because media outlets have great power. They shape the way we understand the world and, ultimately, drive our behaviour. It is no exaggeration to say that their activity can have life-and-death implications.

Indigenous Concerns.

As a member of the indigenous people of this country, I am very conscious of the fact that are only 500, 000 of us on this planet, out of the 7.7billion.  Our language is unique to us, as are our indigenous traditions.  It is only natural that when there are so few of you, the urge to preserve what can be lost is keenly felt.

It is not racist therefore to want to preserve my language and my traditions. It is not racist to want to ensure that the native traditional lands and fisheries of the first people of Fiji are protected.

The Hon Kuridrani was told to say quote and unquote when he mentioned the traditional titles of the chiefs and chiefly households, he wanted to pay tribute to yesterday, because the Standing Orders prohibit members from speaking their mother tongue. This must change.

This is the people’s house. How is it that we, the people, cannot use our own languages here? These are the languages we learned at birth. These are the languages in which we express our most intimate feelings. Why should this House only be a place for people who can speak good English? How can we talk about preserving our unique languages – our many Fijian dialects, our special Fiji Hindi – if we cannot speak those languages here?

The parliament of New Zealand made Te reo Maori an official language in 1985. MPs in New Zealand can address the house in Te reo with the use of an interpreter. We can have translators in our courts. Why can we not have them in this House?

Eventually we could move to simultaneous translation with trained translators. This is what happens elsewhere. This is the 21st century. We have technology that can record what we say and how we vote. So it is not hard to have simultaneous translation. Good, high quality translators would not just be useful in Parliament. They would have skills we could use in many other settings where dialogue and consultation are required.

This is not about practicalities. This is about being willing to do it. And we should do it. It is about our unity, our dignity as Fijians of all races, and our pride in our country and its culture.

On the subject of Human Rights;

I wish to remind the Hon Members of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day.

Now that Fiji has been elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council, I hope that the government will take a long hard look at the Amnesty International Report on Fiji, pointing out the need for government to establish an independent and effective mechanism to investigate and address the systematic use of violence by the security forces and police and to make such reports public.

Environment

I have heard in several speeches this week how the Fiji First govt has led the way in Climate Change actions.

Since March 2012 residents and members of the public have been lobbying Government for the protection and NON-Industrialization of Draunibota Bay, in Lami; home to one of the few large remaining stands of mangroves in the Suva area.

An EIA submission by the proposed developers showed major errors. Proper procedures were not followed.

In October 2012 The Bay of Islands Preservation Group was formed. What we do is we raise awareness to Save Draunibota Bay from industry and the destruction of over 36 acres of Mangroves for proposed industrial development. So far, we have been successful.

In 2015 The Hon. Prime Minister stood on the shore of Draunibota Bay and released 7000 young mud- crabs. He gave a speech, and this is what he said:

“Nothing is more important to every Fijian than the preservation of our environment, and especially those living things on which we all depend for food and for making a living. So I’m especially delighted to be here today to celebrate a wonderful event – the release of several thousand baby mud crabs into the wild to help repopulate the mangroves in Draunibota Bay.”

But, in that very same month – April 2015 – the land in Draunitoba Bay was rezoned to allow commercial building, heavy industry and car parking.

In May 2015 we appealed against the Rezoning to the Environment Minister, with a petition signed by 560 people.

Then another developer bought the site, fenced it and cleared it of mangroves.

Two years after we lodged out appeal, in May 2017 the then Minister for Environment, Hon Praveen Bala, disallowed our appeal.

Now approval has been given to build a Paint Factory on the rezoned land.  A paint factory, right next to mangroves.

Madam Speaker, did you know that if you want a copy of an Environmental Impact Assessment report you must pay $4.85 per page!

Some EIA reports have hundreds of pages!  But you cannot get a soft copy emailed to you. Nor can you go and photocopy the report yourself.  So, being able to challenge changes to our environment is a costly exercise. And yet, the people who are most affected by development are often the poorest people. What will the Government do to improve this?

The saga surrounding the destruction of the cloud forest at Wainisavulevu Weir by EFL is another example of how carelessly we view sustainable development, where inadequate public consultations are the norm, where there is a disconnect between the overseas preaching and local action, where there are even attempts to hide the truth.

Let’s come closer to home, or should I say, work.

How many single use PET bottles does this house go through each day, each week?  I reckon during one working day, more than 100 single use plastic bottles? For this chamber alone? Multiply that by 5 days and you have a lot of plastic bottles.

I would like to invite this house to please consider phasing out single use plastic water bottles.  Our parliamentary offices have filtered water dispensers, which are a blessing. Why can’t all of us honourable members consider bringing our own reusable water bottles from home and filling them up at the dispensers? Or, God forbid, why can we not just drink plain tap water like most of the people who voted us in here?

As one of our sayings from Kadavu goes, “Mai ya so?” I use a reusable water bottle with a filter that I change every two months or so depending on tap water quality.

Secondly – we sure go through a lot of paper in this House.  Since we MP’s are being supplied smart phones and laptops, I hope we can use less paper in our communications.

Thirdly is the air-polluting habit of government four-wheel drive vehicles. Waiting for their Honourable passengers, no matter the duration of their meetings or meals, with both engine and air-conditioning running. May I urge honourable members to consider asking their drivers to cease this practice for the sake of cleaner air, our health and environment.

There is a young lady, called AnnMary Raduva who has already made a name for herself as an environmental activist.  AnnMary, with the help of her family has started a campaign called “Say No to Balloon Releasing”.  AnnMary has written a letter to The Hon PM, in the hope that the Government, along with stakeholders, classify releasing balloons into the air as littering.

Ann Mary started her campaign after watching a balloon release recently to celebrate the launch of Walesi, and after watching a YouTube video with her 11-year-old sister which showed turtles and sea birds dying from swallowing plastics and bits and pieces of balloons.

Ann Mary is 14 years old and is a Year 9 student of Adi Cakobau School; she deserves credit and assistance to not only see her project succeed, but to promote her as an activist.

On Equality

On Equality, I ask the Hon Minister for Education to please look urgently at levelling the playing field, in regards, Education resourcing in the maritime zones and rural areas, so children in Kadavu for example can compete more strongly with their peers in urban centres. This would be a huge step towards true equality.

Hon Koroilavesau  on Tuesday said his information was that transportation and shipping had never been better because of the franchise shipping system.  I don’t know how many times the Hon Minister travels as an everyday citizen, because while that is true in terms of regularity for us islanders, I invite him to travel like I do, like my parents often do and like most of us islanders do – in vessels that are dangerously over-crowded, where passengers outnumber life-jackets, if you can find them and where there are no safety announcements.  I invite all Hon ministers to attempt maritime travel like the majority of this country travels.

Leadership

To quote Leadership guru, John C Maxwell, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”

I believe that is the same when it comes to a country; when the leadership is fair, when the leadership is compassionate, when the leadership leads with love first and foremost, you see that reflected in its citizens.”

Having watched the interjections, aping and other behaviour on show in this house over the last four years, I cannot help but be reminded of a school-yard bully and the obligatory gaggle of buddies, always jostling for an approving pat on their backs.

Just about everyone I speak to hopes that we will be better behaved over the next four years.  That should be easy to do IF we keep in mind always who put us here and why, and who pays our salaries.

In my first few days in Parliament, I see, hear and feel the ‘might’ of the Govt Side, and hear of how they are the only ones who have and are capable of the many great things quoted endlessly. The Hon PM said in his speech on Monday, “I am here to listen to you and take your concerns seriously.  And I am here to build a better future for all Fijians, wherever they may be in the country.”

Well, we on this side of the floor represent 49.6% of the Fijians the Hon PM was talking about.  So please take the concerns of that 49.6% of Fijians seriously when we highlight them in this House.

Any Government must remain transparent and answerable to the public at all times, and a good Opposition should put the spotlight on serious issues and have them resolved quickly.

Thank you

To each of you who believed in me enough to entrust me with your vote, thank you. I will do my utmost to be worthy of the honour and privilege of representing you in parliament.

I thank the leadership of the National Federation Party, Professor Biman Prasad, Mr Pio Tikoduadua, Vice Presidents, Executives and Selection Committee members for deeming me worthy to represent my party, the NFP.

To fellow NFP candidates; we fought a good, clean, issues-based fight without resorting to personal attacks and vitriol. We all should hold our heads high.

I have nothing but gratitude for the NFP Staff and Youth; your energy, positivity, good vibes and tonnes of knowledge continue to be invaluable.

I am grateful to all NFP supporters, blue collar, white collar, no collar, in the factories, offices and on the streets, who campaigned for me, with or without my knowledge, at home and abroad; you are the machinery that drives this push to be that positive change Fiji so desperately needs.

 

Thank you – To my close family from Dravuni, Buliya and Navoka who were the people I relied on the most to get my message out. My two Tavales, Tamai Oveti at Lomaivuna and Tamai Sala at Navoka, and my brothers Semi Sarasau in Buliya, Jolame Koroivuya in Dravuni and Sailosi Vunidakua in Sakoca .  I also thank my Bulou Tauvu Titilia from the chiefly village of Tavualevu for her energy and passion.

To the amazing team of young people who were my polling agents, I am so grateful.

Thank you – Mum and Dad, Poasa, Ana-Lisa, Zac and Em, I could not have gone on this journey without your support from Day 1.  .

There are those who kept me in their prayers, from within my church family and from without: thank you for your prayer support.

There are many I will not thank publicly because they risked their jobs and income to support me, a sad reality in today’s Fiji, but I am so grateful to you all.

I pledge to be worthy of your trust in me.  I pledge to be the change you and I want to see in parliament and in Fiji.  I will need all the help I can get and promise to listen so I can be a good servant.

No one lives forever.

We, our children and their children will reap what we sow.  Pride comes before the fall.

Jeremiah 9; 23 – 24; “Thus says the Lord:

“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might,

Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories, glory in this,

That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.

For in these I delight,” says the Lord.””

Vinaka saka vakalevu, Bahut dhanyavad, Fai’aksia, Xie Xie, Shukria.

PETITION BY CANE GROWERS SEEKING MINIMUM GUARANTEED PRICE

POINT OF ORDER  – PETITION BY CANE GROWERS SEEKING MINIMUM GUARANTEED PRICE

Madam Speaker I rise on a Point of Order seeking clarification on  why I was not allowed to move a petition that I submitted to your good self as required under Standing Order 37, on Tuesday 25th April.

I respectfully submit the fact that I was not allowed to move a motion for a petition to be referred to the relevant standing committee is violation of the Standing Order 37 of Parliament, as well as breach of Section 72 of the 2013 Constitution.

The provision on presentation of petitions is extremely clear. A petition must be in conformity to the Constitution and must not create ill-will and hostility.

The Petition that was submitted to you Madam Speaker is about cane growers seeking parliamentary intervention to help them achieve a minimum guaranteed price for a tonne of cane. The petition, signed by 404 registered cane growers throughout the Western Division cane belt from Rakiraki to Sigatoka, doesn’t violate this provision, nor any other provision of the Constitution and the Standing Orders.

Madam Speaker, the merits and de-merits of this or any petition can only be determined after it is moved in Parliament.

Standing Order 37(5) and 37(6) lays out the procedure of what happens when a petition is moved.

There is nothing that overrules it once the Speaker decides a petition is in order. It is the Speaker’s call because a petition is sent to the Speaker. I am surprised that you have not made any decision, based on your previous rulings of 8th July 2015 and again on 23 rd March 2017.

No aspect of it clashes with Bills No. 19 and 20. Bills 19 and 20 before the parliamentary standing committee on economic affairs do not address the issue of implementing a minimum guaranteed cane price. It is all about amending the Sugar Industry Act.

Neither has the issue been raised and voted upon in any motion, previous petition or question that was asked in the last six months.

In any case your rulings of 8 th July 2015 and 23 rd March 2017 make it extremely clear why petitions are important. On 23 rd March you re-iterated your ruling and I quote: –

“The right of citizens to petition their Parliament and the power of Parliament to deal with petition is an ancient right and was affirmed by the House of Commons in 1669. It is a fundamental right of the citizen, which is preserved in our Standing Orders. It is the only means by which individuals can directly place grievances before the Parliament on matters which the Government has jurisdiction”. – Unquote

Madam Speaker, Section 72(b) of the Constitution says Parliament must facilitate public participation in the legislative and other processes of Parliament and its committees. Section 72 of the Constitution relates to Petitions, public access and participation.

Denial of a petition, more so, if it complies with Standing Order 37 is a breach of the Constitution.

In any case, Government under Standing Order 37 has the right to reply to the petition and also vote either for and against it.

Essentially Madam Speaker, this Petition is in order and I once again respectfully submit that it should be moved in Parliament without delay, based on your previous rulings and in conformity to both Standing Order 37 and Section 72 of the 2013 Constitution.

Any delay in determining the future of the petition (when there is no need to since it conforms to every provision required for acceptance and moving of a petition), will deny the cane growers who signed the petition their right to be heard by Parliament and constitute a breach of Section 72 (b) of the Constitution.

It concerns their livelihood and future before the start of the crushing season.

I await your ruling Madam Speaker.

NFP response to Health Minister’s statement on medicine shortage

RESPONSE TO MINISTER AKBAR – Ministerial Statement

By Hon Parmod Chand (Tuesday April 25, 2017)

Madam Speaker, I thank the Minister for her statement. At the outset, let me say that we are thoroughly disappointed with her explanation. Like many other issues affecting our nation, this Government is paying lip service to the fundamental issue of providing basic health care to our citizens in our health centres and public hospitals.

Madam Speaker two months ago, we highlighted the shortage of chemicals used to process x-ray films were denying patients the right to get x-rayed and diagnosed.

This problem remains unresolved. The Minister has to be reminded what she said in Parliament when this issue was raised by Hon Prem Singh on 10th February 2017.

And what transpired in the last two months is relevant to what was said by the Minister regarding the issue of medicine. I will demonstrate how this will be another one of the same old story – they call it NATO Madam Speaker – No Action Talk Only.

The Honourable Minister had said only wet film processing, which is processing a film after an x-ray is done was not being conducted but dry film processing and digital imaging were being conducted.

She said wet film processing was being phased out but chemicals would be arriving at the end of the month (which is February).

February has come and gone. The situation hasn’t changed.

I want to ask the Minister: –

Does the Minister know what is happening in her Ministry?

For example, despite her assurance to this Parliament two months ago– the major hospitals don’t have chemicals to process X Ray films? Patients incur costs to come to hospitals only to be told they cannot get x-rayed.

Last week a patient from Nadi who has a fractured femur (thighbone) hired a taxi and came to Lautoka hospital on his designated day of review and x-ray. He was told x-ray could not be done and he had to pay $100 as taxi hire charges. Will the Ministry compensate him because it is not his fault that x-ray could not be done. The Hospital did not even have the decency and courtesy of informing him and the public through the media that x-ray service was out of order.

Again last week a woman who is a cancer patient was taken for review and x-ray at the CWM Hospital. She could not be x-rayed because there were no chemicals to process the film.

Is this the kind of treatment that our citizens deserve?

They don’t want handouts, they want access to fundamental and basic service, Madam Speaker.

The 2013 Constitution has been much talked about as the savior of our nation and providing common and equal citizenry through its Bill of Rights.

Section 38 (1) of the 2013 Constitution (Right to health) states, and I quote, “The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realization of the right of every person to health and to the conditions and facilities necessary to good health care services…”

38(3) of the Constitution states “…if the State claims that it does not have the resources to implement the right, it is the responsibility of the State to show that resources are not available”.

Does the State have sufficient resources to provide access to health care for all? If it has then shortage and lack of medicine and medical supplies should not be an issue. We ask what has happened to allocation of a quarter million dollars in the last two budgets to hire consultants to streamline procurement procedures of medical supplies.

If private pharmacies can be sufficiently stocked with the list of medicines being listed as being in short and nil supply, why can’t the Fiji pharmaceutical service, which has millions of dollars at its disposal, or that is what is shown in the budget, be in a state of preparedness at all times?

And even when there is a shortage, why cannot it swiftly order medicine instead of the health ministry saying there is no estimated time of arrival when we have flights into our country daily and goods and services by the private sector are air freighted within a week?

Madam Speaker where there is a will there is a way. The Minister should know that cosmetic solutions and changes couldn’t be implemented to improve the fundamentals in the health ministry. Health is not about applying cosmetic and band-aid solutions.

It is about getting fundamental rights because health is wealth. Unfortunately the state of our public health has become blight on our nation.

Thank you Madam Speaker

April 15, 2017: Statement by Lt Col Pio Tikoduadua – Member and Intending Candidate, National Federation Party

Text of Statement (please check against delivery) 
===================================================
Thank you all for being here today. I apologise to those of you that may have had to sacrifice time with your loved ones, this Saturday
of Holy Week to attend this press conference.

After consulting with my wife and our two teenage children, I am very grateful and humbled that they have given me their
unwavering support, blessings and understanding, to return to public life and service. This sacrifice made by my wife and children
comes with their conviction and understanding of the toll it could take on my health personally and my family security. However they
also understand my strong belief that contributing positively to our country – and doing so with integrity – not only pays in this life but
also in the next.

I have now joined the National Federation Party. I will be applying to be an NFP candidate in the 2018 general election.

I joined NFP after a number of conversations with its party leader, Professor Biman Prasad. In the years 2011 and 2012 the United
Nations convened a series of meetings between the military government and its opponents. This was a search for a way to
work together to restore democracy to Fiji.

That process did not succeed. But as a member of the Government at that time, I had many discussions with Professor
Prasad. I became convinced that consultation and consensus building with our opponents was the way to go. Professor Prasad
offered many positive ideas for our country that were falling on deaf ears.

I know about NFP’s deep history in Fiji. Unlike many other parties in Fiji, it was not formed for the purpose of becoming a
government. It was formed to defend people who were vulnerable and voiceless. At first this was the cane farmers. But over the
years it has become the voice of many more. These are not just Indo-Fijians. As Professor Prasad has reminded me, if NFP had
not had many thousands of i-Taukei votes in 2014, it would not be in Parliament right now.

The NFP has given to Fiji statesmen like Mr A D Patel, Mr S M Koya, Mr Jai Ram Reddy and Mr Harish Sharma. It has never
departed from its principles. At critical moments in Fiji’s history, it has always sought to do the right thing, even at the cost of votes.
At Independence in 1970, NFP allowed the Alliance Party to rule for two years instead of demanding an election. In 1999, it joined
hands with the SVT Party to offer the people a genuinely multiracial government, even though many of its supporters did not
agree. NFP has never supported a military coup.

In 2014, I had to choose sides to contest the general elections. I chose the Fiji First Party. But before I made this announcement I
rang Professor Prasad. I told him that if I had not chosen Fiji First, I would have chosen NFP. So here I am – even if it is three years
too late!

As many of you would know, I am a former Minister of the Fiji First Government and Leader of Government Business in Parliament.
Before that I was a career officer in the Republic of Fiji Military Forces for 20 years.

At the time of the 2006 coup, I was studying in Canberra at the Australian Command and Staff College. I joined the RFMF-led
Government, initially as Permanent Secretary for Justice and later serving the Commander RFMF and Prime Minister as Permanent
Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister from 2008 to 2014.

For me personally, I considered this as a continuation of my military duty to the Commander, spanning some 15 years from 1999 when I served
him as his Personal Staff Officer or Aide-de-Camp (ADC). Loyalty to your superiors is the essence of soldiering. I was part of the
military government. I cannot and do not ignore that fact.

I believed, rightly or wrongly, that the military could help to create an effective and sustainable democracy in Fiji. And whether I was
right or wrong, I must accept responsibility for that fact.

I was one of the 50 people elected to Parliament in 2014. I was and I still am very grateful for the overwhelming support of the
electorate in electing me.

I resigned from Fiji First and a Member of Parliament in May 2015. The reason I stated at that time for my resignation was that I had
serious health issues developing from my cancer condition. My doctors warned me this could recur if I was not mindful of my
personal health and stress. My health has improved during the last 2 years I have lived in my home village at Delasui. I continue
to manage my personal health as anyone else would do.

But there were other reasons as well for my departure.

I spoke earlier about loyalty. Loyalty must be given to a leader. But loyalty must also be returned.

In 2015 a Fiji First Party Member of Parliament who was a backbencher voted with the Opposition on a Parliamentary motion
on health issues. He did this for reasons of conscience.

This was courageous and principled, even if it was politically unwise. Some of my fellow Ministers called for him to resign. I was
not one of them. I gave my opinion to the Prime Minister that we should show flexibility and forgiveness. For me, this was an
opportunity for the Government to listen and learn about why that one of its MPs had felt so strongly about an issue that he would
vote with the Opposition.

The Prime Minister initially accepted and was agreeable to my recommendation. I told the MP the matter was resolved.

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

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

Fiji’s biggest problem at the moment is not that my opinion does not matter. It is that nobody’s opinion matters, except those of the

Prime Minister and the Attorney-General. No-one else’s views are sought. No concession is made to any person with a different
opinion. Nobody else can ever be right and they can never be wrong.

This approach is deeply destructive of democracy and national unity. It divides Fiji it means that we lack a common vision and we
operate in a climate of fear and restrictiveness. This is no way to run a country. This is no way to solve Fiji’s problems.

During my time in “retirement”, I kept a close interest on the effects on Fijian society of the decisions made on the national front, in
particular of Parliament and of the Executive. And the more I watched and listened, the more I became convinced that most, if
not all, the aspirations we in the RFMF had stood for together for democracy and the people have been cast aside today.

I am now an intending candidate for the National Federation Party. I will defend the aspirations of both the NFP and the values that
were instilled in me from my youth and that have sustained me in my life. These are integrity, honesty and trust – the same values
that I took through my military career and which I very dearly cherish through my Christian faith. These are the same principles
that I have held as an elected MP – that no matter what your background or religion, we are all equal in the eyes of God. The
same belief of Christianity being inclusive, with the central teachings of Christ being foremost – the Command to Love,
sacrifice, show compassion, mercy and forgiveness. Today is the eve of the Resurrection, an event that Christians regard as the
epitome of their faith and belief – the victory of good over evil, of life over death, of despair of eternal death to hope in salvation and
eternal life.

So today –

I now Stand Free. I stand to defend the values that I believe in as a humane person, a Fijian, an i Taukei and a farmer with roots
embedded in the village of Delasui in Korovou, Northland, Tailevu, a steadfast career military man, and most importantly to me as a
being – my family and Christian and Catholic values of freedom, equality, justice, democracy, selflessness, and of putting God and
country before oneself. I take these with me.

Today I am urging and encouraging all Fijians to stand tall too, and stand free. Let’s take this walk and let’s stand up for the truth, for
honour, justice, and democracy and for our voices. Let’s stand up for the life that each one of us, our children, and generations to
come, deserve. Let’s demand nothing less. Let’s not take a back seat but CHOOSE to define our destiny.

Thank you very much.

Lieutenant-Colonel Pio Tikoduadua
Ph: 7196802
Email: viotikoduadua@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/nfpfiji/videos/668706443317782/

MAIDEN SPEECH: BY NFP VICE PRESIDENT HON PARMOD CHAND

PARLIAMENT OF REPUBLIC OF FIJI

MONDAY, MARCH 20, 2017

Madam Speaker, I rise before you today as a proud resident and Member of Parliament from the Friendly North to represent the people of the Fiji.

It is an absolute honour and privilege indeed to be here in this capacity. Let me start by thanking God because of whom we are here today. With him on our side, we can do the impossible. Thank God for his presence today.

At the outset, I thank the National Federation Party for having confidence in me to serve as a Member of Parliament for the remainder of the term of this Parliament. I realize my current parliamentary term will be short with general elections scheduled next year.

However, Madam Speaker, I will certainly try to do justice to my role as a Member of Parliament in accordance with the normal parliamentary norms and rules of this august Chamber, as well as in conformity to the principles and policies of our Party that has been in existence for the last 54 years.

I also wish to put on record my thanks and appreciation for the work done by our former President in this Parliament,

Roko Tupou Draunidalo. She discharged her parliamentary duties fearlessly and effectively until her suspension, considered to be harsh and unreasonable by even the Inter Parliamentary Union.

Madam Speaker, I aim to live up to the trust the electorate has placed in me, and to the high standards set by my predecessors. They have been members who served Fiji with great distinction and admiration. Their service to this nation will indeed be big shoes to fill but I am very optimistic of the fact that where there is a will, there is always a way to move forward together, as a nation, not divided but united for the common good of our beloved Fiji. Our national anthem has these words and I quote, “as we stand united under noble banner blue.” Therefore, I am certain with the grace of God, support of my fellow parliamentarians and blessings from loved ones, this will undoubtedly be an exciting and rewarding journey.

Albert Einstein said, “The value of a man should be seen in what he gives and not in what he is able to receive.” Now let me add my own words to it. The value of a man should be seen in what he does and not only what he says.

 

Madam Speaker, with an opportunity to serve and make a difference in the lives of people, I find these values highly relevant.  My passion to serve this country will be an important factor in the success of my journey as a member of this august House.

I have followed in the footsteps of my late father Mr Vishnu Prasad, a farmer school teacher and an entrepreneur of a successful bus business who then sought to become a politician. As a businessman and cane grower myself, I have adopted my father’s principles in trying to be of help to the disadvantaged people in his life. Dad’s message to me has always been “you can’t change the world but you can certainly make a difference in someone’s life”.

With this dream soundly embedded in my mind, and values enshrined in my upbringing, I am ready to be an integral part of a vision, a vision of dynamic Fiji where everyone has a chance to make a choice, have a choice and enjoy this choice, where no one is left behind and where there is true compassion, where a mentality of one team one dream prevails and where not as individuals but collectively we become ultimate champions.

Our fathers and forefathers have left a legacy of mutual trust, cooperation, compassion and a multitude of nation building techniques.

Madam Speaker let us use this as a foundation to build on.

My passion for a visionary Fiji, is to develop a visionary strategic plan, Vision 2030, as very articulately stated by our Honourable Leader three years ago.

We should be inclusive in our approach as we develop this plan. We should consider to invite wide-ranging community inputs, including international assistance if need be, establish a time frame, as we forge ahead with this visionary plan.

An integral part of the vision would be to develop an achievable goal –

A goal that will define Fiji, a goal that will represent Fiji, and a goal that will be embraced and enjoyed by Fiji

Above all, a goal that will be the face of Fiji

Madam Speaker, we are a great and blessed nation. Our tropical climate, rivers, deltas, valleys and fertile land are our great assets.

Our greatest strength are the people of our multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religious nation.

We need to harness our resources effectively and fully utilize these strengths. We need to focus and entrust our valued resources in this endeavour. We need to strive and I believe as we strive together, the sky is the limit.

Madam Speaker, sustainability and maintenance of family values are great virtues of our diverse cultures and traditions. It is the wish of all parents and guardians to successfully nurture their children and settle them well in their lives. It is therefore extremely important that all our people are empowered so that they have an opportunity to attain knowledge, fortitude and strength to establish a successful livelihood for them and their families.

As leaders and legislators, we should always aspire to facilitate an environment in order for our people to achieve this because this is what national interest is about.

Madam Speaker, what I stand for and my passion can be defined as follows:

  • Freedom of speech and the media, vibrant democracy and respect for human rights
  • Economic growth driven by: –
    • Manufacturing
    • Promotion of small businesses
  • Revival of the Sugar Industry
  • Roads and Infrastructure development
  • Electricity grid extension to rural & cane belt areas
  • More sealed roads
  • More cross – country roads to open up land and reduce traveling time
  • Clean and continuous Water Supply
  • Decent Employment Opportunities

Our vision for Fiji will revolve around these key attributes.

Madam Speaker, I will focus on some of the objectives that I just alluded to, including their importance to Vanua Levu: –

  • Freedom of speech

The right to free speech is one of the most basic yet precious right of any person.  Freedom of speech is important for a vibrant democracy as it enables a free flow of information and ideas from the public in making informed decisions. By giving people the opportunity to express themselves and speak their mind without fear of retaliation can provide valuable feedbacks that can be articulated and used concurrently in improving policies and procedures. I believe in encouraging our young people to voice their opinion, as our young people’s voice is as important as ours and a cry for the betterment of our people and our nation.

  • Economic growth

Madam Speaker, There is an inevitable outward migration of people from Vanua Levu to Suva, other parts of Fiji and even overseas for better opportunities. Everyone looks for greener pastures and unfortunately the North, is deprived of economic growth due to the exodus of its skilled and talented people.

The Northern Division is rich in its resources, which needs to be positively utilised and can contribute to the economy as a whole. With government intervention and support, these resources can be used effectively and utilised to reduce the migration of people from the North.

Furthermore, Madam Speaker, if we are able to retain our people in Vanua Levu, it would be a great asset to the existing businesses. In addition, the development of a fully-fledged University campus by both FNU and USP in the North will also be a contributing factor to retaining our young people, whose knowledge and skills can be further developed to enable them to be entrepreneurs starting their own businesses and contributing to the overall economic growth of the North.

  • Revival of the Sugar Industry

Madam Speaker, with agriculture, in particular the Sugar Industry being the main backbone of Fiji’s economy for over a century, the revival of the Sugar Industry in the North will bring about a positive economic growth. Through proper funding and recovery programmes, the sugar industry in the North can be revitalized to provide more employment opportunities. It is important to note that not all school leavers end up in higher education institutions or get absorbed directly in the workforce. Some of these school leavers end up in the cane fields as a source of income to accommodate their daily needs. A healthy and vibrant industry is paramount not only for Vanua Levu but Fiji as a whole.

  • Roads and Infrastructure development

Madam Speaker, to ensure social well-being and population cohesiveness and the well-functioning of economic activities in a country an adequate and efficient transport network is vital. It is also the right of the citizens to expect this from their government. An adequate and efficient transport network will greatly enhance the economy in the north. I understand the difficulties faced by decision-makers in their endeavour to facilitate a well coordinated transport network in Fiji. However, I believe that focus on Vanua Levu in terms of infrastructure development should be aimed at ultimately bringing economic parity between the two major islands of Fiji. I acknowledge Government’s efforts in tarsealing of the Dreketi to Nabouwalu Road. The economy of the Bua province is showing signs of improvement due to the upgrade of this road.

Madam Speaker, the government should also look into tarsealing the Nabouwalu to Nabalebale road and the road between Nacavanadi to Coqeloa. This will open up the economies of this region and give serious incentive to hoteliers given the serene and scenic nature of these areas. Moreover, having more cross – country roads will open up land and reduce traveling time for commuters.

  • Electricity grid extension to rural & cane belt areas

Madam Speaker, with an increase in electricity supply to the greater population in the North, more economic activity will be generated; there will also be an increase in investment opportunities and improvement to overall productivity in the North.

Additionally, communication will be improved, urban migration will be reduced, and people will have better opportunities to study from their own setting. How children in Fiji are nurtured and educated is a strong determinant of Fiji striving to become a knowledge-based society. This can only be achieved if the people in Fiji are given unrestricted access to all forms of education based on equality, fairness and quality.  And this is achievable with a good electricity access and supply and improved communication network and facility to the people in Vanua Levu.

  • Water Supply

Madam Speaker, clean drinking water is the most vital basic human resource for all communities in Fiji.  Having proper water supply is the most powerful preventative measure to reducing infectious disease.  According to the World Health Organisation, each day about 3,900 children die world over from dirty water or poor hygiene alone, as stipulated in the International Decade for Action 2005-2015.  Proper water supply to all the communities in Vanua Levu will reduce medication and treatment cost caused by the lack of unhygienic water supply.  Consequently, the economy will also benefit from investors.

Employment

Madam Speaker, in my vision for Vanua Levu, it is my desire to see improvement in infrastructure in the north, particularly our roads. It goes without saying how vital roads are to the economy in the north. Employers and employees are well aware that without good roads the adverse effect it has on businesses and livelihoods of people is overwhelming. Better access to electricity and water, revival of the sugar industry, are all important factors that contribute to economic growth in the north. With improvements on these fundamental issues that I have highlighted, it should provide an incentive not only for people to remain in Vanua Levu but also for investors to create opportunities for the people. Ultimately the unemployment rate will surely decrease; there will be a more even distribution of wealth for Fiji as a whole.

Madam Speaker, we should endeavour to be successful, and this aptly captured by Ralph Waldo Emerson when he defines success and I quote:-

 

 

To laugh often and much;

to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;

to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;

to appreciate the beauty;

to find the best in others;

to leave the world a bit better;

whether by a healthy child;

a garden patch Or a redeemed social condition;

to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

This is to have succeeded! Unquote.

Madam Speaker, to conclude, let us aspire to achieve the above objectives that will make the north the paradise it was meant to be, thus fulfilling the slogan, “Fiji the way the world should be”.

I look forward to working with each one of you and assure you of my unconditional and unwavering support towards a visionary Fiji.

God Bless the Friendly North and God bless Fiji

 

NFP Working Committee Meeting – Remarks by Party Leader

REMARKS AT NFP WORKING COMMITTEE, NFP HQ, 124 PRINCES RD, SUVA, 10.30AM, SATURDAY 19 NOVEMBER 2016

BY NFP LEADER HON PROFESSOR BIMAN PRASAD

The Vice President Mr. Parmod Chand, General Secretary Mr. Bala Dass, our Organising Secretary Mr. Tuinadave Radogo, stalwarts and branch delegates.

I join the Vice President in welcoming all of you to today’s meeting. We meet after what many have described as the most successful NFP AGM and Convention in the last 16 years hosted by our Rakiraki Branch more than two months ago. It was an outstanding effort by our Branch led by the dynamic Semi Titoko.

Rakiraki has set the benchmark and will be a hard act to follow. But more importantly it sent out a strong and clear signal that the NFP will be a force to be reckoned with in the next general elections. No doubt the meeting later today will discuss how we deal with issues confronting our people, the challenges we face and policies that we will put before the electorate for lasting social, economic and political advancement.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have completed two years of our so-called genuine parliamentary democracy. It is therefore appropriate for us to consider our country’s scorecard, post September 2014. As I said in my maiden speech in Parliament in October 2014, we were ready to work with the Fiji First Government on important national issues. We also promised to hold the government accountable through the parliament.

I am extremely disappointed to say that our optimism and hope has been badly shattered by the actions of the Fiji First government.

In fact we now believe that the process of vote buying for the 2018 general elections has already started, ably supported by two media organisations that are basically funded by the taxpayers of our country, one directly and the other indirectly through exclusive Government advertising.

I have always defended the media and journalists because they work under restrictions imposed through the draconian Media Industry Development Authority Decree.

But despite this most media organisations have at least tried to bring some semblance of balance as far as coverage of Opposition Parties is concerned, both in and out of parliament.

But not so the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation and the Fiji Sun. I make no apologies for saying that both the FBC and Fiji Sun have become a shameless mouthpiece of the Fiji First Government’s propaganda against the opposition. This is no exaggeration ladies and gentlemen.

Almost no press release from NFP is ever given any coverage by these two media organisations. In fact, sometimes you see government’s response to our press releases without our statements being given any coverage. Hardly ever, we are asked by the Fiji Sun to comment on government statements and especially those that are related to our policies or us. In addition, we have political analysis from some at that newspaper which is not only biased but also without any substance.

We can understand that government gives exclusively all its advertisement but that does not mean that they should not cover any stories of the opposition and especially that of our party. In fact they should realize that government advertisements are paid by the taxpayers of this country.

It is the taxpayers and about 40 % of them did not vote for the government also deserve coverage in the Fiji Sun.

But no ladies and gentlemen. This newspaper, which publicly declared its support for Government even before the 2014 general elections, has no semblance of balance, ethics and fair coverage. It is not even seen to be doing it.

I will just give two recent examples. On 27 th September, the newspaper ran on page 3 the Prime Minister’s attack on NFP in Parliament a day earlier, by way of his response to His Excellency the President’s Address.

I replied to the PM’s accusations in my address in Parliament on 30 th September. But not a word was printed by the Fiji Sun on 1 st October or any other later edition.

Instead on the front page of 1 st October, the newspaper ran the PM’s response to my point of order raised during his right of reply when he commented on the clothing being worn by the Honourable Salote Radrodro. And it concocted a story about my remark of skirt journalism made in July 2015 as saying worse things about women. Nothing can be further from the truth.

If in May last year I labeled Fiji Sun’s Managing Editor Nemani Delaibatiki’s article on cane payment as an example of skirt journalism, which the newspaper printed as a Letter to the Editor, does this mean that Mr. Delaibatiki is a woman? Or does it actually mean skirting around the real issue?

The second example is our statement issued on celebrations to mark the 100 th anniversary of the arrival of the last boat carrying indentured labourers, through a press conference, that was attended by the Fiji Sun on 14 th October.

The reporter who covered the press conference never wrote a news item for the next day. Instead the Managing Editor News in her analysis said I was politicizing the issue. If this is not blatant bias, then what it is?

Then ladies and gentlemen, comes the taxpayer funded national broadcaster, FBC. This entity is entirely funded by the taxpayers. In fact FBC received more than $11 million dollars in the last budget. We had written to the Chairman of the FBC board several months ago asking several questions such as: Why has the NFP leader and shadow minister not once been invited to any of the radio or television shows? Why does FBC not take comments from NFP when NFP is mentioned in their news?

For example, the Prime Minister, labeled NFP as a racist party. That was reported on FBC TV without our response. Even, after we responded, which is our right, no coverage was given. We ask why?

I don’t blame any of the journalists in these two organisations. We know for a fact that stories are doctored, why they are not covered and how there is interference in the newsroom. Can the CEO of FBC categorically deny that he does not interfere in the work of the news? Because we have had experience of his directive stopping our election advertisement, which was the Leader’s message from being aired. And this was a paid message.

And may I emphasise here – that this is in direct contravention of the Media Code of Ethics and Practice – that the Fiji First Government has established through the media decree, and uses against all other media outlets except the FBC and the Fiji Sun.

Where is our “Opportunity to Reply” that is stated in the code where “Media organisations have an obligation to give an opportunity to reply to any individual or organisation on which the media itself comments editorially.”?

Most of these articles are editorials and not fact-based hard news stories – let us make it clear. They are editorials and opinions – masquerading as factual news – and to add salt to injury, we are not offered that opportunity to reply as clearly stated in the Media Code of Ethics and Practice.

And while I am on this – the NFP and the rest of Fiji are also asking as to the state of the Media Industry Development Authority – or MIDA. Who runs MIDA? Who has replaced the Honourable Matai Akauola – who is now a Fiji First MP, as Director of MIDA? The Director of the Fiji Human Rights Commission, Ashwin Raj is also the Chair of MIDA – so may we ask – is he wearing two so-called independent hats and running both bodies? How do we then consider the quality and the independence of reports and investigations from both bodies?

Ladies and gentlemen, I took time to highlight problems we face with two mainstream media organisations because this is part of the process of rigging our polls.

Rigging does not only happen on polling day contrary to widely held perception. It is deliberate and systematic suppression and even throttling the voice of opposition well before elections so that we are prevented from effectively spreading our message and the truth about governance to all people. And on the other hand, in what is clearly vote buying, Government is using taxpayer funds to give what it calls grants but is effectively handouts.

This is causing disquiet amongst our members and supporters.

Where in a democracy do members of parliament need permit to meet more than 3 people? Where in a democracy opposition members would be stopped from speaking at prize giving functions in schools? He I want to point that the Minister for Education and his PS have not replied to my questions on the email sent by the PS directing a school to invite government officials and not opposition members. The Minister for Education is lying when he says that there is no ban?

Where in a democracy members of parliament have no resources to visit people and work for them? Where in a democracy we see such media control through draconian media laws? These things only happen in a dictatorship.

For the first time, we had to obtain a permit for this meeting, which is held in a private place and is for members only. But police has a new interpretation and meaning about permit requirement, which is a permit is needed if issues of national interest are discussed. What is national interest? Nowhere in the Public Order Act or the Public Order Amendment Decree is the requirement to obtain a permit on the basis of national interest. This is the suppression of a fundamental right and freedom of speech and assembly.

In fact we now believe that there is a partnership and collusion between the big businesses, some media outlets, key government institutions and key players in the Fiji First government to continue with the dictatorship in the country.

The ordinary people, the small businesses, the intellectual community, civil servants, farmers, villagers, those in settlements and those not in the partnership for dictatorship are too fearful and timid to raise any issues.

Even, when some have tried the different arms of government have come hard on them. There is now culture of oppression and people’s freedom to raise issues have been severely eroded through threats and intimidation by various arms of government and Fiji First politicians. We have received several examples where two Ministers have tried to openly ridicule and snub persons they believe are NFP supporters.

So ladies and gentlemen, we have a difficult environment. Against this backdrop the country’s problems remain. We are worse off than where we were more than 2 years ago.

Let me highlight some of the issues of concern to all of us.

1. Cyclone Winston Recovery strategy has been a failure. The report on the damages and cost of those damages were never presented to parliament. In fact the whole recovery effort by the government has been a disaster. Apart from the haphazard response immediately after the cyclone, not much appears to have worked. The help for homes has been a scandal where few hardware companies have benefited. Those taking in the cards and not being able to supply the materials have not been able to explain why? Taking the money by swiping the card and not being able to supply the materials tantamount to taking money on false pretenses. This scheme and its operation must be investigated by an independent body to ascertain if there was corruption involved and unfair advantage to the hardware companies at the expense of the victims of the cyclone.

2. Deteriorating health services- drug shortage, shambolic free medicine scheme. Even the newly appointed Health Minister has publicly admitted that it will take her time to fix some of these ills plaguing our public health system. Only three days ago an elderly retired civil servant went to the CWM Hospital pharmacy to obtain basic medication. He was told that while medicine would only be made available to those who have been registered under the Free Medicine Scheme and not any other patient. This is preposterous. It shows the Ministry is rationing medicine and there is no improvement since we highlighted this problem through the media more than three weeks ago.

3. Increasing youth unemployment is putting the future of our young in jeopardy. The last time the National Employment Centre released unemployment figures of youth registered with them was in July 2015 and the figure stood at 46,277. In 2014 it was 33,000. If that trend were taken into account then by mid-2016 it would have been almost 60,000. Furthermore, an insignificant number of our youth are seen to have been recruited for the seasonal work scheme in Australia and New Zealand. Even Government through the Employment Minister has publicly stated that Government prefers to recruit workers from the same tikina and settlement. This policy clearly discriminates against others in urban and peri urban settlements seeking to be recruited as seasonal workers.

4. The Cost of Living has increased. And TC Winston is not the sole factor that has contributed towards this hike. The 30% increase in freight charges, increase in indirect taxes on service oriented goods have contributed to rising Inflation. For examples most restaurants are now required to charge 25% tax on items they sell. This means out of every dollar 25 cents is tax. Then there is VAT on prescription medication. From January next year hybrid vehicles that were duty free would be slapped with duty.

5. The Education Sector is in a mess. This is confirmed by only a 65% pass rate in the Year Eight Examination Results. And the Minister blamed TC Winston and scrapping of examinations as the reasons for this pass rate. This is laughable because the Minister himself said that some schools destroyed by Winston recorded a 100% pass rate. Then he says that the 35% of students who failed will enter Year 9. Then why have examinations? Why do students have the stigma of being labeled as failures? Another example is the Zoning Policy. More than 99% of schools in Fiji are owned and operated by community organisations, religious and cultural bodies. By implementing this policy and then saying schools may recruit students from outside their designated zones is curtailing the freedom of students to choose schools of their choice. This also contradicts the Minister’s earlier policy of withholding grants from schools who enroll students outside of their zones. Even this was a discriminatory policy because no one has the right to dictate the use of taxpayers’ money outside of official policy. Like many others, we are amused by his antics and wonder why this Minister continues to hold this important portfolio despite implementing many ill-conceived policies.

6. The sugar industry has not shown any signs of improvement in the last ten years under both the military and Fiji First Governments. The country’s cane growers had a bleak Diwali because they were shortchanged following the announcement of the final payment for the 2015 season. The total payment for 2015 season cane is only $71.86 per tonne inclusive of the $1.38 per tonne top up to the final cane payment of 72 cents to make it $2.10 per tonne. And without this top up, the payment would have been $70.48. Over 70% of cane growers numbering over 9,000 have received $4,029 as net income for the 2015 season minus the average cost of production of $45 per tonne. . This is almost $1,400 less than $5428.80 earned annually by a worker on the meagre minimum wage of $2.32 per hour.

Special payments of $4.80 do not and should not form part of the total payout because cane growers have repaid $3.80 of the total amount of $4.80, with the remaining $1 to be deducted next year. This is confirmed by the Prime Minister and Minister for Sugar in a written answer to my parliamentary question (71/2016).

Cane Growers have already paid this amount in two deductions of $1.40 from the 2 nd payment in December 2015 and $2.40 from the 4 th payment in May. The total price is therefore $71.86 per tonne inclusive of the $1.38 top up to the final payment. This is $9.14 less than $81 per tonne growers received for the 2014 season.

This raises the question of how effective the former CEO of FSC Abdul Khan was in terms of marketing our sugar because he was solely responsible for this important task that previously was an industry effort inclusive of growers as the most important stakeholders.

What happened last year? Has help from Government disappeared because growers are overwhelmingly and vehemently opposed to the Reform of the Sugarcane Industry and Sugar Cane Growers Fund Amendment Bills? Because growers expected the Government to naturally top up the payment to ensure the total price was over $80 per tonne, given a similar action last year.

Or is there another reason?

Ladies and gentlemen, on 26 th October on FBC TV News, the Prime Minister labeled the National Federation Party as racist just because the Party champions the interests of the cane growers. He stated that “that the National Federation Party now is not the same as the NFP of old” and furthermore said, “I would think that the NFP party now is a racist party that’s why they all in the cane fields because of the vote of the Indo-Fijians. Their policies are totally at the extreme nowadays.”

If fighting for the interests of cane growers make us racist, then the PM must use the same logic to answer the following: –

1. Does he know that almost 30% of cane growers are Fijians of i-Taukei descent?

2. Is he refusing to accept sound and sensible solutions proposed by the NFP to resuscitate the sugar industry and improve the livelihood of cane growers because he thinks upholding the interest of growers who comprise of 70% Indo-Fijians and who are descendants of the Girmitiya is racism?

3. Does this mean that the Prime Minister who is also the Minister for i-Taukei Affairs is a racist because the Ministry exclusively looks after the interests of our i-Taukei community?

4. Does this also mean that the Prime Minister, who was Commander of Republic of Fiji Military Forces for 15 years, an organisation whose personnel are almost exclusively i-Taukei, is a racist?

5. Does this mean that just because the elite arm of RFMF (CRW Unit) helped George Speight execute the coup in May 2000 to overthrow a Government led by an Indo-Fijian, make the Prime Minister racist because he was Commander of the Army?

6. Does this mean that the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution and then Commander Bainimarama’s refusal to re-instate the Fiji Labour Party Leader as Prime Minister following the end to the hostage crisis in 2000 , actions later proven in Court of Appeal to be in defiance of the rule of law was an act of racism?

7. And does this mean that when as Commander, Bainimarama executed the coup to topple an iTaukei led multi-party multiracial Government in December 2006, was yet again a racist act?

Ladies and Gentlemen: There are many other issues. We are now at the crossroads. But we must press on regardless of the obstacles in our path. We have done so for the last 53 years and we will continue doing so in future without shirking the founding principles of this great Party.

And together we will succeed.

30 September 2016: Remarks by NFP Leader, Hon Prof Biman Prasad on the Debate on H.E. the President’s Address, Friday 30 September 2016

(Please check against delivery and/or hansard)

Madam Speaker I wish to begin by acknowledging the sad news item to the nation last night about the passing of the former Vice President of Fiji, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi.

I understand that the news item would have breached protocols and I may be doing so too by saying these few words but Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi transcended very many barriers and confines and I seek the forgiveness of his family and Vanua for taking this liberty.

Ratu Joni will always be remembered as an embodiment of chiefly authority and wisdom whose humility, care and concern for all our ordinary people and adherence to the rule of law, fundamental human rights and freedoms was paramount. The people of Fiji are indeed poorer for Ratu Joni’s loss.

Madam Speaker, As protocol dictates, I also join other Honourable members of this August House in thanking His Excellency for his most gracious address.

While this has been an inaugural speech for His Excellency in terms of his Presidency, there is no doubt he was in familiar surroundings and well versed with parliamentary process having served as a Cabinet Minister before his elevation to Government House.

Madam Speaker, apart from outlining Government’s legislative programme for the ensuing year – a few of the Bills stated in his address are already before us in Parliament, his address reflected on our democracy achieved through elections a little over 2 years ago, as well as reflecting on the devastating effects of Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston.

His Excellency also spoke at length about the outpouring of unity generated by Fiji Sevens team’s historic gold medal win at the Rio Olympics. We do unite during both in times of triumph and tragedy as witnessed twice this year. We united after the triumph of our national sevens team whose performance in Rio was poetry in motion. We united as a nation in an outpouring of grief and immediate assistance to victims of Severe TC Winston.

Unity during triumphant and tragic days is laudable but sadly it doesn’t transcend nationally, and tragically this Parliament remains fragmented as we struggle to find our feet to give true meaning to democracy because of “My Way or the Highway” attitude. For the last two years democracy has been used to ride roughshod over the people’s mandate.

We saw example of this on Monday Madam Speaker, when moving the motion to thank His Excellency for his gracious address, the Honourable Prime Minister ungraciously launched a vitriolic attack against the oldest and most principled political party in the country, the National Federation Party.

The National Federation Party has survived for the last 53 years, and will continue to do so for the next 53 years.

Madam Speaker, Leaders and Prime Ministers have come and gone, and will also come and go in future, but the NFP is an impregnable fortress of principles that it has never shirked for the last 53 years, is and will not shirk them come hell or high water.

On Tuesday the new Honourable Minister for Fisheries likened the Opposition to singing the same tune and being bereft of ideas. This is from a Member who as Honourable Minister for Employment told Parliament on 31st May 2016 during a motion on Occupational Health and Safety compliance issues in Fiji Sugar Corporation’s mills following fatalities of workers, that accidents were a fact of life and loss of life was not a new thing!

Madam Speaker, To borrow the slogan of the taxpayer funded Fiji Broadcasting Commission or FBC TV, “the difference is clear”. It is the Fiji First Government, which is bereft of ideas, sound and sensible solutions for the social, economic and political advancement of our nation.

Unfortunately, Madam Speaker His Excellency’s gracious address showed Government was bereft of ideas geared towards national unity, nation building and true nationhood. Because the statement by His Excellency is what Government wants to do in the ensuing parliamentary year. Essentially it is the Government’s statement of intent. Therefore His Excellency could only outline Government’s programme. My colleague Honourable Singh alluded to some statements yesterday made by His Excellency.

But Madam Speaker the Honourable Prime Minister’s senseless attack against the National Federation Party President, Honourable Roko Tupou Draunidalo who is not even in Parliament to defend herself and me as Leader of NFP, cannot go unchallenged. For the sake of posterity, we need to rebutt his statement of describing the NFP and its leadership a sham.

Firstly, the Honourable Prime Minister said NFP’s boycott of the opening of Parliament on 12th September by His Excellency was an insult to the President and Parliament.

Madam Speaker, Let me make it very clear, my arrest and incarceration in a police station cell for a total of 30 hours that ended on the night of Sunday 11th September along with others, especially a trade unionist who also twice served as Leader of NFP, was an insult to the many thousands of our supporters. This was done under the Public Order (Amendment) Decree 2012, one of the many Decrees that violate fundamental human rights and freedoms. The NFP Management Board decided and rightly so that we do not attend the opening of Parliament the next morning because violation of fundamental rights and freedoms under parliamentary democracy must be condemned in the strongest manner.

Even if it were “orders from the top” as we were told by police, true, we could have been treated differently, instead of being arrested from our homes in front of our families, causing them mental anguish, psychological trauma. To them this was intimidation and political persecution.

Secondly Madam Speaker, the Honourable Prime Minister said I boycotted the Constitution Day celebrations and described the document as a sham despite participating in the elections under the same Constitution – and because we won only three seats, we oppose the Constitution.

Nothing can be further from the truth. Madam Speaker both in 1992 and 1994 the NFP participated in the general elections under the racist, unjust and feudalistic 1990 constitution that it described as a façade on democracy, with the sole objective of changing the Constitution within the 7 year timeframe stipulated in that Constitution.

And the then NFP Leader Honourable Justice Jai Ram Reddy and then Prime Minister Major General Sitiveni Rabuka are rightly credited for giving us the much acclaimed 1997 Constitution through genuine dialogue, consensus building, painstaking negotiations and perseverance.

And the NFP and I participated in the elections under the 2013 Constitution with this objective as well, as clearly stated in our 2014 elections manifesto where we stipulated what legislation and draconian decrees need to be changed or repealed. And this can only be done by reviewing and repealing draconian decrees preserved under Section 173 of the Constitution.

Madam Speaker, the relevance of President Barack Obama’s last speech to the United Nations General Assembly last week to what I am saying is highly important and I quote:

“I believe in a liberal political order — an order built not just through elections and representative government, but also through respect for human rights and civil society, and independent judiciaries and the rule of law”.

On correcting economic imbalance so that economic growth benefits all instead of Governments legislating control of the economy, President Obama stated:

“I do believe there’s another path — one that fuels growth and innovation, and offers the clearest route to individual opportunity and national success. It does not require succumbing to a soulless capitalism that benefits only the few, but rather recognizes that economies are more successful when we close the gap between rich and poor, and growth is broadly based. And that means respecting the rights of workers so they can organize into independent unions and earn a living wage. It means investing in our people — their skills, their education, their capacity to take an idea and turn it into a business. It means strengthening the safety net that protects our people from hardship and allows them to take more risks — to look for a new job, or start a new venture”.

Madam Speaker, I subscribe to these principles. I was not bitter about not leading my party to victory in the elections because we were campaigning against a party that was in power as an unelected government for seven and a half years and most importantly in control of the Treasury and making unilateral decisions on how to spend taxpayer funds.

But we must be doing something right and adhering to our principles and objectives that I stated in my maiden address in Parliament on 15th October 2014, to have the Fiji First juggernaut in a worried state of mind and for them to launch vitriolic attacks on the NFP.

I thought the intervention on Wednesday of once the NFP flag bearer in Ba, Honourable Parveen Kumar for 12 years when he was the NFP mayor for 12 years until the Council with others nationwide was dissolved by military regime, but the same government that he is now serving, was symptomatic of a person who is confused about his or her own identity and loyalty.

Madam Speaker, Honourable Kumar called the protest actions of NFP under my leadership a joke, but he forgets that he repeatedly lobbied with his mentor and father like figure Mr Vinod Patel for me to become leader of the NFP as early as the beginning of 2014. He even called and congratulated me after my unanimous election as leader on March 29, 2014. So definitely it is not me or NFP who are playing flip flop politics but the likes of the Honourable Minister who jumped ship for reasons known to many of us.

Madam Speaker, I repeat what I stated on 14th October 2014, in my maiden speech and it nullifies the claim by the Honourable Prime Minister that I am still bitter about not leading the NFP to victory in the elections. I quote excerpts of that address:

“Madam Speaker, our people have spoken. They have elected their government for the next four years. We wish the Prime Minister Honourable Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama and his government well for the next four years”.

“To those who have had the privilege to be elected to this parliament; let me say; we have two obligations at the core of our role as MP’s. First, we have to make our democracy work; and second, we have to make our democracy work for our people”.

“What do I mean by that?”

“To make our democracy work; we need to ensure that our citizens and their organizations are able to freely comment, support and when needed criticize policies and programs being debated by this House. They need to know that our media will amplify their voices and ensure that their voices are directly heard by us. This way we will know how citizens feel about and experience government policies and programs. Our democracy will grow from this new openness”.

“Second, we need to make our democracy work for our people. The Honourable Prime Minister called for our support to his program for Government. We will extend that support. In extending that support, we will hold the Honourable Prime Minister to his own words”.

“When necessary we will criticize government’s policies. When we shall do so, it will not be for the sake of doing so, but because we in our considered view are able to provide credible alternatives”. – Unquote

Madam Speaker, if adhering to these principles and objectives is a sham, then I make no apologies. At halftime of our parliamentary democracy, my optimism for consensus building, dialogue and bipartisanship is fast evaporating. I wish I was wrong but the painful reality is that this parliament is perhaps the most fragmented and compartmentalized into two with the mace bearing witness to what is more and more becoming a place where majority rule prevailing at all times and sound and sensible solutions being swatted aside like flies.

The question that arises Madam Speaker is, are we beholden to a personality or personalities? Or should we be loyal to the people who placed their faith and trust in us?

For the last four days I have heard nothing but praises of the 2013 Constitution, especially of its provision of a common name of “Fijian” for all and “common and equal citizenry”.

Talk is cheap Madam Speaker. Does being a Fijian and common and equal citizenry guarantee every one employment on merit or equal opportunities? Does it guarantee a decent voluntary retirement from employment instead of enforced job loss at the age of 55 years? Does it guarantee employment on merit again in proportionate to the make-up of our multiethnic population? Does it guarantee decent pay for decent work for everyone doing the same job?

It does guarantee something Madam Speaker, By July next year each of our citizen will bear the average of burden of $6000 debt following the increase of our debt levels to five billion dollars. It does guarantee majority of our cyclone ravaged schools remaining unrepaired or un-built while Government’s “build it back better” scheme, which is in its infancy, struggles to find its feet. It does guarantee that children in the Cyclone ravaged district of Ra are dropping out of school because they do not have food.

And Madam Speaker calling everyone a Fijian, “guaranteeing common and equal citizenry and appointments based on meritocracy guarantee recruitment into the civil service and other job market on merit?

For example people have come to me and expressed their concerns about the full list of police recruits that was published in the Fiji Sun newspaper on 28th May this year.

I am requesting the Honourable Minister for Defence to provide us the criteria of the recruitments so that we can be satisfied that the recruitment of all 131 personnel was meritorious and in conformity to the principles of the Constitution. After all the Fiji First Government has repeatedly emphasised meritocracy as the benchmark for all appointments and this is exactly how it should be, nothing else.

Madam Speaker yesterday Parliament voted to increase the allowances of MPs. Yet Fiji First voted against my Motion during the Budget to provide $50 million a year for the next three years towards sugar rehabilitation to guarantee a minimum price of $90 per tonne of cane for growers, that will instill confidence in growers and increase crop production, subsidize land rentals and encourage landowners into cane farming.

Maybe Madam Speaker this Government thinks my Motion was a sham. But what really is a sham, is the decline of the sugar industry in the last ten years – primarily under the leadership of the Honourable Prime Minister.

There is no question that in the past 10 years, all the production indicators have fallen badly. We produced 220,000 tonnes of sugar from last year’s crop, down from 310,000 in 2006 — 30 per cent less. We grew 1.8 million tonnes of cane in 2016, down from 3.2million in 2006 — 44 per cent less. The number of active growers has fallen by 5674 from 18,636 to 12,872.

The only reason for the Prime Minister’s anger with the NFP is that we are questioning the value of his Government’s so-called reforms. We are doing so not to bring down the Government. We are doing so because long experience has told us what will work in the industry and what will not.

Madam Speaker, We have asked the Government to join hands with us and work together to save the industry. But the Government, as usual, wants to do things its way. It believes that it will get it right and claim all the political credit. It does not see the value of co-operation of a dissenting view. And it does not care if it is wrong — it will just think of another trick instead to cover up its mistakes.

The sugar industry is made up of thousands of growers. If they do not actively participate in it, there is no industry. It is as simple as this.

Madam Speaker, I can go on and on but I conclude with the remarks of the outgoing Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon who told the UN General Assembly in New York on 20th September and I quote:

“In too many places, we see leaders rewriting constitutions, manipulating elections and taking other desperate steps to cling to power,” he said. “My message to all is clear: serve your people. Do not subvert democracy; do not pilfer your country’s resources; do not imprison and torture your critics.”

Thank you Madam Speaker I know that the next time we meet will be February next year and therefore I take this opportunity to wish all the people of Fiji a Happy Diwali and a Merry Christmas.

May God Bless Fiji.