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A Public Relations Disaster

National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad says Government’s handling of the mysterious death of the USA couple has been a public relations disaster.

Professor Prasad said Government’s public utterances on the tragedy created a public perception, especially in the minds of the couple’s families in USA that Government was devoid of any compassion and humanitarianism.

“Almost two months after the couple’s death, Government finally informed the couple’s families this week that their bodies would be repatriated”.

“This is after saying that they were going to cremate the husband as his body was rapidly decomposing”.

“This is despite the fact that their bodies were embalmed and ready to repatriated”.

“Undoubtedly, this has been a huge public relations disaster and will impact the tourism industry, particularly visitor numbers from the United States”.

“Once again Government’s taxpayers funded Qorvis communications, which has received millions of dollars over the past years, has failed to prevent this colossal failure of a patchwork government”

Authorised by NFP Leader, Biman Prasad

NFP Leader Hits out at efl ceo

“FACTS DON’T LIE”

The National Federation Party says Energy Fiji Limited Chief Executive Officer Hasmukh Patel is deliberately misleading the nation to seek a substantial hike in electricity tariff in a bid to attract a buyer for the company and help boost revenue for the cash-strapped government.

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad said Mr Patel’s statement that EFL had lost $100 million as a result of a reduction in tariffs was a lie.

“Because if it were the truth that Mr Patel wants the people of Fiji to believe, then he should do the honourable thing and resign as the company would have made such a huge loss under his leadership despite substantially increasing its revenue”.

“Who is he trying to fool? The Annual Reports from 2010-2018 of Fiji Electricity Authority and EFL clearly portray a different picture of the company making profits and paying dividend to government”.

“Even  Mr Patel, as CEO of FEA and later EFL is bragging about the profits in the Annual Reports  from 2010 to 2018 that we have perused”.

Professor Prasad said proof of what he was saying is Mr Patel’s   statement in the EFL Annual Report of 2018  when it made a staggering profit of $63.9 million and even paid a $20 million dividend to government from its 2017 profits.

Mr Patel said, “ It’s hard to imagine a better start for our newly-corporatised entity, Energy Fiji Limited, than a record third-straight year of over $70 million in gross profits for the company. After taxes, our net profit for 2018 stands at $63.9 million, a figure that keeps us well on track to deliver on our ambitious agenda to raise quality and access to affordable energy for the Fijian people”.

“But what should make us all most proud in 2018 is that this year was an historic year for the electrification of rural communities across the country. EFL spent a record $16.4 million to electrify rural communities, developing 86 rural electrification schemes for the benefit of over 2,600 Fijian households”.

HON PIO TIKODUADUA – 2019/2020 BUDGET REPLY

Reply to the 2019-2020 Budget
Monday, June 17, 2019
By NFP President & Parliamentary Whip Hon Pio Tikoduadua

Mr Speaker Sir, I am reminded of four words used by the Honourable Minister for Economy in Parliament, while either presenting National Budgets or in his right of reply after debate in this august chamber, both during the last term as well as the current term of Parliament.

The four words are:  – intellectual rigour and social amnesia.


They remind me of Cyndy Lauper’s famous hit:“Time after Time” from the 80s.

The  second line in verse 1 is, and I quote, but shall not sing:

“Caught up in circles, confusion is nothing new”.

Again Mr Speaker – “Caught up in circles, confusion is nothing new”.

This is what this “Boom for Whom? Budget” is all about.

It is about being caught up in circles. It is about confusion. And tragically, it is about NOTHING NEW — just a rehash of the old and a vain attempt to muddy the water with high-tech convolution that will not feed hungry mouths..

Mr Speaker, allow me to quote from Hansard, the Honourable Minister  for Economy’s concluding remarks from his right of reply on 11th July 2017 to the 2017-18 Budget where he said: “The Fijian economy is forecasted to grow for eight consecutive years, and this Budget is expected to further boost business confidence, increase investments and provide the right impetus for higher growth, more inclusive and sustainable, more jobs for our people and our younger people and higher incomes. But the Opposition, unfortunately, is incomplete denial”. – Unquote

In July 2017, the Honourable Minister said the Opposition was in denial. Maybe, he meant the Opposition will be annihilated when it came to voting because Government dominated Parliament.

Mr Speaker, But almost two years later Government is up against a brick wall – both in terms of parliamentary opposition – as well as the clear evasion of ideas, excelling only in successfully confusing  taxpayers with pie-in-the-sky theories.

Quite simply, this Budget is not about boosting business confidence, increasing investments and providing the right impetus for higher growth. It is not about more inclusive and sustainable jobs for our people and our younger people and higher incomes.

This Budget will not reduce the cost of living. This Budget doesn’t provide incentives to increase wages and salaries based on Cost Of Living Adjustment, of ordinary workers as well as civil servants to sustain rising prices of all goods and services.

This Budget will not provide a decent and meaningful increase to the minimum wage to make it a living wage. This Budget is all about  replicating the status-quo of our sugar industry, which has suffered a 50% downturn in the last 12 years under the Bainimarama Boom.

And this Budget is also slowly but surely killing the goose that is laying golden egg – our tourism industry – by continuing to impose 25% taxes that is outpricing the industry compared to lucrative Asian destinations like Bali.

Mr Speaker, essentially this Budget  presents the question: A Boom for Whom? 

A picture relays a thousand words. At Fiji’s largest medical facility, the Colonial War Memorial Hospital, a wooden block is used as a stopper to prevent someone from locking him or herself in the washroom.

And most shamefully, an IV or intravenous tube is used as a lock to tie the door for what little privacy that any user can get.

This picture is emblematic of thethe sad state of our hospitals, roads and even schools.

It epitomizes the high falluting values of common and equal citizenry, now simply reduced it to a door that is hurriedly cobbled together with an IV tubeI now want to dwell on this most important issue in anyone’s life and critically important element in any government’s delivery of smart and efficient health care.

Mr Speaker, I have raised this matter twice before in this august Chamber. I have seen this broken door in the Acute Men’s Medical Ward at Colonial War Memorial Hospital since February 2018 when I was hospitalized. At that time it was only broken. More than 16 months later, instead of being repaired the door has further disintegrated. That door tragically heralds our gradual immersion into third world country staus.

Then Mr Speaker, there is this picture of broken and missing ceiling above the storage area of patients’ records.

Something is seriously wrong. If the Government cannot even fix a broken door or replace a missing ceiling in the largest medical facility in the country, how on God’s green earth can it fix an economy and improve the livelihoods of all our people?

How can it ensure that the rights and fundamental freedoms contained in the Bill of Rights of the 2013 Constitution are upheld at all times? Because from what we see, this Government is spiraling more towards the Limitations in the Bill of Rights, rather than actually upholding these rights

Mr Speaker Section 38 (1) of the 2013 Constitution (Right to health) states, “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) 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”.

Mr Speaker, the State cannot claim not to have resources to fix the door of the lone washroom used by patients in the Acute Medical Ward that has remained broken for the last 16 months!

The State has the resources to provide $10 million to host the ADB Conference. This Government has millions of dollars to lease top of the range vehicles from Vision Motors. This Government has the resources to pay the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers salaries, perks and privileges that are thoroughly over-proportionate to the size of the national economy.

Yet, Mr Speaker, this Government cannot to pay a decent living national wage to our workers, cannot fix a washroom door that forces  patients having shower, to simultaneously hold on to an IV tube that prevents somebody else from barging in!

Can you imagine? Well that is probably a rhetorical question as the Government side DO NOT HAVE TO imagine it because it is very likely that they enjoy healthcare treatment overseas. But in that moment, an individual in a high state of vulnerability trying to heal from an illness, cannot even be guaranteed safety and dignity in that washroom — all because of a door, or lack thereof.

It would be helpful if the relevant Minister could address some other observations of mine under his mandate:

  1. Is the cafeteria area at CWM being used as a make-shift ward for patients because other spaces including corridors are over-crowded with beds?
  2. Why is the outpatients department at the children’s ward closed?
  3. Why are cancer support to groups like WOWS (Walk On Walk Strong) Kids Fiji (WKF) a non-profit Charity Foundation for children with cancer in Fiji not being allocated funds to do the precious job that they do to support parents and families and the children suffering from cancer — the numbers of which are rising too!
  4. Why has the Kidney Dialysis Treatment Subsidy been culled from $3.5M last year to a mere $200,000 this year — who from the Ministry will play God and decide who lives or dies from going without dialysis because of such a shameful allocation? Is it the Minister? Or will it be the Messiah?
  5. What measures were taken to ensure the recent boiler fire did not spread to the fuel pump and oxygen line in close proximity?
  6. Is the Ministry re-evaluating the safety requirements to ensure such an incident in future doesn’t result in catastrophic consequences?
  7. Is it true that medical students and those doing post-graduate medicine studies arenot allowed to enhance their learning with doctors on duty during normal hours – as has been the practice for decades?
  8. Is HIV/AIDs medication stock in full supply now especially for those needing “second line” medication?
  9. Why are our dearly departed not being honoured in the mortuary and in many instances bodies lined up on the floor, creating doubly distressing situations for grieving families?

Mr Speaker, the public private partnership of the new Ba Hospital was hailed as a success by the Honourable Minister for Economy. But his statement early this year that the new hospital will start operations in June or July 2019, is one of the many instances of being “economical with the truth” — quite akin to his budget.

The hospital, we know, is going to be managed by Aspen that has partnered FNPF, albeit with 20% shares in the company created to manage Lautoka and Ba hospitals.

But we are reliably told that the Aspen has revealed that the hospital will not open in 2019. It will start operations in 2020 and there is no guarantee which part of 2020 that will be. We are also told that Aspen will not carry out additional works at the hospital despite it costing $30m to build and being labelled as a state or the art facility.

We further understand that Aspen could bill government to pay their costs of being a healthcare provider. And there are indications the the PPP hospital will not provide specialized surgeries as claimed.

The budget estimates show that the Health Budget has been reduced by $34.5 million compared to the last financial year, despite moving the salaries of Doctors from the Ministry of Civil Service allocation across this year.  As with all things, while the door analogy frames the reality of the optics, the NUMBERS proof is in the pudding of the hyped up narrative. The Estimates show the deeply dire picture that the public health services allocation for staffing has been slashed from $3.095 Million to about $370,000. While the divisional allocations for staffing have also had major cuts, all in the millions.

The Minister for Economy’s pre-emptive rationalisation in the media that civil servants will have to multi-task and that cuts were due to HR people padding the figures do not cut it There will be job losses across the board — the numbers do not lie.

That, however will the cross of the Minister for Health to bear. He has to defend his allocation. He will have to face distressed, anguished and maybe angry staff and taxpayers who will expect more than a door when clearly there are no funds for it. This the reality of what the REAL ECONOMISTS mean when they say “reduced expenditure”. The ability of the Government to spend money to provide for services that people expect, is simply not there.

Mr Speaker, the Republic of Fiji Military Forces Budget has been reduced by $7.3 million.

I note that the staffing provisions in the RFMF have also taken cuts except the naval and hydrography divisions. Understandably so because,  of the acquisition of RFNS Volasiga and RFNS Savenace and the hydrography vessel from China, RFNS Kacau. The disconnect however, is that the fuel and oil allocations for both activities do not match these acquisitions. Are we to expect from story of these numbers that while the naval and hydrography vessels will be fully manned, it will not actually do much out there on the water because it is crippled by lack of fuel?

The RFMF Commander publicly stated that buildings which housed RFMF operations were very old and needed replacing. He said this would be put on hold and hopefully they will be allocated resources when the economy is well again next year.

Mr. Speaker, the RFMF Commander’s statement implied that the economy is not doing well and that is why their Budget has been reduced.

This government decided to entrench RFMF’s role as the ultimate guarantor of national security of all Fijians under Section 131(2) of the 2013 Constitution. All ordinary Fijians should now ask whether RFMF is capable of guaranteeing their peace and security after trimming itsbudget.

Mr Speaker, I recall that less than 10 days before the general elections in November last year, the Honourable Prime Minister was asked on FBC Radio Fiji One talkback show Na Cava na GDP – What is GDP? He replied -GDP na Dinau – GDP is debt.

Mr Speaker, the Honourable PM must be commended for being forthright. He was absolutely right in saying GDP na Dinau because year in and year out, GDP has been inflated to borrow heavily  and to show that debt level is less than 50% to GDP and declining.

But we know from this Budget that this has been a cooking exercise – no doubt perfected by 48 hours of Level Nine-ing at Suvavou House last December to discuss strategies like low hanging fruits – according to the Honourable Attorney General.

All this has happened and is happening under the much touted Bainimarama Boom by the Honorable Minister for Economy while the Honourable Prime Minister told FBC news it was Boom, Boom, Boom!. Maybe he meant Kaboom because that  is exactly what it is!

All happening under the leadership of the Honourable PM and his right-hand man the Honourable Attorney General who told the electorate last October that not voting for Honourable PM Bainimarama would mean putting a dagger to their necks.

It appears the dagger is slashing everybody’s wallets except those of the Ministers, who freely help themselves to taxes but fail to follow through in its basic obligations of government services.

But the honourable Attorney General and his leader still think they are the chosen ones on the face of an economy staggering towards a steep decline.

My way or the highway, playing the blame game has been the hallmark  of this Government for over 12 years.

But the smokescreen has disappeared. The state of our nation and the current patch-work government, and doors hanging by IV tubes are all to visible to all.

This Budget must not further oppress and enslave the people of Fiji and I oppose the 2019-2020 Appropriation Bill.

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

-END-

END OF WEEK STATEMENT – GRAVE ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION hON. LENORA QEREQERETABUA

15/02/2018

The need to strengthen the Department of Environments’ EIA Unit

PLEASE CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

Mr Speaker Sir, I rise to give my end of week statement where I wish to highlight the dire need to strengthen the powers of the Environmental Impact Assessment Unit of the Dept of Environment, in light of recent incidents of grave environmental degradation in Fiji, some of which have only recently come to light.

Fiji has now ratified all of the major global human rights treaties, including last year’s ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. Environmental protection is essential to fulfilling many of the rights recognized in these agreements.

Mr Speaker, Sir, my following comments therefore should not be taken by the Minister responsible as an attack on his or government’s competency. Rather, because I offer feedback, observations and suggestions after having consulted with stakeholders from Environmental Law, from Civil Society and environmentally-minded members of the public, I hope the Hon Minister will take on board the points I highlight as I lobby for more resources for the EIA Unit, as we are all stakeholders in this plight.

The report by the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and Environment, Dr David Boyd at the end of his visit to Fiji last December made a number of significant observations regarding the Environment Management Act and in particular the EIA process.

For the information of Honourable Members and the public, Sir, Dr Boyd is an Environmental Lawyer and an internationally renowned expert on human rights and the environment, who was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council last year.  I accompanied Dr Boyd and his colleague, Ms Soo-young Hwang on several site visits in Suva during their stay here.

In his report Sir, Dr Boyd said it was clear that the Ministry of Environment is seriously under-resourced. For example, according to the Department of Environment website, under the heading Challenges, the website says “One of the major challenges is the lack of financial and technical resources; currently there are only “5-6 staff who handle waste and pollution related matters Fiji-wide” as part of the Waste Management and Pollution Control Unit.

The report goes on to recognise Fiji as a regional leader in recognizing the right to a healthy environment, having ratified multilateral environmental agreements, as well as the human rights treaties I mentioned earlier.   BUT the report stressed that We must have a strong Ministry of Environment to fulfil those commitments.

An issue Dr Boyd said had been raised repeatedly with him were problems with Environmental Impact Assessments, with members of the public expressing to him frustration with their inability to gain easy, timely and affordable access to important information, the lack of adequate consultation, constraints on the public’s ability to participate in assessment processes, the poor quality of some EIA reports, and the lack of access to remedies. Examples cited include proposed mining projects and the raising of the Wainisavulevu weir in Naitasiri by EFL.

Sir, Dr Boyd had heard from landowners about extensive mineral exploration activities affecting their lands without consultation and before the completion of any environmental assessment.

Dr Boyd agreed with me and many, many others and called the fee of $4.85 per page for an EIA report excessive, suggesting that it be waived for individuals and groups seeking to protect the environment and human rights.  I think EIA reports should be public documents, available to the public free. This is basic transparency and good governance.

Sir, The Environment Management Act 2005 provides for the appointment of an Environmental Tribunal, but there is no publicly available information regarding its members, procedures, or decisions. Rules governing the tribunal were published in 2013, but the absence of other public information makes the process as clear as mud.

Dr Boyd made an excellent suggestion in encouraging Fiji to consider creating an online environmental registry that would make extensive information publicly available, including permit applications and decisions, pollution data, and enforcement actions taken. Such a registry would enhance the public’s ability to participate meaningfully in environmental decision-making in Fiji.

Mr Speaker, Sir.  The following are comments gathered from my consultations with environmental law experts and conservationists working in and around Fiji and based on a number of cases reported to them by the community;

They all agree that the DoE does not have enough expertise, capacity or resources to adequately implement EMA and the EIA.  

Also highlighted, Sir, was an apparent lack of proper and meaningful consultation.  Two cases from Lautoka are prime examples; Field 40, Lautoka where a cement factory is placed right on the edge of the large community, with only a road separating the community from the cement factory.   Here families have been complaining about health, noise and many other issues associated with having such a factory placed in your backyard.   In Vakabuli paipai River between Lautoka and Ba representatives of a community complained about gravel extraction affecting all aspects of their livelihood.  Sir the extent of extraction has left the river and its banks with nothing but mud.  The human cost is also high, generations of families have lived in the area and have lost livelihoods.  In these communities, residents complain about the lack of consultation, lack of information and lack of knowledge about developments that occur in their backyards.

If I may dwell briefly on Terms of Reference, Sir.  In some instances the TORs , which guide the content required of the EIA have tended to be generic, rather than specific to the proposed development. Case in point – building a jetty at Maui Bay had same TOR as Magma Mines for mining in the Sigatoka river.

The TOR must be developed to reflect not only the specific requirements of the law, but also to ensure that it is relevant to the type of development, so that risks that are specific to certain developments are properly assessed. 

This requires persons with relevant expertise and or knowledge about the type of development and able to provide relevant input to the TOR. 

The observation is that DOE staff don’t seem to be able to critically review EIA reports – often times the TORs are not fulfilled though the EIA was approved, and the reports are largely desktop surveys rather than new data. If we don’t have suitably qualified people in Fiji; can we not ask our friends Australia and in particular NZ to second us personnel with experience in their much more robust environmental regulation space?

My consultations found issues with the way in which EIA Consultants are hired, Sir. 

The roster of Department of Environment (DoE) approved EIA Consultants continues to include some that have undertaken, and been allowed to undertake, their EIA consultancies with disregard to their TORs, contrary to the EIA procedures.

[Example if required – We have experienced where an unethical “consultant” failed to reveal to folks in an informal settlement that a development would result in their homes in the settlement being removed and then asked them to sign a document that they have no objection to the development].

Sir, the DoE must, in accordance with the Environment Management Act, be equipped, and be allowed, to fully manage the whole EIA process which appears not to be the case at present. The extent and manner in which the critical “public consultations” are to be conducted is ill-defined. The DoE fails to accompany and monitor the manner in which a consultant conducts an EIA in particular the extent and integrity of the public consultations. Currently the DoE frequently appears limited in its ability to monitor environmental issues; to take proactive measures to mitigate against environmental degradation; and also to respond when members of the environmentally concerned public draw its attention to cases of environment degradation and seek its intervention

Public Consultations are frequently not properly advertised, held during working hours, not minuted, and not attended by the relevant town council nor by senior DoE personnel suggesting that they do not take the development and the EIA process seriously. At times it appears as though the public is only included in a “box ticking” exercise in a pretence of a “public consultation” process when in reality the decision has already been made that the development will proceed irrespective of the concerns of the potentially effected community*. There still remains the ludicrous notion that only those living within a 1 kilometre radius of the proposed development may be subject to its environmental impact.

*[In the case of the Tengy Cement factory an EIA consultant held a charade of a public consultation after the construction of the factory was near completion].

Currently, Mr Speaker Sir, it is the developer that pays the EIA consultant which obviously risks a potential, or actual, conflict of interest. It is not in the commercial interest of an unethical EIA consultant to reveal to the public what they may know to be the full extent of the potential negative impact of a development. It is proposed therefore that the developer should instead pay the DoE who then pays the consultant who is then directly answerable to the DoE in terms of the manner in which he/she complies with the TORs and conducts the EIA.

In addition, the EIA study must be reviewed after it is completed.  This is mandatory under section 30 of EMA.  The review must be conducted by an independent consultant or by a review committee appointed by the EIA Administrator or the approving authority.   After the review the report should be available for public inspection. There is little to no information about the review of any of these reports however the review process is a very important part of the EIA process. 

Sir, the first case we are aware of that was prosecuted under EMA is indicative of the lack of awareness and knowledge of EMA by both the Prosecutor and the Courts. In the DPP vs China Railway First Group (Fiji) Limited CR 788/2017 the China Railway Company was charged with one count of Undertaking an Unauthorized Development contrary to section 43(1) of EMA. A penalty of $10,000 (from a possible or maximum fine of $750,000) fine was given to the Company for the development of an asphalt plant that was 90% completed without a proper EIA.  The sentencing remarks by the Magistrate Court indicated a lack of understanding of the EIA process and EMA as a whole given that there were no remedial actions ordered and the magistrate accepted the lack of evidence of environmental impact as a mitigating factor.

I beg the Hon Minister to find out if the DOE has been requiring environmental bonds from projects, including those that may be at high risk of damaging the environment (i.e. dredging, mining). If the answer is no, it means the law is not being used to its full capacity.

To quote Dr Boyd again, Sir, Fiji faces major challenges related to the implementation and enforcement of the commitments made in its environmental laws, regulations and decrees.

EIA unit of the dept of the environment needs teeth, sharp ones.

As I wind up, Sir, and in case I have not yet convinced the House; here is a short story of my own;

  1.  Last year, some friends of mine in Nadroga needed my help to file a complaint to the Dept of Environment about some dredging equipment which had come lose during a storm and had been thrown onto the reef just outside the mouth of the Sigatoka River.  These friends had called the Dept, which had informed them that they had to fill out the complaints form.  Which is NOT available on their website!  So in order for these environmentally-minded friends in Nadroga to file a complaint to the Dept, I had to go to the Dept office on MacGregor Road for a hard copy of the form, scan it and email to Sigatoka, for them to download, print, fill out, scan and email back to the Dept!  This was a small inconvenience for me, but would be virtually impossible for many in rural and maritime areas, where much of the environmental degradation occurs out of sight and out of mind as it were.
  2. I asked a question in the comment section of the Dept’s website on April 17, 2018.  Yesterday, February 14th, 2019, some 10 months later, my comment was, and I quote from the website,  “still awaiting moderation”! 
  3. My comment on the website was to request that the complaint form be made available on the website.

I hope Sir that the EIA Unit of the Dept of the Environment gets the urgent support and resources that it so desperately needs to carry out the work it is supposed to do under the Environmental Management Act of 2005.  And I hope Sir that the Unit is allowed to do this work independently, within the bounds of the law and without any meddling.

Mr Speaker, Sir, I end by registering my appreciation to the Parliament of Fiji, which I dare say, took note of my sentiments in my December Maiden Speech and earlier social media comments in regards the number of single-use plastic bottles used in this chamber.  It was pleasing to find this note on my desk on Monday; it is a step in the right direction. 

Change is indeed coming.

Thank you, Mr Speaker, Sir

Statement by NFP President Mr Pio Tikoduadua; Commenting on the outcome of the 2018 General Elections

November 21, 2018

We do not want to miss this opportunity, on behalf of our party, to thank our leader, Professor Biman Prasad, for his wise, courageous and principled leadership in the last four-and-a-half  years.

We know that he is not happy with the electoral result. But we want him to know that our party is solidly behind him. A legendary party does not look at the short term. It remembers contributions from the past and it looks to the future.

Biman came to NFP’s leadership at its lowest ebb, at a time when the country was under military government and there was little hope for the opposition. In spite of that, he re-built the foundations of our party and led us into Parliament; and he has kept us there.

He has changed the face of the party into a truly multi-racial grouping; he has constantly reminded us that we are here not for ourselves, but for the people, particularly the most vulnerable in our community.

He has faced all manner of personal attacks and intimidation, including a vicious campaign against him this election by Fiji First. He is undeterred – and so are we.

The party is strong and united under Biman’s leadership.  We are an accountable, democratic party because of his leadership. Many of us came into this party because of his leadership.  And we have a solid, credible platform for the future because of his leadership.

Authorised by Pio Tikoduadua

President of the National Federation Party

Work together to resolve Fiji’s problems

November 21, 2018

Election campaigns are usually intense and sometimes even acrimonious and divisive.  The 2018 election campaign was no exception.

The heat of the campaign is now over. The scrutiny of the election count is not.  When there is a result as close as this one, we owe it to our supporters and to the country to ensure that it is correct.

The official result is that the Fiji First Party has won the election. We of course respect that result. We are looking carefully at it.  If a legal challenge is merited we will bring one. But if it is not merited, we will not. We are looking at the evidence and taking advice. I cannot say anything more about this now.

For the moment, and based on the official result, it is appropriate to congratulate the Fiji First Party for its lead in the polls.

I want to acknowledge the great restraint and tolerance demonstrated by all our people both during the campaign and during the balloting.  It is a real credit to them.

I ask everyone to maintain that same calmness and unity, whatever the final result proves to be. Whatever we feel about the current election outcome, instability and division would be worse.

The election result was close. The official results show that Fiji First received only 147  more votes than the opposition parties. Its majority in Parliament has been slashed from 14 to 3.

Even that majority comes only because of a special formula that Fiji First chose for itself in 2014. On a simple proportionate count, Fiji First’s majority would be 1 seat. The lead is marginal, probably most embarrassing result for a ruling party, and nothing to gloat about.

On a result that close, whoever is in the government should think carefully. If so many people have voted for alternative policies and platforms, a good government would show respect to that.

This election result is a rejection of Fiji First’s dictatorial and bulldozing style of government. If it is smart, it will change the way it governs.

The election may be over, but our problems are not. They are the same as they were before the election. We have serious poverty and economic inequality. We have a failing sugar industry, under-developed opportunities in agriculture and poor public services including education and health. Fiji’s score on NCDs and domestic violence are rampant and amongst the highest in the world.

We can fix these problems faster if we work together. If the government wishes to work positively with the opposition parties on Fiji’s problems, we are ready. We will do it from the Opposition. We will always scrutinize and criticize, because that is the Opposition’s job. The government’s job is to accept that scrutiny and criticism and to change where needed. That is what democratic governments do.

For NFP, we did not get the result we wanted. We increased our share of the popular vote but we fell a few votes short of increasing our numbers in Parliament. We will continue to fight, inside Parliament and out, for better wages for our workers, a lower cost of living, better housing, fair prices for our farmers, better education and health and better opportunities for our youth. That does not change with the election result.

In accordance with our party rules and procedure I will present the result to the NFP Management Board when it meets next week so we can consider our future direction thereafter.  At some point in the near future the right thing for me to do is to put my own leadership on the table. I have made no decisions at this stage about my own political future. I will consult the party leadership and supporters first.

I want to finish on a positive note. I have worked with a great team of candidates. I want to thank them enough for stepping forward. It takes courage to put yourself forward as a candidate. But it takes double that courage to do so in the climate of fear that is maintained by Frank Bainimarama’s government.  They and our party activists, particularly our young people, in these elections has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for me.  There is a whole new generation of leadership in the NFP. Our time will come. The results of this election mean that it is only a matter of time.

We call ourselves a legendary party.  We are not here for power or prestige. We are a party of principles. We are not a personality cult that blindly follows one individual. We are a party that believes in lasting social, economic and political advancement of all Fiji’s people. That will never change.

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

Remarks at 2018 Manifesto Launch Vunimono Community Hall, Nausori Thursday, November 1, 2018 By NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad

Welcome to the launch of our manifesto. I will try to be brief in my comments tonight. Because this is a document we want people to take away and read.

The manifesto has some of our ideas for government.  We had meetings with many people, all over Fiji, for many months. We listened to them. Our NFP candidates also listened and talked to the NFP leadership.

We received so many ideas. We could not put them all into this document. So these are the main plans we have for government.  But we have many more.

When the Prime Minister announced the election and launched his election campaign, he promised a campaign of ideas.

Then – nothing. No ideas. Nothing from Fiji First. Nothing except attacks on the opposition parties.   Fiji First is just reacting to what NFP has to say.

We talk about increasing the minimum wage. They say they will “study” it.  We talk about change. They say nothing needs to change.

We disagree.  We say – change is coming.

We are the party setting the agenda in this campaign. We have laid out clearly what we will do.  And because we have been in touch with people, we know what to do.

  • We will implement a $5 per hour minimum living wage
  • We will pay fair prices to our cane growers, including a minimum guaranteed price of $100 per tonne of cane
  • We will make 15 food items VAT-free and reduce VAT on medicines, kerosene and a range of other critical products
  • We will change the face of university education
  • We will spend $200 million a year on housing
  • We will reform our health and education systems.

And tonight one behalf of Team NFP, I proudly announce the 15 basic food items that will be made VAT free or zero-rated. You must remember that 6 basic food items plus kerosene were VAT free, until  Fiji First in a gross betrayal of its 2014 election promise, re-imposed 9% VAT on them.

But do not worry.  We are addressing your greatest concern, which is the exorbitantly high cost of living. The 15 basic food items are: –

  1. Rice
  2. Flour
  3. Cooking Oil
  4. Tinned Fish
  5. Tea
  6. Powdered milk and liquid milk
  7. Butter
  8. Noodles
  9. Potatoes
  10. Onion
  11. Garlic
  12. Canned Tuna
  13. Locally Produced Eggs
  14. Bread
  15. Locally Produced Frozen Chicken

Additionally, NFP will make VAT FREE the following:

  1. Prescription medication
  2. Kerosene
  3. Women’s sanitary products
  4. Baby milk formula
  5. Diapers
  6. Toilet paper
  7. Soap
  8. Imported fruits

NFP will also REDUCE DUTY  on imported:

  • Lamb products
  • Ghee
  • School shoes
  • School bags

As well as

  • Reduce by 20% Excise Duty on locally produced Beer and Spirits

On the Social Welfare Pension, Ladies and Gentlemen, We will increase social welfare allowances for our poorest people, the sick and intellectually handicapped below the threshold of $30.000.  Social Welfare allowances for the ages will be increased as follows:

Age group                   Allowances

60 – 65 yrs                    $100 per month

65 – 70 yrs                    $200 per month

Over 70 yrs                  $300 per month

 

The benefits of a growing economy should be available to all and not just the rich getting richer.  Hardworking Fijians deserve to eat healthy and have the basic necessities of life.

These ideas have come from months of listening and consulting.  Because that is how every government should operate. .

Today’s Fiji Times carries a report with the headline “Wife shares daily struggles. Bimla Wati of Wailea Settlement in Vatuwaqa says and I quote, “Sometimes my husband and I have to fast so our son can eat because we don’t have any food”. This is because her husband earns only $70 a week as a grasscutter and has no formal employment.

Why has Fiji First said nothing? Because they do not yet know what their policies are. They are waiting for the Attorney-General to think up more gimmicks and more freebies.

So we do not really care what the Government says now.  They are yesterday’s story. We are tomorrow’s.  We have listened, and we have learned.  And we are ready to deliver.

Today Attar Singh and I had a meeting with the garment manufacturers who criticised our minimum wage policy. We had a good conversation. We have not agreed on everything – not yet. But we are talking to each other. We are working together. And that is exactly how we want it to be – with everybody.

We offer our plans for government to the people of Fiji with humility and a strong sense of purpose.  Fiji has had years of two-man rule, propped up by propaganda and handouts.

We want something different. We want a strong, proud, vibrant Fiji in which we are working together and expressing our views passionately on what we want. We want a smart Fiji where we are combining our talents for the common interest. We want a compassionate Fiji where we never lose sight of the most vulnerable people in our society and we are ready to support them.

This is how we want Fiji to change. And we say again – change is coming.

Ladies and gentlemen in a NORMAL democracy the convention and indeed the practice is that once an election is announced the outgoing government gives the country a STATE OF THE NATION report and fully discloses the government’s finances, revenue and expenditure performance, budget position, accumulated surpluses or deficits as the case may be.

But we know we are not in a normal democracy.  The hallmark of the Bainimarama government has been secrecy.  They have withheld or kept as closely guarded secrets the vital statistics and data which should be in the public domain.  Where they have disclosed the data has been obsolete and unreliable.

In these circumstances all opposition parties have to rely on our own estimates and projections for as we plan our policies.

We therefore ask that our Manifesto be read with that cautionary note.

Be that as it may, the majority of the policies outlined in our Manifesto and other policy statements are cost neutral and will be funded by budgetary realignments.

Ladies and gentlemen an NFP government will allocate over one billion dollars over the next four years on our package of policies and measures for reduction in the cost of living, improving public health care and education.

There will be no new taxes as the revenue reduction and additional expenditure will be funded from within the budget and from savings outlined in the manifesto especially in curtailing government extravagance and abuse, making the public service more efficient and further improving revenue collection.

Government’s capital expenditures will be reprioritised with an additional $200 million allocation to provide critical housing support to the most vulnerable in our society.

We will ensure there is greater transparency and accountability in the use of public funds.

Ladies and gentlemen our Manifesto is about re-empowering our people with fundamental freedoms and the ability to live and work with dignity.

The combined effect of the policies and measures are targeted at achieving GDP growth rate above 4% a year over the next four years.  We will create at least 5000 new public sector jobs over the next four years.  And at least 10,000 in the private sector.

After four years of thoroughly scrutinising Government policies in Parliament, we can confidently say that this Government not, transparent, not accountable and is dictatorial.

Many, many, of our questions and Motions on national interest, transparency, accountability and good governance,  did not even reach the floor of Parliament after being rejected by the Business Committee determining the proceedings of parliament.

But that is history. Because a new dawn with clear blue skies and a night filled with glittering stars will start on 15th November.

Light will prevail over darkness, good will triumph over evil, unity will prevail over division.

Change is coming

Change is inevitable

Badlaao nischit hai

Ena yaco na veisau

God bless NFP

God bless Fiji

 

 

Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum in the garment factories

In a debate with Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum on Thursday, I said I would not be surprised if he appeared in a garment factory tomorrow.

And sure enough, today (Friday) he popped up in two garment factories in Valelevu and Nadawa.

I wonder what he told them.  Perhaps that if they voted for NFP their employers would close down?

He talks about daggers at people’s necks. Why wouldn’t he threaten their jobs?

It is all threats and intimidation at Fiji First. When will they give Fiji’s people some policies?

I have already said it. An NFP government will have a policy package to support low-wage employers to transit to a $5 per hour living wage for their workers. They will not have to bear the whole burden themselves.  But they will have to bear their fair share.

Many garment factories, for example, no longer produce low-cost garments. Many have become high end, niche manufacturers who make good margins on their products.  It would be wrong for their owners to profit from poorly paid workers.

We have promised to consult and work together with everyone in everything we do.  That includes employers.

We want to deliver a living wage to our poorest workers, without job losses. We will work hard and imaginatively to do it.

But Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and his allies in business do not want to even try.

The difference is clear!

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

 

 

Dishonesty: Reginald Jokhan advised client on how to beat the rent freeze

The National Federation Party says Fiji First candidate Reginald Jokhan  urged dishonesty and exploitation of ordinary people by advising  one of his clients  seeking residential tenancy on how to  beat the rent freeze so as to avoid any issues with Fiji Revenue and Customs Service (formerly Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority)

NFP candidate Kamal Iyer says a copy of an email sent to the Party clearly shows Mr Jokhan telling  the client  “with the rental freeze in place it would be advisable seek as high rent as possible  so that in future there won’t be any issues with FRCA or other bodies”.

“If this is not irrefutable evidence of dishonest practice, what is?” Mr Iyer asked

“Here is a candidate of the ruling Fiji First Party, who undoubtedly would have applied for Fiji First candidacy when he sent this email at 11.52am on 17th August 2018,  accusing the NFP Leader of dishonesty and  breaching a verbal agreement  by allegedly short-changing him on the payment of commission, 15 years after being paid the agreed sum.“

“While his claim, coming 15 years later, is  frivolous and defamatory , his email to a client in August  this year is encouraging fraudulent practice and forcing would be tenants to pay exorbitant rent”.

“Mr Jokhan is encouraging unscrupulous practice. This is at the height of dishonesty  by advising  someone on how to beat the rent freeze. He has no political morality, character and credibility”.

“This is the kind of candidates that Fiji First’s two-men rule has selected – exploiting unsuspecting ordinary citizens, verbally defecating racial filth and trying to throw mud at the NFP”.

Kama Iyer

NFP Candidate

Also attached : Email by Reginald Jokhan: Client’s name has been blacked out