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Over ruling the environment report

The NFP Whip, Hon Prem Singh rose to make an End of Week statement.

Below is the text of his intervention. (Please check against delivery) ~ Sigatoka Totoka

In response, the Agriculture Minister bellowed for dramatic effect, a shoddy response obfuscating the law, knowing full well that NFP had been in communication with the Minister’s Permanent Secretary as well as the Permanent Secretary for Environment and his Director, who responded with delays and silence.

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Madam Speaker

I rise to make an End of Week statement requesting that this august House, in the spirit of bipartisanship, call on the Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management make publicly known the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the extraction of sand-ore (magnetite) in Kulukulu in line with the High Court Order of 2016 pertaining to the public’s entitlement to access and obtaining copies of EIA reports without restrictions.

Madam, during the business committee you will recall that there was confusion about the exact site that I wanted to speak about.

I intend to clarify that here and now.

We understand that the Australia parent company “Dome Gold Mines” has been granted SPL 1495 for the Sigatoka Ironsands Project where sand ore (magnetite) is the target mineral. We have seen the maps projected online and they are being transmitted on the feed now.

We also understand that SPL 1495 was inching towards a full mining license as at November 2016.

But Madam Speaker, we have been inundated with calls of concern from angry residents and communities who are situated near where the mouth of the Sigatoka river meets the sea, because of what looks to be like aggressive dredging happening there.

The public SPL 1495 documents provided by Dome show that part of their project includes dredging and this is our concern. There is no clarity on who is doing that dredging and what their parameters are.

The residents and communities that we have spoken to are outraged because of the environmental devastation that they see on a day to day basis.

The eyewitness accounts say that China Railway is doing the dredging for which the machines operate day and night, pausing for only 2 hours in a day causing sleepless nights for those in the immediate surrounds.

The Muasara wetland was an idyllic rivermouth environment with a natural beachfront and abundance of fish and thriving marine biodiversity. The local residents used to welcome surfers and locals who enjoyed that beautiful beach front. It is now a very sorry and ugly site. Environmental devastation Madam Speaker, and you don’t need to be a scientist to figure that out.

There are deadpools of still salt water stagnating there. The residents and local communities said that baby fish were seen dead along the shoreline. Dead fish floating in the river mouth have been sighted upstream in Lawai village and in waterways along the Coral Coast.

A Kulukulu farmer said his farm was totally destroyed because the dredging waste blocked the natural water drainage during the last heavy rains. His entire crops were swamped with the muddy slush and could not be saved.

Madam Speaker, every mining company knows the importance of a SOCIAL CONTRACT. When mining companies seek interest for investors to get on board, the first thing investors will look at is whether or not there is a SOCIAL CONTRACT. From the documentation that we have seen provided to the Australian Stock Exchange for transparency purposes, we know what Dome Mining has strong Japanese backing, with additional investment from China.

But Madam Speaker, the SOCIAL CONTRACT for SPL 1495 does not exist regardless of how effectively the regulators think they can manipulate consent, as we know they have been doing.

Madam Speaker, the Honourable Minister responsible for the EIA document for this project, is our Climate Champion. We commend that however we ask that it be proven here, first. In Fiji.

The importance of thriving marine ecosystems can not be understated and it is a crying shame that easy money is being sought through extraction, at the cost of the life of our environment and the livelihoods of the local community.

Madam Speaker, in order for Fiji to realize the potential of the micro-life we need to understand not only the minerals but the life and the genetic resources that we have. The muasara flats was teeming with life!

That is why, also related to this is the need for this House to see the draft laws that we know that is sitting in the Solicitor General’s Office related to “Traditional Knowledge Cultural Expression” to ensure that the genetic resources related to the Nagoya Protocol is understood and protected from pharmaceutical and such like interests. Those are also multi-billion dollar industries Madam Speaker, and our thriving biodiversity is a gold-mine — we just don’t know what we have.

If the Minister see’s fit to make the full EIA report publicly available, we — us and the people out there — can help him ensure that laws and regulations are upheld.

Fiji must come first.

I thank you Madam Speaker.

Failed Medicine Scheme.

The NFP Leader, Hon Prof Biman Prasad responds to the ministerial statement by the Health Minister and states that the Free Medicine scheme is not not working.

The NFP Leader urged the Government to re-design this scheme by putting this Free Medicine funds aside and allowing the pharmacies to procure the listed medicines themselves, and claiming back from Government rather than the current wholesale procurement by the Government Pharmacist.

Hon Prof Biman said that hopefully this approach would reduce the bottlenecks and inefficiencies and improve the supply chain, and allowed private companies like pharmacists to get on with business.

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