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Remember and Help Those Who Are Suffering.

As we enter the Easter long weekend and as Christians all over the world and in Fiji commemorate Lord Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, we remember our many ordinary people who today endure suffering.

Let us remember and reach out to our suffering countrymen and women and see in them the message of Easter, and of the suffering of Jesus Christ.

Of those that are homeless and of which we see on the streets of our towns and cities; of those that are wondering what the next day will be with or without one full meal; of those that are sick or suffer from family tragedies; of those that still live and school in tents; of those whose dignity have been discarded.

Let us look and reach beyond our comfortable circle and communities – to those across from us, who endure suffering and condemnation.

Let us reach out and help them and continue with this message of Easter into our daily lives – not in just in words but in our own deeds.

May you all have a blessed Easter

Professor Biman Prasad

Leader Of NFP

Easter Message by NFP Leader

 

 

 

Village By-Laws Will Be Revoked by an NFP Government

MEDIA RELEASE: April 7, 2017

National Federation Party Leader Hon Professor Biman Prasad says the revocation of the Village By-Laws will be a high priority of an NFP Government because it disenfranchises the rural  i Taukei community.

Professor Prasad has described the Village By-Laws as an agenda of the Fiji First Government to control and coerce people into accepting their imposition.

“We expect the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission to investigate whether the by-law’s are discriminatory and will marginalise our rural i Taukei communities.”

“The Government’s sponsorship of the by-laws points to an attempt to unilaterally force an issue that addresses social issues that are prevalent all over the country, and is not solely limited to villages alone.”

“If the Government thinks that people do not see how they are using their appointees and proxies at the local level such as the Turaga Ni Koro’s to execute their designs, they are sorely mistaken.”

“Similarly, the Rotuma Bill has already been rejected by the people of Rotuma and their traditionally appointed spokespeople. While we appreciate that a Parliamentary Standing Committee is still looking at the Bill, we will await their findings and recommendations when it comes to the Parliament and respond accordingly with what we have been advised by the Rotuman community”.

“The tinkering of age old customs and traditions of our indigenous and Rotuman communities, as well as entrenching conversational and contemporary i Taukei and Fiji Hindi languages in the 2013 Constitution to be compulsorily taught in all primary schools, is further confirmation of this Government’s scant regard for social and moral values as well as invaluable lessons contained in the formal languages of both communities”.

“Section 43 of the by-law that states that it is unlawful to enter a village without formal authorization of the Provincial Council for any other purpose than visitation, is clearly intended to limit access by political parties and is further confirmation of control of our people who should be free to make their own decisions without any State sponsored control.”

“This is symptomatic of a Government that has lost its way and is rudderless, only choosing to ride roughshod over all people and manipulate processes that they think will tilt the balance in their favour. The domino effect of the culmination of all their misplaced policies will be echoed to them loud and clear come elections in 2018.”

 

Authorised by: –

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

 

NFP LEADER – We will revoke Village By-laws

 

 

ASHWIN RAJ MUST BE DISMISSED FROM HIS POSITIONS: NFP

MEDIA RELEASE: April 3, 2017

The National Federation Party has called for the immediate dismissal of Ashwin Raj in both his positions as Chair of the Media Industry and Development Authority (MIDA) and Director of the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission (FHRADC), following his suggestions to stifle freedom of speech on national television.

Party Leader, Professor Biman Prasad, said that the suggestions on Sunday night 2nd April) by Mr Raj on FBCTV Current Affairs Show For the Record, where he urged the State to pursue the regulation of social media are shocking and must be condemned in the strongest terms.

“The NFP strongly condemns these suggestions to the State by Mr Raj, which we know are all being said under the pretext of “responsibility.”

“It is chilling, unconstitutional and could be easily wielded as an instrument to again stifle the voices of the people of Fiji.”

“What we find further disturbing are his pointed attacks on political parties and then the further justification of these attacks, to bring in regulation over social media.”

“The NFP sees this as a blatant attempt to stifle the voices of political parties in the lead-up to elections next year.”

“Fiji already has in place a heavily regulated media industry, with draconian laws, and penalties.”

“There is no need to introduce further laws to stifle civil liberties. There is instead a great need to repeal these laws.”

Professor Prasad added that citizens had taken to Mr Raj himself, their complaints on communal antagonism against FBCTV for the program Wasea Basha.

“However Mr Raj merely brushed these off as not meeting the “threshold for inciting communal discord.”

“It seems he has conveniently changed his mind on what such a “threshold” constitutes when this has concerned the State and its representatives”

“We are also appalled with the false accusations and political commentary that have emerged from Mr Raj in defending the statement of Fiji’s Ambassador to Geneva, Nazhat Shameem at the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council.”

“His statement was based on an inaccurate lengthy version of the Ambassador’s statement, which the Fiji Mission in Geneva continued to have on its website and furthermore made some serious political commentary and opinion of what he thinks is true.”

“He continued to drive that agenda on Sunday night on FBCTV.”

“As the Director of a constitutionally independent commission, Mr Raj had cast inaccurate, political aspersions on opposition political parties, without checking the basic facts, including the true record of the speech.”

“The fact that a public servant in the Director of the FHRADC, has come into the political scene, falsely accusing opposition political parties of his own opinionated conclusion, contradicts the behaviour expected of pubic servants which explicitly demand political neutrality and impartiality.”

“They contravene the constitutional values and principles expected of public servants who should display high standards of behavior, including professional ethics and integrity.”

“I call on the Chairperson and members of the FHRADC who are constitutionally responsible for the promotion, protection, observation, of human rights, to take a proactive interest in the work of the commission and its officers, particularly its Director.”

“Mr Raj should be terminated from his positions to allow other more worthy, neutral and independent Fijians to apply for the position. His utterances and accusations are damning where he has crossed the line as a public servant acting as a mouthpiece for a political agenda.”

 

Authorised by: –

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

 

NFP LEADER – Ashwin Raj must be sacked from his positions

 

Poll support

THE FIJI TIMES: Nasik Swami
Saturday, April 01, 2017

IT will be interesting to see how the approval ratings of political party leaders emerge as the country moves closer to the 2018 General Election, says an academic.

Economist Neelesh Gounder of the University of the South Pacific (USP) says political leaders have very little time remaining to build on the trust of the electorates and win their votes.

Mr Gounder said the Tebbutt-Times poll in February, which gave FijiFirst leader Voreqe Bainimarama an approval rating of 78 per cent as prime minister of Fiji ahead of Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa (44 per cent), National Federation Party (NFP) leader Professor Biman Prasad (36 per cent) and Social Democratic Liberal Party leader Sitiveni Rabuka (34 per cent), was a base for leaders to build on their support.

“The magnitude of approval for each of the three leaders appears to be related with the other poll question on preferred choice for prime minister. Although at varying levels, the poll results show all leaders enjoy stronger approval than disapproval in their leadership role,” he said.

 

Mr Gounder said while Mr Bainimarama had a strong lead in terms of approval ratings, the leaders of other parties also fared out strongly considering the nature of media coverage of party leaders in the public arena.

“Prof Prasad’s approval is higher among the iTaukei (42 per cent) than Fijians of Indian descent (33 per cent).

“This is particularly interesting as it shows his support spans across both major communities. It also shows that the NFP leader’s message is cutting across both communities in a positive way.”

Mr Gounder said Prof Prasad’s rating was significantly higher in the Western Division (41 per cent) than in Central Division (29 per cent).

“This could potentially reflect NFP’s continuous stand on issues related to the plight of sugarcane farmers.

“The other surprising aspect is the approval rating of SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka. Despite not being in Parliament, his net approval is 34 per cent. It will be interesting to see how the leaders’ net approval/satisfaction ratings emerge as Fiji moves closer to the elections.

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=394970

 

 

NFP to PM: Charity begins at home

MEDIA RELEASE: March 31, 2017

 

It is unbelievable that the Prime Minister, while calling for a grand coalition of nations and the private sector to tackle Climate Change, cannot even co-operate with others in his own country.

The Prime Minister, while addressing Private Sector Climate Leaders in the United States this week (29th March), called for a “grand coalition” between people in other countries on climate change.

They say “charity begins at home.”

A coalition means you must be patient, listen to other viewpoints and be open to dialogue.  You must talk to each other, not at each other. And despite finger-pointing and acrimonious debates in Parliament, the national interest must always prevail over anything else.

The NFP has repeatedly called on the Prime Minister to begin national dialogue on the sugar industry and education. But he rejected this describing our call as “politics”.

NFP has moved Parliamentary motions asking his Government to help people as diverse as dairy farmers and dialysis patients.  His Government votes them all down.

People bring petitions to Parliament. But his Government changes the Parliamentary rules so that they cannot be debated.

The Prime Minister’s biggest challenge as COP23 Chairman will be that the climate change-denying US government will not listen to him.

Perhaps that will remind the Prime Minister, while he trots around the globe, how his fellow citizens feel at home.

 

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

NFP to PM- Charity begins at home

 

 

AN NFP GOVERNMENT WILL BUILD A NEW SUGAR MILL FOR RA CANE GROWERS

MEDIA RELEASE: March 31, 2017

A National Federation Party Government after next year’s general elections will build a new sugar mill in Penang for the cane growers of Rakiraki.

This will be a priority of an NFP Government because we believe social responsibility to the people by a Government is paramount above anything else. And the NFP deeply values this principle.

The permanent shutdown of the Penang Mill is not only a “ill-conceived and irrational” decision by the Board of the Fiji Sugar Corporation, but also a decision of the Fiji First Government as confirmed by the Prime Minister, while rejecting a Petition in Parliament last Thursday by Ra cane growers urging the re-opening of the Mill.

The Prime Minister’s comment that the Mill was “beyond repair” and that the “FSC Board is meeting next week on the 27th to discuss exactly these issues”, confirms the Fiji First Government’s deviousness on this issue right from the outset in 2016 following the closure of the Mill after Severe TC Winston last year.

This Government and FSC have clearly prioritized FSC’s financial viability over the survival and livelihood of cane growers, therefore treating growers as sacrificial lambs.

FSC’s claim that any repair or refurbishment of the Penang Mill will cost 40-50 million dollars is untrue. This monetary value comes only after FSC cannibalized the Mill by stripping it of its parts, shipping them to other Mills and even transporting locomotives to Labasa. Even then the cost is baseless.

The Board is misleading people by saying it was unsafe to work inside the Mill. If this was true, how did employees strip the interior of the Mill of parts after being directed to do so by the Management.

That the PM failed to answer whether an assessment was done on the future of the mill by Indian experts as announced by him (PM) in July last year, confirms beyond any doubt Government had decided long time ago to shut down the Mill without any consideration to growers and the local economy of Ra.

The absence of any response from the PM leads us to believe he misled growers by giving them false hope of an assessment.

We also ask whether the USD$70 million credit facility offered by the Indian Prime Minister during his visit to Fiji in November 2014 for co-generation project at Rarawai has been utilized?

If not, why wasn’t it used to refurbish the Penang Mill?

Cane growers of Rakiraki and indeed throughout the cane belts of the 8 cane growing districts cannot hope for any solution from this Government that will positively impact their lives.

An NFP Government after the general elections will immediately set in motion plans and policies to build a new Mill. This is our commitment to the growers and people of Rakiraki.

 

Authorised by: –

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

NFP LEADER-NEW SUGAR MILL FOR RA BY A NFP GOVERNMENT-1

 

Government Dictating Sugar Industry since 2006 coup

‘No funds’

Kalesi Mele: Fiji Times
Sunday, March 26, 2017

THE Fiji Cane Growers Association (FCGA) says they had no funds to work with for several years since the removal of democratically elected members from the Sugar Cane Growers Council in 2008.

In tabling their 2016 financial reports, FCGA treasurer Kamlesh Kumar said last year the association had no funds and therefore were unable to conduct any activities.

FCGA re-elected president Attar Singh said with the removal of the council, the council levy system which was directed to their respective organisations was also removed.

The deductions of the levy used to be facilitated by the Fiji Sugar Corporation and directed to the council and respective associations.

Mr Singh said if both the State and FSC were genuine in seeking to assist farmers, they would reinstate the council levy system.

“We are very active and we used to contest elections and people used to sit in the growers council.

“This Government came in and decided to remove the check-off facilities, the levies that farmers used to collect from farmers.

“They have removed that levy facility to try and kill the voice of farmers.

“FSC no longer deducts that money and you would have heard that trade unions had a big fight where government was stopping the check-off.

“Now after a fight with the International Labour Organization, that check-off is restored. So everybody’s check-off is restored. Trade unions are restored but the check-off facility for canefarmers is yet to be restored.

“If FSC wants co-operation of farmers and if it wants to genuinely assist farmers then it has a duty to assist the farmers’ organisation in terms of collecting the membership fees so they can run effective organisations and we are calling on them to facilitate this.”

 

Penang mill ‘no more’

Prem Singh: The Fiji Times – page 13: Saturday, March 25, 2017

March 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the official end of the indenture system. For Fiji, this is symbolic as more than 60,000 Indian indentured labourers were brought to our shores between May 14, 1879
and November 11, 1916 to work on the cane fields by the British Colonial Government.  A historical reminder of our indenture period is the Penang sugar mill in Rakiraki. Built in 1878, statistics reveal it was the smallest, oldest but for
the better part of its 137 years of continuous operation, it was the most  efficient mill in terms of extracting the maximum sugar from its cane crop until the Fiji Sugar Corporation started neglecting it and from mid-1990s,
made continuous rumbling to shut it down, but failed. Until Severe TC Winston destroyed it and Government and FSC decided not to repair it.
In Parliament on Thursday, the Prime Minister and Minister for Sugar Industry Voreqe Bainimarama, effectively crushed the last flickering hopes of canegrowers of Rakiraki by declaring the mill was a “write-off” and stating that I was politicising the issue.  The PM also said the issues raised by growers were being addressed through the Reform of the Sugar Cane Industry and Sugar Cane Growers Fund (Amendment) Bills (Bills 19 & 20), which have been overwhelmingly and emphatically rejected by all growers.  The growers were seeking Parliament’s intervention in agreeing to refer their petition to the parliamentary standing committee on economic affairs so that objective solutions could be found to their grievances.  However, based on the PM’s response, Government defeated the motion
by 26 votes to 16.  This resulted in the petition not getting 40 per cent approval of Parliament for the petition to be referred to the standing committee for scrutiny.  About 303 canegrowers from the total number of growers in four sectors in  Penang mill area signed the petition for the Penang mill to be repaired and reopened.  Thirteen months after STC Winston wreaked havoc, the Penang mill, the  lifeblood of the economy of Rakiraki, is now a relic, cannibalised by its owners — the Fiji Sugar Corporation.
The Prime Minister himself visited Ra and met the growers over the past 13 months.  But Penang, established in 1878, continues to remain in a state of disrepair, and a daily reminder of the tragedy being faced by growers of Ra
and the sugar industry.  As a result the economy of Rakiraki has taken a battering, even 13 months after Severe TC Winston’s destructive winds passed over Ra, exacerbated by seven floods since December 2016, with growers being kicked from pillar to post.  After STC Winston, Government and FSC decided not to repair and reopen the mill with grand plans announced for a syrup mill.  What the PM said in July 2016  As the growers stated in their petition, last year the Prime Minister also held consultations with growers, two weeks following the 2016-17 Budget debate after we pointed out that FSC was stripping the mill, taking parts away to other mills and had even shipped locomotives to Labasa.
On July 23, 2016, the Prime Minister stated at Penang Sangam School that apart from allocating $2 million for the transportation of cane to the Rarawai mill in Ba, Government was assessing the future of the mill.  The Prime Minister said, “We are currently assessing whether Penang mill should be rebuilt as a syrup mill or the full sugar mill that it was before the  cyclone. Many sugar-producing countries have smaller mills that produce only syrup. It reduces the time it takes for crushing and the syrup is taken to a bigger mill where it is crystalised into sugar.
“We have been given some assistance by the Indian Government to assess the best course of action and we will be making a decision on Penang in the next two months.  “But whichever way we go, a full mill or a syrup mill, it will not affect your  ability to supply cane. And the work will commence immediately when the assessment is completed.”
No answer  Until now, there has been no word from Government on what is the future of the mill. The growers wanted to know whether any assessment was done. If yes, what was the outcome? If no, why not? And what happened to the assistance provided by the Indian Government?  Was it financial assistance or technical expertise? And if it hasn’t been used for Penang, then where has it been channelled?  I believe the PM failed to answer this in Parliament. I believe he, for all intents and purposes, sidestepped the issue. In the absence of any clarification, it is safe to assume that no assessment was done. I believe this only confirms that both Government and FSC decided as
early as last year that Penang mill was now history.
Growers’ losses
Last year growers suffered losses because of cartage of their harvested sugarcane to Rarawai mill in Ba. Last week, the new CEO of FSC,Graham Clarke, revealed that 35 per cent of crop was lost during transfer from the Penang mill yard to Rarawai.  The Fiji Times reported Mr Clarke on Thursday, March 16, saying handling of cane firstly at Penang — where it as stockpiled — and rehandling of cane at Rarawai resulted in the loss in tonnage.  A total of 92,000 tonnes of cane were harvested in the Penang mill area last year. If 35 per cent was lost in transfer then this was equivalent to 32,200 tonnes.  In monetary terms with three cane payments so far totalling $61.84, this
amounts to a loss of about $2m.  This is directly a result of the non-operation of the Penang mill. It is a direct loss suffered not only by canegrowers but the economy of Rakiraki as a whole.  A bleak future  The growers clearly say in the petition that if the mill is not operational this year, then many growers will exit the industry from next year.
We cannot afford this and 2016 will be yet another season of poor cane price. Growers were expecting more than $13 per tonne as the third cane payment but their expectations have been dashed with the announcement and payment of $9.28 per tonne.  About $61.84 has been paid so far and growers will be highly fortunate if they receive $10-$12 more in the fourth and final payments this year for 2016. The price of a tonne of cane for last year will definitely not exceed $73.
And tragically, deductions from the proceeds of the third cane payment for fertiliser and other expenses have left many growers, particularly those producing an average of 150 tonnes of cane with no income at all.  How are they expected to survive until the next payment towards the end of May, without getting into further debt because they will have to borrow to sustain their livelihood?  The plight of growers, particularly in Ra has been worsened by the fact that no special payment was advanced this year.  Last month, the PM told Parliament no request was made to him but FSC and the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Sugar are reported by both daily newspapers as telling growers in Ra that FSC did not have any money to advance a special payment because the Corporation had made
a huge loss.  I know that a request was made on January 6 for a special payment. I believe this fact is well known to growers in Ra.  The depletion of income of growers means a loss to the economy as a whole because every single cent paid and earned from the industry circulates in our local economy in the cane belts.  The closure of the mill and the fact that it will remain closed, the effects of STC Winston and flooding has broken their backs.  I believe they are disenchanted and the last thing they needed is for us legislators to ignore their plight. We have seen that transfer of their crop to Rarawai has resulted in major losses. Mill repair possible  I believe the Penang Mill, before it was cannibalised and stripped by the FSC, would have been definitely repaired at a far cheaper cost than what
was spent to transport cane and the value of losses incurred in doing so, which was at least $4m.  In addition growers who used their lorries were also paid cartage but at a rate $3 less than what operators hired by FSC received.
And this rate was only implemented after the intervention of the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Sugar as earlier growers were offered a rate more than $12 less than what FSC hired operators were getting.  Furthermore, payments were made for machinery hired at a cost of $120 per hour to load cane into trucks at the Penang mill.
Therefore, I believe, we are altogether looking at $5m spent and lost last year, which would have been more than sufficient to fix the mill.  I believe the closure of the Penang mill was either simply a case of bad economics or a deliberate decision by Government and the FSC.  The final nail  It was still not too late to salvage the situation. On behalf of growers, I pleaded with Government to view the plight of growers from at least a humanitarian point of view.  I pleaded that the petition be referred to the relevant standing committee, which could then formulate outcomes from the work of the committee for the betterment of growers and Ra as a whole.  I urged Parliament to strive towards positively impacting growers’ lives and the local economy of Ra.  But I believe the PM demolished the hopes of growers by ensuring that the Penang mill will remain a relic and not salvaged just like the wreckage of
Syria rotting away on Nasilai reef for the past 133 years.  Penang mill is no more, thanks to Government.
* Prem Singh is an NFP member of Parliament. Views expressed are his
and not of this newspaper.

Fiji govt abandons UN Human Rights Council ambitions for now to focus on COP23

Richard Ewart

Fiji has opted not to run for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama says instead, the government’s foreign policy focus will be on climate change and its presidency of the COP23 climate talks in Bonn later this year.

Professor Biman Prasad, leader of the opposition National Federation Party, says the government has made the right move because it still has a lot of work to do on its own human rights record.

For full interview: http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-16/fiji-govt-abandons-un-human-rights-council/8359314?pfmredir=sm