REPONSE TO COMMENTS BY AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM DURING FIJI FIRST FUN DAY IN TAVUA ON OCTOBER 12

We know Fiji First is in the pockets of the elite business community.

We question the AG to whether on October 3rd , under the pretext of visiting the poor at Koroipita Housing, the AG held another fundraising organized for him by a group of elite businessmen at the home of one such business tycoon in Lautoka. It is the Fiji First that is being bank-rolled by the elite business community.

Comments  by the AG that the truck business operators  have switched their allegiance from Fiji First to NFP just because of restrictions on  load weight  to prevent road damage  is an insulting the intelligence of the truck operators.

NFP is not being financially backed by  truck operators or any other business interest. That is a perennial smear campaign  used by our detractors. But we know that they are suffering severe financial losses with trucks of many owners being mortgaged after inability of the operators to pay the hefty fines.

And banks who mortgage the trucks are unable to sell them because of unpaid fines. Instead of fixing our roads with the prudent use of over $3 billion allocated to Fiji Roads Authority for the last 7 years,  Government is blaming the truck operators for causing road damage. What nonsense.

NFP will not ignore the plight of the truck operators  and just as we have formulated policies for all our citizens, we will review the fines, fees and charges being imposed by the Land Transport Authority. We will alleviate the plight of the truck operators and drivers.

It has now become absolutely clear that Fiji First is bereft of any political morality and credibility. Labelling the NFP as jokers  will not resolve the fundamental problems facing Fiji. It is the Fiji First that has been a sick and painful joke on the people for the last 12 years.

And now the Fiji First Leader, AG and other minions think they are in a circus performing comedy instead of taking about real issues that matter to the vast majority of our people.

And unlike the two puppet masters and their band of puppeteers, we will continue  advocating policies that will bring Fiji lasting social, economic and political advancement.

Authorised by:

 Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

Put people first

By National Federation Party Leader

Professor Biman Prasad

[This is Part 1 of NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad’s speech to the Suva Rotary Club yesterday]

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you.  I want to speak a little bit about our current situation and some aspects of the Fiji economy and what we at NFP want to do about it.

Please do not be surprised if you also read some of this speech in The Fiji Times. This week The Fiji Times wants us to write in our column about how we will create economic growth.  So we are doubling up with this speech. Preparing material like this while we’re on the campaign trail is demanding.  To use the phrase now famous in Fiji, we are pressed for time!

We last met together four years ago.  At that time, NFP was coming out of eight years of dormancy imposed by the 2006 coup. We were struggling to be heard in a polarised political environment where the government held all the cards. They had made up the electoral system, without consultation. The government heavily controlled the institutions of the state. They frightened the media. And, as we all know, they also frightened the people. It was difficult to make political headway.   We fought on.  We made the threshold and got into Parliament. I believe we have performed well in there.

So-called Parliamentary democracy has not been easy. Soon after Parliament first sat I was appointed chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, because the rules required an Opposition member to be chair. This has been the rule in Fiji since Independence.

But as soon as the PAC began asking hard questions of public servants about misuse and waste of public funds, the Government decided to change the rules. Now a Government MP is the chairperson. And we might as well not have a PAC. It is only about good news now.

Parliamentarians have been suspended for long periods on baseless grounds. Everything is set up to allow Government to push legislation through, sometimes with only half an hour’s debate.  If you watch Parliament on TV, one person dominates. He seems to answer nearly all the questions asked of the government, to propose most of the legislation and generally to be able to behave in any way he likes.  In short, Parliamentary democracy does not look very different from the eight years that went before it.

But I have to say that the reception that NFP is receiving in this election campaign is very different to last time.  The Fiji Sun’s highly scientific opinion polls are giving us 1 or 2% support.  A week later, it stratospherically increases to 9% or 10%  and then the following week it schizophrenically takes a plunge like the stock markets during the global financial crisis almost a decade ago.

It may surprise you but we are quite encouraged by that.  It means that we know for sure that Fiji Sun’s polling is completely without basis. We will certainly get more support than the 6% we got last time; that is obvious. Our meetings and our social media interactions show strong support; and we still have a long way to go in this campaign.

Frank Bainimarama, in Nausori last week, dismissed us as an Indo-Fijian party. But that is not true. Certainly that is where the party’s political support has traditionally come from. But in the last few years, this support has been transformed.  We would not have made the threshold last time without the support of voters from the Taukei. This year we have a genuinely highly qualified multiracial line-up contesting  the elections.   In our nightly pocket meetings, we are attracting a strong multi-ethnic mix of people who want to meet us, hear from us and our ideas.

So we are pretty excited about this election. We are playing to win.  We are not in coalition with anyone.   Of course everybody asks if we will go into coalition after the election.  That is a fair question, because I think it is possible that no party will come out with the 26 seats they need to form a government.

The answer is that we will make any such decision once we know the results.  We will decide based on what will be the best government for our country at that time.  It is pointless to speculate now.  The PM attacks us frequently. He tries to group us with SODELPA.  I suggest that he calms down and keeps my mobile phone number with him on election night.  He may need to talk to me.

So, what about the economy?

The Government talks a lot about Fiji’s economic success.  But dig a little bit between the surface, and you will find a different story.   Fiji’s economic success is mostly a propaganda creation.  The Government tries to claim the credit for Fiji’s economic growth.  Many of you in this room are people in business.  You know, as well as I do, that Government is mostly an obstacle to economic success.

The reason we have had any growth at all is only because we have been able to avoid a military coup for 12 years.  This has created some confidence. But the growth we are achieving is not close to enough. We have averaged just over 2% p.a. economic growth since 2006.  Compare this to economies like Mauritius, the Philippines and Singapore, which regularly perform over 5%.  Everybody knows that we need numbers like that to make a real difference to our economy.  And Fiji is capable of this. The question is how we unleash that potential.

I am a believer in the old economic axiom that “everything is connected to everything else.”   If economics cannot make a better society, what is the point? And the same is true of economic policy.

Most of us believe that more money would make us feel better. But many of us in Fiji have even more basic needs.  One-third of our people live in poverty.  Many need basic housing. But some of our biggest problems are social.  We have a shocking suicide rate.  Our domestic violence levels are also serious. One woman a day in Fiji suffers permanent injury as a result of domestic violence.  We are a world leader in NCD incidence. The CWM Hospital performs three diabetic limb amputations every day.  In short, outside of the walls of this nice hotel where we have just finished a fine lunch, we have a society that is at breaking point.   And this government does not seem to have a plan for any of this.

We are criticised for our promise of a $5 per hour minimum wage.  Of course we will phase it in, and of course we will do it in consultation with affected employers.   But we must do it. If you look around the world, there is an increasing concentration of wealth among fewer people.  As a result, there is tremendous political dislocation – look at Brexit, look at the election of Donald Trump.

We cannot afford to let this happen here. If there is increased disparity between the rich and the poor, there will also be dislocation here. But we know in Fiji what that means. It means the potential for instability, crime and violence and political unrest.  That is the worst thing for the economy. It will destroy economic confidence.  So policies which put a decent income in the hands of the poorest people are not a cost to us.  They are an investment in our future economic stability.

The Government seems to have run out of ideas.  The PM cannot talk about anything except the opposition parties. He talks about a vision for the future, but he has none. We have serious social and economic problems.  These will not be solved by handing out $1,000 grants and flying around the world talking about talanoa.  And if he does not have a vision for the economy, he should step aside. Because we do

A vision for the economy

[This is Part 2 of NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad’s speech to the Suva Rotary Club on Thursday]

Fiji’s economic growth right now depends on two things – tourism and government spending.  With tourism, we have been lucky. We are an attractive country for tourists and tourism is a fast-growing global industry.  The economies in our main source markets have performed well. So we have achieved some growth. We have not achieved the 1 million tourist target that the government has promised so many times to achieve. We have not even hit 800,000.

And while tourism growth looks like a success, many people in the tourism industry do not see it that way. The industry is hopelessly over-taxed and the government does not listen. Why does the government tax tourism? Because no other industry is producing anything. There is nothing else to tax.  The only other way to fund government spending is by debt. And this is our next problem.

The government does not have an economic strategy. It has a political strategy. The strategy is to spend on gimmicks and projects that people can see, so they will be popular.  But this is not strategic. A road is nice to see. And it is nice to get a $1,000 grant. But the government is not strengthening both the education  and the health sectors. That is because the spending needed there is unglamorous. There are no headlines there.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum has just criticised the Fiji school curriculum as irrelevant. This is a senior Cabinet minister. Did he not know that before? Where has he been for the last 12 years, while we have been calling for an in-depth Education Commission to look at education?

Government spending is always good for GDP growth.  But even this is a bit of an economist’s trick. We all understand how it works. If the Government spends money, then big companies, their employees, their own sub-contractors, are all recorded as receiving income. And that is how you measure GDP growth.

But when you are growing the economy by going into debt, as this government has done, it is like mortgaging your house to hold a big party.  One day there will be no more money – and that is when we will need to build new rooms and fix the roof.

The Government talks a lot about its spending. But of course nobody has looked at the quality of that spending.  Nobody is allowed to. I was removed as the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.  When the Auditor-General criticised the Government’s economic management, he was made to publicly apologise for his mistakes in a humiliating press conference.  And while the Government is racking up debt, it is not improving the welfare of our poorest people.

The government is missing out on our economic potential  – particularly beyond the tourism industry. Let us first acknowledge that tourism is important.  The wages are better than many industries, jobs are created and we earn foreign exchange, although a lot of that foreign exchange goes back out again.

But this government has failed to create sustainable linkages to local agriculture.  I know that many people in that industry have worked hard to improve these linkages, and there have been small successes. But small successes are not enough. We have to revolutionise our agriculture.

The government’s support for agriculture in Fiji, in one word, is pathetic.  As many parts of the world get richer, they are demanding high quality food from countries with unpolluted environments.  We have the land, the climate, ready access to finance. But we have been unable to take advantage. And why? Because government does not have a vision to grow agriculture. It has no idea what it is doing.

Meanwhile, look at the private sector. Look at companies like Rooster Chicken and Goodman Fielder like British American Tobacco. They do not just participate in agriculture themselves. They have contracts with hundreds of farmers.  They support them with materials and technical assistance. In both the chicken and tobacco industries, Fiji is self-sufficient.  Think what we could do if we focused on getting more focused investment of this kind and were able to turn other agricultural crops into exports.

Thousands of bottles of Fiji Water are sold every day, all over the world. And yet the Government is unable to take advantage of the promotion this gives us, every day.  We want to tell the world “You know Fiji for water.  But we can grow things too”.

Government forgot about the sugar industry after 2006. They only remembered it when elections were coming. And if they are re-elected they will forget about it again. The so-called strategic plan for the sugar industry cannot even tell us what products the sugar industry will produce, who will produce it and who will buy it.

Many of us in Suva have written off the industry. We cannot afford to do that. Too many people depend on it.  But we do have to be smarter. We will probably never reach the glory days of the industry 30 years ago.  Many families have left the industry and will not return. But for those who still want to farm, what we want is more efficient production and better returns for farmers.

And do not forget this very important thing – we need farmers.  Farmers who grow cane today are farmers with the skills also to grow other crops tomorrow. They can also be the foundation for an agri-business economy, where Fiji should be strong. Like New Zealand, a country that is right next door to us.  That is why keeping the farmers on the land with a guaranteed price of $100 a tonne is important. And of course it is not the price per tonne of cane which is the most important thing. It is how we get the most sugar out of that tonne of cane. If we can produce sugar more efficiently, we can all get better rewards.

We need to be investigating the potential for new, higher value sugar products.  We cannot just keep sending out raw sugar in ships.  We are criticised for promising to build a new mill at Rakiraki. But, if we get it right, we can build a modern mill which is much cheaper and more efficient than the current FSC mills, which are now museum pieces.

We have got to grow the economy in so many other ways. For example, take the outsourcing industry. We have good English skills, yet we have largely missed the boat in the call centre and business process offshoring industry, with only a few players here, employing only a few hundred people. We should be employing thousands more.  And, again, if we get the right industry players,  this is an industry that employs technology, develops individual skills and trains people to move up the value chain.  What is the government’s plan for that? What is the government’s plan for anything?

I want to talk briefly about productivity. The statistics show that the productivity of our employees has barely changed for many years. We are not getting any productivity increases. This is basically because we are not educating our workforce. We have the FNU grants.  Much of this money is unused. So the Government now wants to take this money and put it into a health programme.  What it is really doing is admitting defeat. It does not know how to invest this money in training to achieve higher productivity.  Once again – there is no vision.

And finally, I want to talk about government regulation.

Fiji is a small country.  We cannot change the fact that we are a small country. We cannot change the land we have, or the people we have. But we can change things like the way we support investment.

The Fiji First Government has certainly changed that. In the wrong direction. In 2006, the World Bank ranked us as 34th country in the world for ease pf doing business. That ranking is now 101. For ease of starting a business we were ranked at 55. We are now ranked at 160. There are only 190 countries! Those figures tell the whole story about a control-freak, bureaucracy-driven government that cannot support new business and investment.

The government thinks it can fix this by “reforming” the civil service. But all they want to reform is civil servants’ jobs.   They refuse to look at the obvious problem. It is their own rules and regulations that promote inefficiency and waste.  And if the going is not going to change the way it behaves, then the people will have to change the government.

I have much more to say on these things, and in the next few weeks I hope you will see and read more of what we all say. We have a vision for the economy, some of which we have shared today.  The first thing we will do in government is share the vision and ask for comments, criticism and improvements at a National Economic Summit, in which everyone can participate.  Then we will work on that vision – together.  Imagine, just having a government that consults us would be a huge change. And, as we at NFP like to say, change is coming.

 

NFP says it is time to rededicate ourselves to make Fiji

A Land of Hope, Freedom and Glory

The National Federation Party says consensus, goodwill, dialogue and bipartisanship are missing from our national political landscape and  believes now is the time to re-dedicate ourselves to One Nation, One Destiny just as Fiji did 48 years ago.

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad and Party President Lt-Col Pio Tikoduadua said in their message on the occasion of the 48th anniversary of Fiji’s Independence from 96 years of Colonial rule on 10th October 1970: –

“We must never forget the giant strides made by our country’s founding fathers and to hold true to the spirit of unity and understanding of our Independence because freedom, hope and glory is still ours if we grasp it”.

“We should in the spirit of unity and harmony through genuine talanoa, so ably demonstrated by our founding fathers, bequeath to our future generations a nation of boundless hopes, endless dreams and aspirations and above all a Fiji that once again becomes a symbol of genuinely united, harmonious and a beacon of hope”.

“We must keep reminding ourselves, by appraising ourselves with history as well as inculcating it in our generation through school curriculum, how Fiji achieved Independence on a silver platter through the sheer painstaking work and negotiation of a few leaders regarded as the finest statesmen that Fiji ever had”.

“We must not forget it was achieved through goodwill, consensus, dialogue and a genuine willingness on the part of the then leaders realise their vison. It was not based on threats, fears mongering and extortion”.

“We pay tribute to the founding fathers of Fiji, hailing them as gigantic leaders who put national interest above everything else to negotiate Fiji’s Independence 48 years ago”.

“We remember the NFP’s founding father and the then Leader of the Opposition Ambalal Dahyabhai Patel (A D Patel) and his successor Siddiq Moidin Koya (SM Koya), together with the then Chief Minister and later the first Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara (Ratu Mara), who put aside their deep personal and political differences to give Fiji true nationhood and sovereignty”.

“A peaceful transition from 96 years of Colonial rule to Independence,  constitutional and parliamentary rule is a monumental and above all a lasting legacy of an achievement through genuine dialogue, consensus building, negotiation, resulting in unanimity amongst our founding leaders”,

“This fundamental principle is a cornerstone of NFP’s foundation. We have always achieved solutions to our national problems, which to many people may have seemed insurmountable, through genuine dialogue, goodwill, consensus and bipartisanship.

Independence, a thriving sugar industry that was Fiji’s economic mainstay for 30 years of our independent history and continues to  remain vitally important to the livelihood of some 200,000 of our people, and the 1997 Constitution are a few but perfect examples of what can be achieved by working together”.

“At the same time, we should not also forget the 14 years of our Independent history during which we were under military rule due to 4 military coups since 1987”.

“We should not also forget that the most important symbol of our nation following Fiji being granted its Instruments of Independence, our noble banner blue flag, would have been changed had it not been for the widespread opposition of our citizens”.

“As we celebrate our Independence, all our people must reflect on what kind of Fiji they want to bequeath to future generations”.

“This is the greatest challenge facing us as a 48 year old Independent nation”.

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad                                            Lt-Col Pio Tikoduadua

Leader                                                                                   President

ANNOUNCEMENT OF 51 CANDIDATES FOR NFP

Dear People of Fiji

Today is an extraordinary day. I am pleased, excited and honoured to announce to Fiji our final 2018 election candidates for NFP.

These are not ordinary people. No one in our team is. They are ready, willing and able to serve you. They have been provisional candidates for a while. Now we will nominate them as candidates to the Fijian Elections Office.

On 2nd February 2018, while announcing our first batch of provisional candidates I said and I quote; –

“We have had 12 years of two-man government which has become increasingly controlling and restrictive. We have a government that works through threats and intimidation, free handouts and propaganda – all of which is paid for by our taxes. This is not democracy. It is dictatorship. It is long past the time for things to return to normal.  We need to be able to express ourselves freely, not be fearful and to all be able to participate in the governance of Fiji.

It is time for us to return to real team leadership in government– for you to have a group of people with skills and real-life experience who will serve you.  We will not be hiding behind security guards and driving in motorcades. We will not be paying ourselves thousands of dollars in travel allowances. We have already committed to cut the pay and allowances of government ministers by 25% until a proper exercise is done to work out fair and reasonable remuneration”. Unquote

What I said 8 months ago was once again displayed in public by the Prime Minister and Leader of Fiji First – spewing what can only be described as gutter-level venomous garbage. We will not stoop to his level and that of some of his Ministers who have been campaigning along the  similar lines.

Our campaign is a battle of ideas. We put those ideas to you 14 months ago. Those ideas have been formulated into policies after extensive Talanoa sessions throughout the country.

We have announced policies  that cannot be matched or copied by other parties. We have seen a copy-cat government at work while handed down the Budget in July. But they  couldn’t even copy properly when it cam to policies on  minimum guaranteed price for sugar, free medicine ad kidney dialysis.

We have thoroughly scrutinised  all provisional candidates that we announced since February. Some have withdrawn for personal reasons and other commitments. However, they remain loyal members of NFP.

Chane is a fact of life. Today I will announce the final 9 names who complete our list of 51 candidates  and be responsible to effect this Change. They are: –

  1. Anendra Prasad

Mr Prasad is a businessman, community and social worker.  He is a former Suva City Councillor. Until last week, he was an stalwart of the Fiji Labour Party. He decided to resign from Labour and join NFP. He has fulfilled the criteria of our selection process.

Throughout his more than two decades of loyalty to the FLP, Mr Prasad never had any malice towards anyone in the NFP. His  passion for social and community work   is remarkable. He is well known in the informal settlements in Suva and Nasinu for always coming to their assistance in their hour of need.

Mr Prasad firmly believes that the NFP is the only party that can bring about the Change because  it is a party of principles.

  1. Rajneesh Lata Charan

Mrs Charan  has 28 years of FSC work experience; most recently at senior management level; is a farmer herself, and is the daughter of a cane farmer plus a shareholder in FSC.

She has extensive experience about the operations of FSC and the sugar industry generally.

  1. Osea Umuumulovo

Mr Umuumulovo is currently the coach of Lautoka Rugby team. He is a former lecturer in IT at the Fiji National University.

  1. Dr Sunil Kumar

Dr Kumar is no stranger to politics and NFP. He has been with the NFP since 1994. He is a senior lecturer in economics at the University of the South Pacific.

  1. Charan Jeath Singh

Mr Singh was an NFP  Member of Parliament from 1994 to 1999. He is a prominent businessman of Labasa.

  1. Semi Titoko

Mr Titoko is a Vice President of the NFP and a lawyer by profession. He is well known by people of all works of life in Rakiraki.

  1. Amol Kumar

Mr Kumar resigned from the Land Transport Authority to contest the elections under the  NFP banner. He is well known for his social work as a member of group known as Grogmasters on social media.

  1. Pasepa Rosarine Lagi also known as Rosie Lagi

Rosie Lagi is a lawyer. She  is the legal advisor to the Council of Rotuma.  She has served on several boards such as Consumer Council, Transparency International, PCN, to name a few.

  1. Professor Biman Prasad

This completes the list of our final 51 candidates: –

The full list is as follows: –

LIST OF PROVISIONAL AND INTENDING CANDIDATES

  1. Ajay Kumar
  2. Aman Nath
  3. Ansu Lata
  4. Apenisa Vatuniveivuke
  5. Bal Subramani – Bala Dass
  6. Davendra Naidu
  7. Diana Tagivakatini
  8. Feroz Gulam Mohammed
  9. Herbert Pickering
  10. Jiosefa Gavidi
  • Kavai Vunidogo
  1. Kiniviliame Salabogi
  2. Lenora Qereqeretabua
  3. Leslie Tikotikoca
  4. Manav Ram
  5. Manasa Baravilala
  6. Michael Brown
  7. Narendra Reddy
  8. Parmod Chand
  9. Pio Tikoduadua
  10. Pradeep Chandra
  11. Prem Singh
  12. Priyanka Ram
  13. Pushp Dass
  14. Raj Kumar Rattan
  15. Rajan Sami
  16. (Dr) Richard Wah
  17. Riddhi Damodar
  18. Samuela Naicegucegu
  19. Sandhya Bajpai
  20. Satya Shandil
  21. Shalendra Raj
  22. Shanal Sivan
  23. Sila Balawa
  24. Tuinadave Radogo a.k.a Tui Kabu
  25. Veniana Salabogi
  26. Waisele Kanavo
  27. William Lee
  28. Attar Singh
  29. Osea Umuumulovo
  30. Semi Titoko
  31. Dr Sunil Kumar
  32. Charan Jeath Singh
  33. Rosi Lagi
  34. (Prof) Biman Prasad
  35. Amol Kumar
  36. Anendra Prasad
  37. Rajneesh Lata Charan
  38. Leba Seni Nabou
  39. Siddiq Faizal Koya
  40. Kamal Iyer

Professor Biman Prasad

Party Leader

 

PM a liar

The National Federation Party says it is useless urging the Prime Minister to campaign on issues  and wage a battle of ideas because of his insatiable appetite to  stoop to gutter level and utter lies.

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad says the PM’s comments, attacking NFP, made during a Fiji First “sausage sizzle and bouncy castle event”, is a sign of a “desperate man who is clutching at straws”.

We will not stoop to his level of spewing venom mixed with absolute garbage”.

“But his comment that NFP only represents Indo Fijians and what would happen to i-taukei is downright racist”.

“NFP has always been a multiracial party since its inception in 1963. Our line-up for  these elections is genuinely multiracial. Unlike him who was leading a 99% i-taukei institution for 15 years as RFMF commander”.

“The PM’s comment that NFP supporters would be running in the cane fields  in the 2006 coup hadn’t happened and that businessmen supposedly urging him to remove government are NFP supporters, and that NFP Leaders will run away when something happens, is  despicable”.

“It is the Fiji First that has millions of dollars in their account from these businessmen collected from the business community by circumventing the restrictions in the political parties Act”.

“The PM should be the last person in Fiji to be talking about running and ducking” NFP has been around for 55 years and will remain steadfast in its resolve to bring about genuine democracy, justice and fairness for all our people.

 

 

Change is coming

By National Federation Party Leader,

Professor Biman Prasad

The general elections  scheduled for 14th November has the potential to permanently re-define the social, economic and political landscape of Fiji.

The decisions that our voters make will have a great bearing on the direction that Fiji takes in the future – continued and increased suppression of fundamental freedoms, genuine democracy, skyrocketing cost of living, low wages, a sugar industry in a deathly plunge, deteriorating health and medical services, and the continued exorbitantly high salaries for those at the top echelons of Government.

Or the beginning of a new dawn after the dissipation of the dark clouds of uncertainty hanging over all of us for the last 12 years with  the start of a true and genuine democracy, giving true meaning to common and equal citizenry and meritocracy, reduction in the cost of living, decent minimum living wages, improved health and medical services, a vibrant sugar industry and a reduction to the unjustifiable high salaries and allowances of Cabinet.

Our policies

“Change is coming”, our general election slogan, was launched on 3rd June 2017 at our national convention in Lautoka, together with the first few policies after our initial Talanoa consultations.

More than 18 months later, we have come to the end of our Talanoa consultations. We gratefully acknowledge the many, many people, who gave freely their time and resources to sit down and share their thoughts with us. They shared their frustration, hopes and dreams. They are yearning for change. Their trust and faith in NFP will not be misplaced.

Our  manifesto  to be launched soon will be a living document and a commitment to the people of Fiji. We want the people of Fiji to hold us to our promises.

Reducing cost of living and implementing a living wage

The cost of living  has reached stratospheric levels. At the same time wages and salaries of our working class has remained stagnant or at best increasing at snail’s pace. The high cost of living has been the number one concern for 50% of our people, according to a Times/Tebbutt Poll. The increase in prices of food, medicine and other basic goods has been exacerbated by the re-imposition of 9% VAT on basic food items by the current Fiji First government from 1st January 2016.

This was a gross betrayal of a promise in the Fiji First 2014 elections manifesto that vowed to maintain VAT free  7 basic food items and prescription medication. While the betrayal of this promise is earning government over $108 million in revenue annually, our people are suffering. This is intolerable.

We will: –

  • Make 15 basic food items VAT free as well as review the duty rates so that they become affordable
  • Implement a minimum living wage of $5 an hour for both skilled and unskilled workers. Even skilled workers, like those in the garment industry are not paid the current minimum wage of $2.68 an hour. Two years ago, a worker in the garment factory was paid $2.27 an hour, despite having worked for several years. This is unjust
  • We will announce other measures in our manifesto

Reducing salaries and allowances of PM and Cabinet Ministers

The Prime Minister is paid an annual salary of $328,750. The Attorney General is paid $235,000 per annum. Three Cabinet Ministers, namely the Education, Health and Infrastructure are paid $200,000 annually while the rest are paid $185,000.

The average  daily overseas travel allowance of the PM is $3,000. In two days, the PM receives equally if not more allowances than what a worker on  the current minimum wage rate of $2.68 an hour would earn in  an entire year! This is the current government’s version of giving a leg-up to our poor.

We will: –

  • Reduce the salaries of the PM and Cabinet Ministers by 25% immediately upon taking office
  • Slash the allowances of PM and Cabinet Ministers as well as of MPs to realistic levels
  • Establish an independent Emoluments Committee to review salaries at all levels of Cabinet and Parliament to bring about relativity
  • Ensure the PM and Ministers travel in un-tinted vehicles as the first act of transparency, accountability and good governance

Reviving sugar industry

Our sugar industry has weathered many hurricanes, cyclones, floods, droughts and four military coups. But the last 12 years has been a nightmare for cane growers.

In 2006, Fiji produced 3.22 million tonnes of cane – despite massive non-renewal of cane leases- and 310,000 tonnes of sugar. In the 12 years since the 2006 coup, our cane and sugar production has taken such a battering that growers are losing interest. In 2006 Fiji had a 18,272 growers. Now we have around 12,000 – less than 6,000.

The current government, despite pumping multi-millions of dollars into the industry is clueless on how to revive it.

We will: –

  • Implement a minimum guaranteed price of $100 per tonne of cane
  • Build a new sugar mill in Penang
  • Maintain the current subsidies on weedicide and fertilizers
  • Completely overhaul the Fiji Sugar Corporation
  • Democratise the Sugar Cane Growers Council by holding elections to give true meaning to the voice and importance of growers

TELS

We have been listening to teachers and students about education. Our policy will be: –

  • Provide free tuition for all degree students in all three Universities in the first year of their studies
  • Re-name the existing National Toppers scholarship as the Excellence Award. We will restructure the 12 priority areas so that students in all disciplines get the scholarship
  • Bring in a new Merit Scholarship for students whose family income is less than 30, 000 dollars and who received an aggregate mark of not less than 250 out of 400
  • Keep TELS for all
  • Existing Tertiary Students
  • Technical Colleges of Fiji
  • Private Sector Employees
  • Public Sector Employees
  • Pilot Training for all pilot training schools and not being selective
  • Accommodation Loans Scheme (ALS)
  • Make all TELS loans interest-free including for those who are already paying their loans and for existing TELS students

Other policies

  • allocate $200 million a year for the next four years to develop informal squatter settlements
  • make all prescription medicine free for families earning less than $30,000, make kidney dialysis free for patients whose families are earning less than $30,000
  • Establish a National Hospital Service tasked with equipping our hospitals, recruiting medical personnel and timely and efficient procurement of all medicine
  • Repeal Village By-laws and totally shelve this draconian proposal
  • Repeal or shelve the Rotuma Lands and Ocean usage legislative proposal
  • Increase pension for our Veterans, Retired Ex-servicemen from $200 to $300
  • Restore FNPF pensions arbitrarily reduced through a Decree
  • Divest 51% of Government shares in Air Terminal Services (ATS) to ATS workers
  • Subject to a comprehensive feasibility with consultations with landowners and other stakeholders, embark on a project of a 4-lane Coastal Highway between Suva and Nausori and Nadi as well as between Nadi and Lautoka
  • Abolish all contractual employment in the civil service, make employment permanent and increase retirement age to 60 years.
  • Ensuring the dignity and respect of teachers by restoring permanent contracts thereby enhancing teachers’ professional, social and economic status in our society.

Legendary

The National Federation Party has come a long way from its first formative days from the day of the infamous mango tree with unshakeable roots in Rakiraki under which the late Alparti Tataiya suggested to our founder Leader Ambalal Dahyabhai Patel (A D Patel) and his able lieutenants to form a political party.

NFP was, is and will be blessed because overlooking that tree was the legendary Nakauvadra mountain range. Therefore we are legendary since 1963. We have survived the political pitfalls for the last 55 years. We will be around for another 55 years.

Political parties formed after NFP have come and gone despite being led by personalities. But the NFP remains, – a principled impregnable fortress.

Our party has been led by leaders who were statesmen in their own right. Their achievements are permanent milestones. Leaders like A D Patel, S M Koya, Harish Sharma and Justice Jai Ram Reddy were giants of their time in ability, understanding and perception of the problems facing Fiji. They always put national interest above everything else.

For them political capital or simply winning was secondary to principles of truth, righteousness, equality, dignity and justice.

And 55 years later, these principles remain as strong as the unshakable roots of the mango tree. They will not be shirked for political expediency.

We are at the crossroads. But together, as a mighty collective force, we shall prevail.

 

 

NFP salutes our Teachers

Teachers celebrate World Teachers day today. It is a day to reflect on who they are, why they are in the profession and where they are heading. In our context, their integrity, dignity and security of employment is at grave risk.

We understand the mess that the whole education system is in under the Fiji First government. We understand the frustration of teachers with respect to appointments, promotions, contracts etc.

The NFP government will restore the dignity and respect as well as the social, professional and economic status of teachers. We will abolish contractual employment and put all teachers on permanent contracts.

We will restore in service training and professional development. We will establish partnership between unions, school management to ensure that teachers have a congenial and harmonious environment in which they can do their work.

In this long and important process, where parents and guardians in a way leave their children at the disposal of the teacher, it speaks volumes about the faith, trust and respect that the society has for our teachers.

That is why an NFP government will increase the retirement age to 60 years to ensure we retain the experienced cadre of teachers needed to guide the young, energetic professionals to forge a better future.

NFP extends its best wishes to all the teachers in Fiji on the occasion of the World Teachers Day. We salute the teachers in the country for remaining steadfast in their commitment to teaching despite an uncertain climate.

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

NFP President – campaign on facts, not fear

On Monday the Prime Minister told a news media organisation after issuance of Writs for elections that people should vote for “the right party” to avoid “going back to 2000”.

He knows, and everybody knows, what he is saying. The PM is campaigning on fear.

The PM is saying that there will only be political stability if people vote for his party.

One day before this statement, the PM said that his party would campaign on “facts, not lies”.

And just three days before, at the United Nations, the PM said that democracy had “taken root” in Fiji. This is the man who says he has ended the “coup culture”, who has brought “true democracy” to the country.

When I joined the PM’s party in 2014, that is what I thought we were doing. And two years later, when I realised the Fiji First Government was doing no such thing, that is when I left.

This is the man who talks about the “spirit of talanoa” when he is overseas, and then practises the politics of fear when he comes home.

This is the man whose party puts up billboards saying “reject politicians who want to divide us”.

The general election campaign is just beginning.  We have told the people what we will do – $5 an hour, $100 a tonne, 15 VAT-free items, housing, education, health.

And all he is telling us is “Vote for the right party.”

So this is my challenge to the PM: Do what you said you would do. Campaign on facts, not fear.

Pio Tikoduadua

President

Statement by NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad during the announcement of Mr Attar Singh as a provisional candidate 12.00pm: Tuesday, 2nd October, 2018- NFP HQ

Today, the NFP announces that one of the most experienced trade unionists in Fiji, Mr Attar Singh, a former NFP Leader, has resigned from his union positions to become a provisional candidate of the party. He will be part of the list of 51 names  whose nominations will be submitted to the Supervisor of Elections.

The NFP deems it necessary to make this special announcement given deteriorating state of our industrial relations climate and erosion of rights of workers.

During his  35-year career Mr Singh has represented workers in the aviation, telecommunications mining industry, local government, energy sector, dock workers,  as well as championing the rights of cane growers.  He also served on various boards tasked with upholding workers’ rights as well as their occupational health and safety. In this long career Mr Singh has been repeatedly arrested and harassed by the authorities. He and his wife Priscilla, a NFP vice president, have been repeatedly been subjected to violence and threats. But Mr Singh is still here and ready to represent workers. And never have Fiji’s workers needed him more.

There is no other unionist contesting this election with his experience. And he is needed. The workers of Fiji and the trade union movement can rely upon him to protect and advance their rights and freedoms in parliament, more so in a government. And we can assure you that Mr Singh will do exactly that in an NFP government after the elections.

The Constitution, through the Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding & Disclosures) Act, deliberately sidelines trade unionists by requiring them to resign their positions if they wish to contest elections. Mr Singh has done that. He has decided to sacrifice his career and accept the daunting task of correcting the imbalances, eliminating discriminatory practices and restoring the rights of workers who have been under the onslaught of both the military regime and the Fiji First government’s draconian policies and laws for the last 12 years.

Never have things been worse for the trade union movement than now. This is the government that initiated the draconian ENI Decree, destroying the rights of workers in so-called essential industries. They could not even negotiate their own wages. The ENI Decree only ended when the government was threatened with a board of inquiry from the International Labour Organisation.

But the government continues to do what it wants in matters involving unions:

  • disallowing strikes
  • not recognising strike ballots
  • waiting for “ministerial approval” to settle minor issues in local government officers’ disputes
  • setting a restrictive timeline to reporting of disputes and;
  • implementing civil service reforms arbitrarily.

This has resulted in disparities in salaries and wages in the civil service, employees suspended and then sacked without any fair hearing, civil servants being put on contracts, promotions not based on merit despite the so-called Open Merit System, and an enforced retirement age of 55 years.

Who can forget the ATS saga of December 2017 till January 20, 2018 when workers were locked out of their workplace for 34 days and they and their families spent Christmas and New Year in tents, fighting to keep their jobs in a company they partly own?

This was a disgraceful episode in our labour relations history.  The government declared a disputed workers’ meeting to be an unlawful strike but refused to declare the subsequent employer lockout illegal.

It was a reminder of the petulance of this government, with the ATS board demanding that workers sign an apology letter and admit wrongdoing before they were allowed to return to work.

After 34 days the ATS employees were finally vindicated by the orders of the Employment Tribunal, restoring them to their work with their full pay. ATS achieved nothing, except to make the workplace more toxic for its employees than it already was.

In a genuine democracy, a Minister would have quit after his colossal failure to practice harmonious industrial relations.  The same would have applied to the ATS Board Chairman and the company’s Acting CEO.

As already announced on 4th January 2018 as a matter of public policy, we will divest 51% Government shares in ATS to the ATS Employee Trust when we come into Government.

This year, police have three times refused a permit to workers to march and air their grievances. The first two refusals have been based on weak excuses. The third time, the Police did not even bother to offer a reason. This from a government that claims to have created a true democracy, and common and equal citizenry!

We recognise unions as a force for good in protecting some of Fiji’s poorest people. We want to return Fiji to genuine tripartism and consultation for the good of the economy. We want to eliminate discriminatory laws, raise the minimum wage rate to $5 an hour, to properly apply the labour laws and to end the constant threats and harassment of trade unionists. We will  abolish contractual employment and make all jobs permanent in the civil service. We will increase the retirement age to 60 years.

And the workers of Fiji have no better platform than that of the NFP and a staunch advocate of their rights in Mr Attar Singh to restore their equality, dignity and respect.

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

Leader

ADDRESS BY ATTAR SINGH AT 2018 NFP CANDITATE ANNOUNCEMENT ON 2ND OCTOBER

The president ,

Leader

Members  of  the  management  board  and  selection  committee  of  the  party

Invited  representatives  of  the  community

Ladies  and  gentlemen

Today  marks  the   beginning   of   another   journey   for    me   to   help   end  the  oppression  and  suffering  of  workers  and  the  trade  union  movement  of our  country .

I  have  spent  the  better  part  of  my  life  as  a  trade  unionist  fighting  for workers  rights. And  I  can  say  with  experience  that  there  have  never  been worse  laws  and  labour  practices  than  those  seen  under  the  current government  leadership  since  around  2009.

This  has  been  the  longest  period  of  suppression  of  workers  rights  and wages  while  cost  of  living  has  been  on  the  rise. Ordinary  workers  are finding  it  difficult  to  put  food  on  the  table.

Trade  unions  have  been  under  attack  by  decrees  such  as  essential  services decree  of  2011  that  made  trade  unions  in  essential  services  powerless  with  decades  of  negotiated  benefits  lost  and  access  to  dispute  settling machinery  denied.

Public  sector  unions  were  also  denied  access  to  dispute  settling  machinery. More  recently  they  have  lost  job  security  as  a  result  of  fixed term  Employment  contracts, loss  of  substantive  positions  and  demotions, reduced  retirement  age  and  unfair  wage  adjustments, all  in  the  name  of reforms.

Trade  unions  ability  to  take  strike  action  or  protest  is  now  almost  non existent  under  current  laws. Unions  in  public  and  private  sector  have  been denied  the  right  to  have  their  strike  ballots  supervised  causing  prolonged delays  in  concluding  collective  agreements. Even  simple  protests  and demonstrations  are  not  permissible  under  the  laws.

The  union  movement  has  seen  permits  for  protest  march  through  Suva refused  on  three  separate  occasions  without  valid  reason.

For  all  these  reasons  the  workers  and  trade  unions  are justifiably  angry  and are  seeking justice. They  must  not  be  denied   any  longer.

We  must  have  labour  laws  that  are  consistent  with  international  labour  standards and  that  promote  justice.

The  actions  of  the  current  government  must  be  reversed. Labour  laws  need  to  be  amended  to  restore  trade  union  and  worker  rights  for  all workers. Essential  services  must  be  redefined  in  accordance  with  ILO standards  and  right  to  strike  and  peaceful  demonstrations  restored  and protected  as  fundamental  rights  the  exercise  of  which  must  not  be impaired  by  law  or  practice. Rights  and  benefits  lost  because  of  essential services  decree  must  be  restored  by  law  and  not  be  subject  to  prolonged negotiations  as   has  been  the  case  for public  servants,  airline  workers  and  municipal  workers  for  example.

In  the  public  sector  retirement  age  must  be  restored  to  60  years  and  those  affected  by  the  reduction  suitably  compensated. The  losses,  demotions  and  disadvantages  arising  out  of  recent  reforms  need  to  be corrected  in  full  consultation  with  public  sector  trade  unions.

Fixed  term  Employment  contracts  must  be  made  unlawful  for  all  workers in  public  and  private  sectors  except  for  those  in  higher  management positions.

Collective  bargaining  rights  must  be  fully  restored  for  all  workers  and procedures  simplified  for  resolution  of  disputes.

Every  worker  must  be  legally  entitled  to  a  living  wage   that  enables  him or  her  to  provide  for  basic  necessities  for  the  family. In  this  regard  the NFP’s  $5.00  an  hour  rate  needs  to  be  implemented  at  the  soonest  together  with  measures  to  reduce  cost  of  food  and  other  basic  needs.

The  workers  and  unions  have  suffered  for  too  long  and  are  crying  out  for fairness  and  justice. Clearly  all  this  can’t  be  achieved  without  a  trade unionist  being  elected  to  be  the  workers  voice. It  is  for  these  reasons  that  I  have  resigned  all  my union  positions  to  stand  for  elections  so  that  I  can  advance  the  cause  of workers.

As  stated  by  the  leader  I  could  be  the  only  unionist  contesting  these elections  because  of  the  several  restrictions  imposed  on  us. And  as  much as  many  of  my colleagues would have liked to be present at this announcement  they  are  constrained  by  unjust  laws  from  being  here.

My  message  to  all  the  unions  and  workers  is  that  I  have  heard  your  cries. Therefore  I am  taking  this  step  to  correct  the  injustices  inflicted  on  you. And  I look  forward  to  your  support in  this  journey   so  that  we  can  right  the  wrongs  together  and  once  again  restore  the  respect  and  dignity  of  the  every  worker  and  the  union  movement.

The  employers  also  cannot  deny that  a  well paid  and  fairly  treated  workforce  is  essential  for  productivity  improvement  and  better service  delivery.

Before I conclude I must thank my family- my wife Priscilla, son Ravi, daughter- in- law Zoya, my  daughter  Jyoti  and  my  little  grandson  Yash  for not  only  bearing  with  me  all  these  years  but  also  for  all  the  support  you  have  rendered. Without  you  I  couldn’t  do  this.

Many  thanks  also  to  the  many  trade unions  and   people  whom  I  consulted  and  some  of  whom  are  here  to  show  support.

And  finally  I  must  thank  the  NFP, a  party  to  which  I   have  already  given many  years  of  my  life  in  various  capacities  including  general  secretary and  leader  for  giving  me  this  opportunity  to  champion  the  cause  of  our workers  and  the  union  movement.

We  have  a  lot  of  work  to  do. Let’s  get  on  with  it.

Thank you.