01 July 2015: Media Release – A Waste of Taxpayers’ Funds
The extension of a so-called consultation deadline till 31st December 2015 for the people of Fiji to submit their views on a proposed new flag for Fiji is a waste and abuse of taxpayers’ funds. This process must be abandoned immediately and a referendum held so that the people of Fiji are able to legitimately express their views on this issue.
And the Fiji First government must reveal as a matter of transparency and accountability the amount of taxpayers’ funds already used in this needless exercise.
The reality is that an overwhelming majority of the people, as reflected in the Tebbutt Poll want to have a direct say through a referendum on the issue – that is whether or not Fiji should have a new flag. It is as simple as this.
And the Fiji First Government must respect the wishes of the people and hold a referendum for the people to have their legitimate input on the issue. Anything less is unacceptable.
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama is fooling no one by saying there has been “unprecedented number of responses” on the issue of a new flag. And the extension of the consultation period is necessitated by this “unprecedented” outpouring of feedback.
Nothing can be further from the truth. The only thing unprecedented is the overwhelming rejection of the Fiji First government’s 23 designs and the fundamentally flawed manner in which it wants a new flag for Fiji.
This government is trying to unilaterally impose its will upon the nation against a massive tide of public opinion rejecting outright the process so far.
The PM and his government must not hide behind the mantra of mandate to enforce a process and at the end of it, a national symbol against the wishes of the people. The mandate to govern and democracy is not about riding roughshod over the wish of its citizens. This becomes critically important when it concerns an issue of national interest like the case of our flag, which has been the symbol of pride and patriotism for 45 years.
The legitimate process to determine if the flag needs to be changed, and what changes if any are required, is to respect the wish of 87% of our people and hold a referendum. If government’s proposed National Flag Bill stipulates a referendum with a threshold of 75% for their new flag, it is only fair that a referendum be held to determine whether the current flag really needs changes.
Anything less is a sham. Prof Biman Prasad Leader