NFP President: Remarks at 50th Anniversary of Independence Conference
Saturday 26th September 2020
REMARKS BY NFP PRESIDENT
50TH ANNIVERSARY OF INDEPENDENCE CONFERENCE ALBERT PARK CONFERENCE ROOM, SUVA
BY HON PIO TIKODUADUA
His Grace the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church in Fiji Peter Loy Chong, Party Leader Honourable Professor Biman Prasad, General Secretary Seni Nabou, Membersof the National Executive & Management, stalwarts likeChacha Jagindra Singhand former MP James Raman, invited guests, members of the media, delegates from throughout Fiji representing Team NFP and fellow Fijians watching this livestream. I thank you all for joining us today. Of course the issues resulting from the coronavirus and the restrictions on gathering mean this year’sAGM is a low-key event. We are disappointed that we cannot share this event with all our supporters and friends, but we also understand that this is a time for prudence and caution. Before I begin my main remarksfor today, I feel it is important to respond to the current issues we are going through with the Fiji Elections Office on the party’s accounts and financial records. My first assurance to all our members and supporters is that no one – not even the Registrar himself – has allegedthat funds have been misusedor stolen. And that is not the case. There is very little money to misuse anyway! We are a small party. Other parties seem able to collect millions of dollars in donations from the rich and powerful. We are not so lucky. The Registrar has raised some questions about our paperwork and our financial records. We will respond to these. This is what any transparent organisation would do if our members asked us questions.
We do not agree with all of the alleged discrepancies that the Registrar has raised. However it is clear to me that in some cases our record- keeping and accounting needs to be sharpened up. I am the President of the party. It is my job to make sure that the party gets this right. We will work with the Registrarand his team,and our new auditors, Naiveli & Co, to answer his questions. If our accounts have to be corrected, we will correctthem. It is highly symbolic that we are marking the Golden Jubilee or 50th year of Independence at a venue where the Instruments of Independence were handed over to Fiji’s last Chief Minister and First Prime Minister, Turaga na Tui Nayau, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, by His Royal Highnessthe Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, on 10th October, 1970. Yes – Albert Park was where it all happened. And it was right here in Albert Park that the nobler banner blue flag of Fiji took to the skies and fluttered proudly that historic and monumental Saturday, being carefully watched by the monolithic Joske’s Thumb. And 50 years later, after leading and succeeding in the peaceful struggle for Independence, the National Federation Party, born out of the struggle for equality, dignity and justiceof the ordinary people of Fiji, is once again gathered at the same venue where its efforts resulted in Fiji saying goodbye to 96 years of Colonial rule, to rekindle the never-say-die spirit of marching in harmony in unison to put people first and rebuild lives. And, what a strangeco-incidence, that todayis a Saturday is well, just as it was 50 years ago, when the noble banner blue, representing a tiny speck on the globe, quickly grew from infancy, into one of the most famous and shining examples of pride and patriotism, thanks to the prowess of our sevens rugby gladiators and individual sporting brilliance over the years. We are Fiji. Nobody beats us when it comes to celebrating our triumphant days. And nobody matches us when we unite as a nation to mourn our tragic events. But why is it that it is too few and far between? Why isn’t this a daily occurrence in our national landscape?
The short and simply answer to this is – nationalinterest and the interest of the people have been sacrificed for personal and political advancement. But this is not my role or the time to dwell on why this is happening. This is the time to salute our founding fathers and acknowledge their sacrifices. This is the time for the several thousands of NFP members, supporters and well-wishers to stand proudly and say – We Made Fiji Independent and a Sovereign Nation. This is the tine to salute the founding father of NFP, Ambalal Dahyabhai Patel or A D Patel, his able lieutenant Siddiq Moidin Koya, the nine NFP Members of the Legislative Council, ably supported by chiefs like Ratu Mosese Varasikete Tuisawau and Ratu Julian Toganivalu, and the NFP stalwarts for believing in the vision of A D Patel – a vision that we as a party have not shirked for the last 57 years. This is the time to saluteAlparti Tataiya, who first suggested to A D Patel and his lieutenants to turn the Federation of Cane Growersinto a political movement under a mango tree in Vaileka, Ra, under the watch of the legendary Nakauvadra Hills, that gave birth to the Citizens Federation in 1963. Little that Mr Tataiya know, his idea of a political movement would give to a party that would survive for 57 years and beyond and make monumental achievements that are milestones in our nation. Starting with the outright rejection of the Eve Award that was designed to put cane growersin perpetual povertyby denying them their fair share of proceeds from sale of sugar; Negotiating ALTO or the Agricultural Land & Tenant Ordnance in 1966 giving security of tenure to farmers especially cane growers; Ten years later, in 1976, negotiating ALTA or Agricultural Land & Tenant Act that provided the basis of an agricultural lease to be of a minimum tenure of 30 years, thereby bringing to a very large degree, economic prosperity to Fiji and enhancing livelihood of cane growers.
The establishment of Fiji NationalProvident Fund that has grown into the nation’s biggest financial institution, with successive governments domestic debt largely sourced from FNPF, and the current government, as of June 2019, having more than 50% of its massive debt portfolio or over $3 billion from FNPF; Pushing for the establishment with Housing Authority to provide affordable housing with Father D P Hurley; Pushing for the establishment of a university resulting in the establishment of the region’s largest university – the USP; Succeeding in the Legislative Council in agreeing to renovate the chiefly bure on Bau Island by way of a Motion; 1970 Constitution and Independence; Negotiating with the declaration of Diwali and Prophet Muhammad’s birthday as public holidays in 1974; Achieving the Denning Award in 1969,that still is applicable to sharing of proceeds for the sugar industry with an average 70% proceeds for cane growers and 30% to Fiji Sugar Corporation; Driving out the CSR or Colonial Sugar Refining Company that transited into SPSM or South Pacific Sugar Mills and went away three years after Independence; Negotiating the enactment of the Sugar Industry Act in 1984 that is still in force; Achieving the 1997 Constitution, widely acclaimed to be one of the three very best Constitutions in the world, through painstaking negotiations, perseverance and dialogue; Surviving annihilation at the generalelections three times and risingfrom the ashes to reclaim its rightful place in parliament. The history of this country, both pre and post-independence, is cast in stone. And in every historical event, one cannot and must not ignore the role of the NFP.
History cannot be distorted or destroyed. Neither can or will the NFP, come hell or high water. NFP has witnessed and survived great tragedies that have usurped the rule of law, democracy and constitutional governance in Fiji since 1987. Nothing, whetherthe desire for power or a quick-fix solutionjust to make some feel good has ever managed to dent the impregnable principled fortress or shaken the roots of the legendary mango tree that the NFP was, is and will be in future. Because the NFP has never shirked its founding principles of sacrificing itself for national interest. 57 years, the party has evolved into what our founder leader A D Patel aspired for. 57 years on the Party, having survived the pitfalls, politics of connivance, racism, deceit draconian laws and decrees, fear mongering and freebies, is now a genuine multiracial, multicultural and multiethnic party that it set itself out to be under that mango tree in Vaileka. We have never succumbed to becoming part of the gravy train that was evident after the four coups in 1987 (twice), 2000, 2006. We have sacrificed our posh offices and huge salaries to stay true to the values of our founding fathers. Each one of our leaders – from A D Patel, S M Koya, Harish Sharma, Jai Ram Reddy, Prem Singh, Attar Singh and Professor Biman Prasad – and Team NFP – were, are, and will be fearless in the face of adversity. In November 1986, when Pope John Paul the 2nd visited Fiji, he said Fiji is the symbol of hope for the world. We can and we must make our nation a beacon of hope and glory that is free of the social and moral decay. And so, I am reminded of the prophetic words of our founder leader A D Patel who said in 1964 and I quote: -
“It is easy to be a ranting politician. It is difficult to be a statesman in a Government to steer the ship clear of all rocks. A statesman has got to look at the next generation. A politician usually looks to the next election. I have repeated before that if it ever comes to choosing between sacrificing my community, and the interests of the country,and sacrificing myself, I would rather sacrifice myself”.- Unquote
Let me reiterate - I am proud to be the President of a Party that is an impregnable fortress of principles – that has not been shirked come hell or high water in the last 57 years.
We shall prevail.
God bless NFP
God bless Fiji