Response to AG & other matters
Media Conference by NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad
Friday, September 16, 2022 – NFP HQ
(Please check against delivery)
Good morning Fiji and to the members of the media. We have had a an extremely hectic two weeks, during which we farewelled Justice Jai Ram Reddy - one of the greatest leaders of his time – in both New Zealand and Fiji. So it’s now time to talk about issues that we didn’t have time to either respond to or highlight.
Our Rugby Sevens World Cup Champions
But before we do that, the NFP wishes to salute our rugby 7s gladiators for their historic achievement in Cape Town, South Africa.
They have etched Fiji’s name in 7s history in indelible ink by winning the coveted Melrose Cup for the 3rd time.
More, importantly, they have placed Fiji firmly in the annals of 7s history by becoming the first and only team to hold both the title of Olympic and World Champions at the same time.
They have filled us all with inspiration and hope.
Any person with Fiji in their blood, regardless of where they live will remember this historic achievement.
Our 7s heroes have done Fiji immensely proud. They have brought Fiji together at a time when we sorely need it.
The Fiji First Government
The Fiji First Government is tired, bankrupt and broken. They are getting more and more desperate as they try to cling to power.
They are passing restrictive electoral laws like Bill 49. They continue to create a climate of fear and division to win the election. They are hoping that people will be too afraid to vote them out.
We have seen it twice now, in 2014 and 2018. They go out and campaign to get people’s votes, throwing around Government money. Then they just go back for the next four years to being the same arrogant and selfish government they have always been.
And we are saying to the people – just hold on and be strong. Soon you will have your chance to vote them out so we can get Fiji back on the road to national unity, democracy and an end to fear and division.
Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and Level 9
I now turn to the politics and grandstanding of Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum during his 9 September press conference at Level 9, Suvavou House, on Friday.
The term “Level 9” has a special meaning to all of us in Fiji. It’s the same place where the Fiji First government hid from the opposition and the whole country during the 2018 petition. It is now a national joke used to describe lying and covering up.
His press conference was supposed to be an update on the payout of the $180 Inflation Mitigation Package. But he spent more time attacking the National Federation Party and me.
Everybody is just sick of Aiyaz’s grandstanding and never-ending talking. We cannot wait for him to be gone.
“Offering the moon”
Firstly, Aiyaz accused me of saying: -quote “Politicians can offer the moon, so what?” – unquote
This is a blatant lie. This is what I said on Monday 29th August in Parliament and I quote the Hansard for that proceedings: -
“Yes, political parties offer the moon sometimes but it is not for him or for the Government or the Supervisor of Elections or someone in the Electoral Commission to ask and tell them how they are going to do it. It is for the people whether they want to believe it or not. That is an example of a stupid law that this Government has put in place to punish the Opposition”. – Unquote
I was absolutely clear that it isn’t for the Ministry of Economy, Supervisor of Elections and the Electoral Commission to judge promises and policies of political parties.
Because there isn’t a qualified independent body to make financial assessments in Fiji unlike Australia, which has a parliamentary budget office.
It is therefore for the voters to decide whether they accept or reject the policies. But what this law implies is that the voters, in whose hands lie the fate of political parties, aren’t astute enough to be judges of facts or lies.
Use of Government Facebook page
Quite deliberately, the Fijian government Facebook page has Aiyaz’s comments from the 9th September press conference, spliced with an out of context quote. I just quoted it in full.
Aiyaz’s political attack is a false statement contrary to his own electoral laws. To make it worse, it is on the Government Facebook page. Not the Fiji First page, the Government page.
The Government Facebook page is paid for by the taxpayers. But it is used by Fiji First as an election platform. Fiji First has decided to abuse all norms, including taxpayers’ funds to do as it pleases.
We have now filed a complaint to the Supervisor of Elections about the misuse of Government property for electioneering.
The Fijian Government is not a registered political party. Fiji First is. For now, it is the party in Government.
But Government resources should work for the people.
A government platform, be it social media, radio or television or whatever, must not promote those who lead the government or politicians in it.
But now the taxpayers are paying for Fiji First politicians to be promoted, including attacks on Opposition parties.
Why can’t Fiji First publish everything political on its own Facebook page? Is it because nobody goes to that page?
Why is it abusing taxpayers’ funds? Only a government clutching at straws will do it.
But no one cannot expect transparency or accountability from this government. Remember this Government, which passes all its laws under Standing Order 51 in a few days or even overnight, has done nothing about the Code of Conduct and Freedom of Information laws, which have been gathering dust for more than 3 years. So there is no Code of Conduct governing how our leaders must behave.
And there is no Freedom of Information legislation to allow people to have access to information on how their government works for them.
And in the absence of the Code of Conduct, no Accountability and Transparency Commission has been established, even though the Constitution requires it.
Political party donations
Aiyaz raved and ranted about political party donations. He said the Opposition was not being accountable. On all of this let me just say one thing.
The Fiji First Party has millions of dollars in the bank. And we know how it gets that money. It calls in business people to meetings in certain private homes. It then demands that they give tens of thousands of dollars, in the names of family members of those business people. And of course business people pay up. They are too afraid to say no.
The Fiji First donor lists from 2014 to 2019 prove what we are saying.
Now of course the Government has changed the law so these donor lists are no longer public.
Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum also claims that I made accusations about vote-rigging in 2018. He has challenged me to give details.
Again, he has got it wrong. I quote from what I said in Parliament:
It is not me who talked about vote-rigging. It is one of his own party members, one of his own MPs, who talked about it. Of course I am not going to tell him which MP said it. I am waiting for that MP to tell us more. But if Aiyaz wants to know more about all of this, maybe he should investigate inside his own Parliamentary caucus.
Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum also berated me for my comment on Constitution Day holiday where I asked what is there to celebrate about the imposed 2013 Constitution.
He basically labelled me as a hypocrite saying I had taken an Oath as an MP under the very same Constitution. Let me remind him of history.
When 14 Members of NFP entered Parliament in 1992 under the unjust 1990 Constitution, each one of them took an Oath or Affirmation under the very same Constitution.
But the NFP had entered parliament with the sole objective of seeking changes to the Constitution. And taking an Oath didn’t prevent them from criticising or seeking changes to the 1990 Constitution. One of those MPs was his own father.
Did that make him a hypocrite? Of course not. He was there to secure constitutional change. So are we.
We are not the people who imposed a constitution on the people of Fiji by Decree and trashed the Ghai Commission report in 2012. That is the Fiji First Party.
30 years after 1992, we are doing what our predecessors did. We have always opposed the 2013 Constitution because it was imposed.
Finally, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said wasn’t fit to be compared to NFP’s former Leaders.
Let me say this. I would never claim that I can ever fill the shoes of A D Patel, S M Koya, Harish Sharma or Jai Ram Reddy. But I and others in NFP always subscribe to and uphold their principles and vision.
We just farewelled and held a memorial for Justice Jai Ram Reddy, who brought glory and fame to Fiji as a United Nations judge for 5 years.
Mr A D Patel’s achievement for cane growers is still relevant in the form of Denning Award, incorporated into the Master Award.
Mr Koya’s vision of an elected body for canegrowers, the Sugar Cane Growers Council, of which he weas the first Chairman, has been destroyed by the Fiji First government.
Mr Harish Sharma just last Saturday spoke virtually at Justice Jai Ram Reddy’s memorial. Despite being deposed as Deputy Prime Minister in the NFP-FLP Coalition government of 1987, Mr Sharma has whole-heartedly endorsed NFP’s post-election coalition in government with Sitiveni Rabuka and the People’s Alliance.
These leaders were giants of their time, in their ability, understanding and perception of the problems facing Fiji. We can recall their speeches, their actions, their sacrifices and contributions for all the people of Fiji.
Compare them to the small-minded, vindictive people who are in government today, including Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. I cannot think of one thing for which he will be remembered in history, except for his pettiness and politicking.
Need I say any more!
Hope and change – we must vote
Finally, I want to say to the people of Fiji - please stay strong until we get rid of this Government.
We have united with the People’s Alliance to bring the people of Fiji a new government. That new government has as its first aim to end the division and the fear that is all around our country now.
The Fiji First Party will do anything to stay in power. It will make new election laws so it can attack opposition political parties. It will throw around some freebies just before the election, with taxpayers’ money. But it has proven it cannot solve our deep national problems.
We want to bring people together. We want to bring everyone together to help solve these problems.
These problems include the high cost of living, disastrous health service delivery and and declining quality of education, the dying sugar industry and our deepening government debt.
We cannot keep the water on for hundreds of thousands of people. We cannot deliver basic services in our towns and cities.
Poverty is deepening.
Thousands of our most skilled Fiji citizens are leaving, which will only make our problems worse.
A good government can help us solve these problems. But a good government must first bring our people together and end the division and fear.
We know that a overwhelming majority of our people are fed up with this arrogant government. They desperately need a change. All I ask you is: You must register to vote, you must turn out to vote and you must vote to reject this uncaring, uncompassionate, government, that cares only about staying in power.