Why Bother Helping the Disabled and Powerless

The Bainimarama government has been active, some might say hyper-active, in several areas of social concern. They have, for example, passed legislation and formulated progressive policies on domestic violence, prostitution, several areas affecting poverty (e.g., the minimum wage, family benefits, fewer school expenses), the elderly. affordable housing, squatters, the empowerment of women, and people with disabilities.

If I were to believe, as his opponents claim, that Bainimarama is a dishonest man who is paying himself  and his cronies excessive salaries and pocketing perks at the taxpayer's expense, and if I also believed he has no intention of holding elections in 2014 but intends to rule Fiji indefinitely, I'd be struggling to understand why his government  bothers to pass so much legislation — there seems to be a new promulgation or decree every second week —and why, in particular, he is giving so much attention to the  least powerful in Fiji society, women, the poor and the disabled.  This posting is about the disabled.

Helping the disabled is part of the Roadmap

In opening a new Fiji National Council for Disabled Persons Centre in Labasa last week, the PM said the Centre is evidence of Government's commitment to address the problems of the most vulnerable and marginalised and create an inclusive society as articulated in the Roadmap. In the course of his address he referred to other Government measures to help the disabled. These included:

  • The 2007 Employment Relations Promulgation that calls on employers to employ two disabled people for every 50 employees, and an ongoing commitment to build employment opportunities for disabled people.
  • The2008-2018 National Policy for Persons Living with Disabilities that proposes 12 critical strategic areas  that will eventually improve the disabled participation in the community.
  • The 2010 signing of the UN Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities
  • The 2010 National Baseline Disability Survey that found 11,402 people lived with disability.*

The PM said he would like to see more public understanding about disability and work undertaken on how disabled people can be included in disaster risk reduction planning and management.

The Centre will provide specialized services and a place for disabled people to meet and, as the PM said, "engage in healthy discussions on shared dreams and how to enjoy life."

* I would be most surprised if the survey did not greatly understate the situation. I worked on the disability questions asked in the 1996 census that showed disabled people totalled 11,950, roughly the same as the 2010 survey. My monograph Disability Counts in Fiji showed 13.9 people per 1000 were disabled, a suspiciously low number compared with NZ's 197. The types of disability reported in the 1996 Census were:  Sight 10.7% of the total, Intelligence 14.9%, Hearing 8.5%, Physical 37.2%, Aged 13.0%, Other 12.6%, Not Stated 3.1%.
     The main causes of under-enumeration were probably inadequate training of interviewers (special training is needed) and the social stigma associated with some forms of disability.


tom said…

Good things underway noted.

The Pay issue would go away in seconds if he PM released the salaries of all government ministers and appointed board memebers plus benefits. This would also be consistent with the charter on transperancy and good governance. However he has not done this and the only reasonable response is one of doubt.

1. Doubt that he has kept his promise of not benefiting from the coup

2. Doubt that ministers are not earning more than one salary

3. Doubt about whether he still receives all his military allownances as well as PM benefits

I truely hope he is not pocketing more money than he was as commandor but to have douts is very reasonable.

Perhaps you could pose the straigt question to Sharon.

What does the PM earn ?
What do ministers earn ?

hour said…
Why ?

1. Because its the right thing to do

2. It will help win votes at the next election (anyone who thinks Frank will step aside after tasting all this power is a FOOL)

3. It is "do-able" stuff. Much much harder to fix the economy and investor confidence.
Anonymous said…
How about highlighting all the parts of the roadmap that ignored by this government ?
Anonymous said…
These initiatives are all commendable quick fixes but the only way to get a longer term better standard of living for everyone is to put the country on track for sustained economic growth. In this regard the military government has really struggled. Their first three years where a dissaster especially with Mahen (I want revenge on business) in place. Things have improved a little. Tourism is a good example but much of that success is due to the operators and thier lobbying more than anything else. What investors really want to see is confidence in the rule of law. As long as we are ruled by decree at the whim of a AG or PM that confidence will never be there.

Government has never been successful at running big business. Why it thinks it can fix sugar is a great mystery to be. The whole industry needs to be privatised. The only commercial brains sit with the farmers. Nothing else makes sense.
Vina'valevu Croz! said…
Croz, congratulations for highlighting some of the positive things the Bainimarama government is doing for ordinary people and especially the disadvantaged. This is the kind of thing that will get Frank elected Prime Minister when democracy returns in 2014. The people will know that for all the fuss about dictatorship, the last few years have seen real progress in some areas that have been totally neglected. Considering how tough the global economic environment has been, it's amazing that Fiji is in such relatively good shape. Yes, things are tough. But people are experiencing good, clean, honest government. The idea that the hated dictator will eventually be punished is a joke. I think he'll be thanked for making so much progress against the odds. Imagine where we'd be if Australia and NZ had set out to help him in the reform process rather than try to destroy Fiji? And all those so-called pro-democracy supporters hadn't behaved with such self interest? Thank you, Croz, for always telling the truth as you see it and always being the voice of reason. The silent majority are with you.
History will know the truth said…

He (PM) promised that no one in this government including him would participate in the new (elected government). He can't stand in the elections. Mind you I can't think of a single promise he made when justiying his coup he hasn't broken.

Sad thing is, if he stands and is elected it will be a mirror image of what happened in 2000 - something he claims was a mistake.
I think history will treat this PM poorly. The next PM who reduces the size of the military and kills the coup culture for good will be the leader that is truely remembered.
minfu said…
@ Vina

so he is campaigning already ? Sounds a bit like what Qarase did to me.
Silent Majority said…
The silent majority in Fiji have been suppressed. We have no voice. The reality is the regime has the guns and we don't. We are no longer interested in rhetoric. The increasing lack of transparency and good governance is alarming. Surely, surely if Fiji is to move forward we can at least have an open answer to the question of how much the self appointed PM and AG in this military regime are paying themselves through the AGs aunt? Honestly and sincerely Croz, is that too much to ask?
sara'ssista said…
These would be the same decrees that will have no legal standing, those ones ??and no mandate ?? Yes and mussolini is fondly remembered for keeping the trains running on time and being a good son to his mother... your point?? Yes and i agree with former comments, why are you defending the pay for this regime when you don't even know what it is ??
Croz Walsh said…
@ Saras'sista ... I thought for once you could acknowledge this as good work to help very disadvantaged people.
Anonymous said…
Good positive story.

But your stats may be highly questionable particularly the Intellectually disabled figure.

If you asked me, I reckon its a lot lot more. I reckon more than half of those around the Tanoa fall in that category - intellectually phucked. Just joking. What is not a joke however, is the other half who are half way there.

Sache ?

Turaga ni Boro
sara'ssista said…
I will always give credit where it is due, but fail to see how something so worthwhile can be accepted when devised by an illegal regime. Can you? You clearly think it takes you need to break. Few rules to moe an omelet. Given that standard, again,I say where does that end? I notice you have no retort for the pay issue comments. Doesn't
that smack of hypocrisy given the bleating about transparency and the alleged failures of previous governments? Perhaps I share your myopia but from a clearly different perspective. The problem you have is that people who accept the positives as you put it are then used by this regime as an example of some broader legitimate support.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Saras'sista ... Your logic would not appeal to the disabled. You seem to be saying a good thing cannot be good if done by a bad person. Does this mean that a bad thing (or doing nothing) is okay if it's by a good person?

As for the pay issue, I've said several times salaries should be made public, most recently in today's post on Ratu Tevita's speech. You need to be more attentive or people may suspect you are becoming disabled and soon will have to rely on the support of bad people. That's if you live in Fiji, of course.
Debating and Dying? said…
@ Sara'ssista:

No logic in that argument at all. Not even a pinch of common sense which tells us all:

No matter where or when you make sure that 'HOW' is taken care of despite legality/illegality, despite a State of War (like Somalia) despite civil conflict like Libya or Syria, despite insurgencies like Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

You do this because:

Crime must be addressed and if the Police fall short then civilians must act (a Citizens Arrest is legal anywhere if effected according to agreed procedures and context)

Civilian poor and vulnerable must be helped

The disabled and those who must be allowed a livelihood deserve it.

This all takes place despite 'legality' or 'illegality' because IT MUST and OF NECESSITY.

Legality/Illegality are man-made constructs.

Silly, obtuse distractions from the tasks at hand do not merit the time it takes to construct them? If someone has gone into cardiac arrest, are you stopping to ask the legality of applying CPR and a defibrillator?

Do you suppose it to be an 'illegal assault'? Stopping to debate will result in certain death.
curiouser and curiouser said…
Curious that the UN appears to be supporting the current regime. Their policies on the Disabled would certainly please the relevant UN agency. Add to that the Ministry of Women's drive to supply each village with two sewing machines.Is there method to Frank's madness ?
dummy spit said…
One understands your frustration with any lack of progress by this military junta, or the fact it has no recognition or respect from anyone that matters, but surely you are experienced and mature enough not to be petulant and emotive simply because sarrasista gave you a little tickle up? Take a chill pill and grow up!
Acceptable said…
@ Sara'ssista

'I will always give credit where it is due, but fail to see how something so worthwhile can be accepted when devised by an illegal regime'

One is reminded of the Biblical text, " Was the Sabbath made for man or man for the Sabbath ?"

Q - Because a man is healed or works on the Sabbath, is it therefore illegal and not acceptable ?

A - It is not acceptable if you are a Pharisee and a hyprocrite.

Your values are all screwed up Sara'ssista.
A democratic conversation? said…
@ dummy spit and 'taking a chill pill'....

The logic points made by Croz are perfectly admissible and valid ones. Why are we so consumed by making illogical moves? And failing to recognise them as such?

We bog ourselves down in 'legal/illegal' when 'valid or invalid' might be more useful. Then we move on to a position where we fail to see or comprehend that indeed, as we know in Fiji for years, 'bad people may occasionally do good things' BUT the converse does NOT apply.

How can a 'GOOD person do bad things'? This is a most important distinction and it is centred in language as well as our capacity to judge what is 'good action'.

We cannot move from what we DO NOT KNOW to "what we do know"! This is 'Thinking about Thinking' and it must be grasped before any democracy may flourish. Elections are only the first move when we must judge 'Who is a good person'? 'Who is not such a good person'? Many things must be weighed in this conversation.

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