News and Comments Wednesday 19 September 2012
Why, and on what evidence, does he say that the writing off of Fiji Water Authority debts (see below) is vote buying when it is still two years out from an election?
And how is this measure any different from the many other government actions such as the subsidised school lunches, free public transport for the elderly, or solar energy, rural development, new ports of entry, ending the syphoning off of land lease money by the NLTB and the chiefs and giving all lease money to the landowners? Most trace their origin to the Pillars of the People's Charter. And that was in 2008. Were these also vote-buying? Will he construe all government's future actions that benefit Fijians as vote buying?
I can see no good reason why Brij Lal was asked for his opinion on this issue. He has no special expertise on government expenditures or water bills. He seems to think government needs to find $14 million to pay off the Water Authority, and seems unaware that governments, everywhere, sometimes have to write off bad debts because they are noncollectable.
More to the point: why does RadioNZInternational continue to promote this man as a fair-minded academic and expert, when he demonstrably is not. His comment on the news was a partisan opinion and it should have been labelled as such. RadioNZInternational's job is to report the news in a fair and reasoned manner. Not for the first time, it has failed to do so. [Postscript. Please see comments on this item.]
WATER BAD DEBTS WRITTEN OFF. Over 25,000 households, businesses, schools and places of worship will benefit from a government decision to waive debts, worth $14 million, owed to the Water Authority of Fiji for years of unpaid water and sewerage bills. In making the announcement,
Government says it recognises some customers simply cannot afford to pay their outstanding bills, and that many of the arrears have built up over the years and settling them is now beyond the means of many ordinary people. The Water Authority said plumbing leakages, affecting 20,000 accounts, are a major reason why some customers have incurred high bills and got behind in their payments. More than 20-thousand accounts suffered from plumbing leakages, with total losses of $6.3-million dollars.
The debt relief is a one-off. It's now up to people to get their plumbing fixed.-- Based on MOI. To his discredit, Prof Brij Lal, speaking to RadioNZ (18.9.12), called the exercise "vote buying."
WE'RE CHRISTIAN.THE CHIEF SAID SO. JUST ACCEPT IT. It's hard to believe these are the words of a Christian leader in the 21st Century but this is what Methodist chairman Rev. Waqairatu told ABC's Pacific Beat. Fiji is Christian and "those that are thinking otherwise should understand that the Fijian chiefs have already made the decision." People from other religious groups will, however, be allowed to practice their beliefs, but the church’s role is clear.
When approached by FijiVillage to comment further on the ABC interview, he said he will not make any further comments on the church’s stand that Fiji should be a Christian state because "the church committee has now advised him not to make any comments."
EVR TEAMS FOR OVERSEAS: CHAUDHRY SEES SINISTER INTENT. The PM has confirmed electronic voter registration teams will travel overseas to register overseas citizens before the 2014 election. This has resulted in a statement from the Fiji Labour Party questioning the apparent lifting of the residence clause in the Electoral (Registration of Voters) Decree No. 54. The 1997 Constitution and previous Electoral Acts required intending voters to have been resident in in Fiji for two years immediately before their application for registration.
I agree with Mahendra Chaudhry that the reason for this apparent change should be stated but I do not agree that it "potentially undermine the credibility and integrity of our electoral rolls." Given the excessively high rate of emigration, most especially by Indo-Fijians, caused by a succession of coups, I think there is good reason why all overseas Fiji citizens should be eligible to vote, with no or only a minimal residential requirement. A case can even be made for an overseas constituency in the 2014 elections. But the reason for the change should be stated by government.
NAMOSI PROSPECTING GO AHEAD. the Namosi Joint Venture (NJV) has been given the go ahead to recommence all activities relating to special Prospecting License (SPL1420) including exploration, project studies and Waisoi Project Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) until 2015. In a brief announcement, the PM said the decision was made "following the successful rehabilitation of environmental issues raised by landowners earlier this year." Under the Government’s direction, the Tikina Namosi Landowners Committee (TNLC) and NJV have worked in partnership to address landowners’ concerns that enable both parties to develop a cooperative way forward.
Government is pleased with NJV’s commitment to the rehabilitation works and the new initiatives that have been introduced which demand more consistent dialogue with Government and TNLC on future works (exploration and geo-technical studies including drillings) together with appropriate rehabilitation programs. Government and the landowners will meet again once the EIA is completed.
GOVERNMENT CORRECTS FIJI TIMES. Minister of Health Dr Neil Sharma says the Fiji Times report that government is charging fees for free surgery is misleading. A fee is charged but patients can always apply for relief. During the recent visit by overseas specialists, no patients were denied an angiogram for financial reasons as the FT claimed. However, because of a machine malfunction, their procedures were postponed until October when another team of doctors visits Fiji to perform the same procedures. A liaison officer will be appointed to coordinate the visit of future visits by the team and "all media releases will be issued through the Ministry of Health in order to promote public understanding of heart disease and the benefits available to Fijians from the Bainimarama Government."
QARASE TO APPEAL. Former PM Laisenia Qarase, currently serving a one year jail sentence in prison, is expected to appeal his conviction in relation to the Fijian Holdings Limited case this Wednesday. Qarase was found guilty of six counts of abuse of office and three counts of discharging his duty with respect to property in which he had a private interest. His lawyer has expressed concerns about his age and health and may request his transfer to an infirmary.
MORE DAMS. The $300 million Nadarivatu hydro-electric dam is the first of several that will be built over the next few years.