SODELPA Press Statement on Budget Speech on Elections

Party Secretary Pio Tabaiwalu
SODELPA PRESS RELEASE ON PRIME MINISTER’S BUDGET SPEECH ON ELECTIONS IN 2014
by ********* published by Fiji Today.

The release is unedited but I have added sub-headings to show how most points failed to address any budget issue, not even on elections other than the $15 m allocated. I have also highlighted the words "budget" (that the release is supposed to be about) and "constitution" (that it seems to be about). I am surprised so few economic issues of concern to the nation, which is what budget is all about,  were not mentioned.  Perhaps there will be other releases (see * below).   -- Croz Walsh 

False promises and untrustworthy
Whilst SODELPA notes a budget specifically for elections in 2014 the Party reminds the Prime Minister that he has a habit of making false promises and is basically untrustworthy. A promise of $15 million in the budget does not automatically translate into free and fair elections. SODELPA urges the international community to keep on the pressure for elections that are free, fair and transparent. SODELPA appreciates the European Union’s stance to keep strictly to the provisions of the Cotonou Agreement and for this government to provide a credible road map back to democratic rule.

Constitution and Bainimarama's "high treason"
 He reminds us that the “Fijian Constitution is the supreme law of the land…”yet he abrogated a constitution after the Appeals Court decision in 2009 whilst his Charter clearly states that his government will respect the 1997 Constitution. The public is clearly insulted at such pronouncements and will not easily forget that his propaganda is now thicker and deeper and he is drowning in it.

 The public is not gullible they know that he has committed high treason for ousting illegally a democratically elected coalition government. It is no surprise that he has praised his and Khaiyum’s constitution because it has given him “immunity” What a shameless act. A true soldier and officer should face the consequences of his actions. The true heroes of history do not hide through immunity provisions.

How will they pay?
 He has fronted up on TV and announced several budgets since 2006 but he should also tell us through the Auditor General’s reports and front up on TV (as he enjoys this so much) to tell how us how his government actually spent the public’s money as detailed in his budgets. SODELPA requests the Prime Minister that before he goes on TV and announce a budget he should first of all publish the Auditor’s General’s report from 2006 to 2013.

The constitution and human rights
 This is what transparency and good governance is all about and yet the Budget speech is full of empty niceties such as “advancing rights, and moving Fiji forward”. The international and regional human rights organizations are very clear in their assessments that the so called peoples Constitution have provisions that are regressive for basic human rights. The ILO condemns unequivocally the suppression of workers’ rights in the Constitution. Women’s rights were absent in the Government’s first draft of the Constitution and were included after numerous submissions from women and women’s organisations. And of great concern to SODELPA is that any right contained in the Bill of Rights may be limited by the “Claw-back clause” which gives the government the right to over ride these rights. What this means is that there is potential for great abuse of rights by Government.

The constitution, land and indigenous rights
 The rights of indigenous Fijians, Banabans and Rotumans to their land are no longer secure under the Prime Minister’s constitution. Any government can change the indigenous land laws with a simple majority in Parliament and without the consent of landowners. SODELPA quotes directly from the Citizen’s Constitutional Forum on this issue as follows:

’The March 2013 draft was silent on land and indigenous rights and provided no constitutional protection of iTaukei rights to land…Fiji Government Constitution does not entrench the suite of legislation ( including the iTaukei Lands Act, iTaukei Land Trust Act, Rotuman Lands Act and Banaban Lands Act and the Agricultural Landlord and Tenant Act) which forms the basis upon which the majority of land is owned accessed and developed. Such legislation was entrenched in each of the 1970, 1990, and 1997 Constitution and in the 2012 draft. This omission means all these laws may be amended by a simple majority in Parliament.

 There is no requirement that the State and proponents consult with affected land owners and communities in proposed land developments (as there was in the 2012 draft). Of greater concern, the protection afforded iTaukei lands can also be limited, or completely removed, by an Act of Parliament that accords with the limitation of rights clause. Accordingly, the Bill of Rights offers no real protection to iTaukei landowners’’ (pp19-20)

 And yet the Prime Minister is stating that “More than 40 years after Independence, we finally have a stable foundation to build a modern, democratic country.” The future is certainly unstable for the indigenous Fijians. Being an indigenous Fijian himself SODELPA urges the Prime Minister to read the critical analysis of his Constitution on the erosion of the rights of his own people.

The Budget is "election bate"
 The election bait in poorly veiled statements such as “building the economy, creating jobs, delivering services, providing security, improving infrastructure, advancing rights, and moving Fiji forward” cannot compare to the astronomical economic loss that Fiji has suffered in the last seven years. Added to this is the loss of highly qualified man-power and technical and managerial skills. The statistics on Fiji’s economic performance has been dismal compared to other Pacific Island Countries.

Reveal the salaries
The Prime Minister should instead of stating what all governments’ will do i.e. build roads, provide services etc should reveal the salaries of Ministers and explain the huge and unwarranted increase in the salaries of Permanent Secretaries leaving the other civil servants to struggle daily with levels of salaries that have been stagnant since 2006.Coupled with inflation and the devaluation of the Fiji Dollar real income is worse than at any other time in Fiji’s history.

 This is no way as he says to “Fiji finally has a stable foundation to build a modern, democratic country”. And his Constitution with its attendant weaknesses will certainly not make Fiji a “modern democratic country…” Fiji instead faces a bleak and very unstable future.

The Constitution and Elections
 His statement that the polls will no longer be ethnically based due to the voting system reflects his poor understanding of the system in his Constitution. What Fiji needs is not a voting system but an evolutionary process of coalition building as enshrined in the 1997 Constitution for more equal participation for all ethnic communities including the minorities in the governance of this country. In his Constitution the minorities and small parties because of the high thresholds to win one seat do not have a chance at the polls. Therefore, his assertion that the “elections will be a means of uniting our nation behind shared aspirations” is very hollow indeed.

On the registration of voters, instead of crowing about how many have registered the Prime Minister should release the provisional roll of voters as required under their own Decree 54 of 2012. SODELPA has written to the government on this issue and is awaiting a response. Overseas residents have notified the Party that they were ill informed about registration centers and insufficient time was given for registration.

Overseas donors should be wary of election promises
Whilst SODELPA welcomes the assistance by overseas donors, it cautions them to be wary of this Government and be aware of their clear intentions to form a party and contest the elections. There is very real concern from SODELPA that the rules will be bent to the favour the Government so we want to be assured that the election experts provided by the EU, Australia and New Zealand will clearly be allowed without undue interference to” draft the rules and regulations that will guide the electoral process, and establish a free, fair and transparent system..” as the Prime Minister has stated. The fate of the Yash Ghai peoples’ draft Constitution is still very clear to all of us. These experts could very well see their draft rules and regulations suffer the same.

Budget speech evidence of Bainimarama's self delusions
 There is growing knowledge amongst the general public of the self delusion of the Bainimarama Government, they no longer have a sense of reality. The Budget speech is just further evidence of this.

* Other releases

Party Secretary Pio Tabaiwalu's statement on housing http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=251102
This statement welcomes budget help for middle income households and questions the limited help for Suva squatters, that the Peoples Community Network welcomed.

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