News and Comments on Monday 2nd June
As at 30 April some 68% said they would vote for Voqere Bainimarama and Fiji First, 14% would vote for SODELPA, 11% for the FLP, 4% for the NFP, and 3% for the PDP. Which totals 100%. And so it should, you might say, but there is no record of undecided voters or those who refused to answer. These people accounted for up to 20% in the Razor and Tebbutt polls.
STOP MAKING LAND A POLITICAL FOOTBALL. Vunidawa chief, Turaga na Vunivalu e Nakorovatu, Ratu Timoci Rokobukete says Taukei land ownership is intact and safe and should not be used as a political football. It is well protected by the Constitution. He said he was concerned some politicians and political parties were claiming otherwise on this "very sensitive issue".
He was responding to claims by SODELPA General Secretary Pio Tabaiwalu that the 2010 Land Use Decree showed how Taukei land had been taken away from them by the Government. [The decree concerns native land voluntarily leased for 99 years in exchange for reasonable rentals guaranteed by Government.] The truth, he said, was that the Government had strengthened iTaukei rights, not eroded them.
Ratu Timoci said the SODELPA claim was really misleading, and urged "all political parties not to touch land in their campaign for the September 17 elections” and instead focus on how they would lead the nation if elected. “They must come up with issues that will improve the livelihood of the people and not false promises.”
He said he had supported the formation of the then SDL, the forerunner of SODELPA, but had withdrawn his backing because he wanted "a Government that cares for all Fijians and at all time puts the interest of Fiji first.” He now supports Fiji First.
FIJI FIRST RESPONDS TO CRITICS. The proposed General Secretary of FijiFirst, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has invited the Registrar of Political Parties to reject all the objections by Opposition parties against the party's registration on the grounds that they lack merit. The objections were:
- FF has used parts of the Fiji flag and coat of arms as their logo. FF states no law prohibits their use [No one objected to the SDL party using the dove or the FLP the coconut in the coat of arms as their logos].
- FF has stolen the name of an earlier party. FF responded that the "Fiji 1st" party was never registered and the names are not identical. The name was chosen because it reflect FF policy.
- The PM was campaigning before registration. FF countered by saying the group collecting signatures has always referred to themselves as the proposed FijiFirst party.
- A FF executive had been convicted of criminal charges. FF's proposed Vice-President Bijai Prasad resigned when it was revealed he had been convicted of larceny 23 years ago.
The Registrar of Political Parties, Mohammed Saneem has since registered the party. See last item in this posting.
OUTER ISLAND VOTER REGISTRATION CONTINUES. The naysayers who said Government was not serious about holding elections must now surely be asking themselves why government is going to so much trouble with election preparations for an election they do not intend to hold.
Take, for example, the registration teams that will visit Rotuma between 2-12 June, Lau and Lomaiviti from 11-28, and Kadavu from 11-24.Other teams will be stationed in ten Central Division supermarkets during this period. To date, some 554,506 people, including 1,624 from overseas, have registered to vote in the 17 September election.
FIJI IS AMONG THE WORST COUNTRIES FOR WORKER RIGHTS according to the ITUC on the basis of information supplied by Fiji unionists. The Ministry of Labour has responded by saying trade unions still operate, over 20,000 workers belong to unions, and alternative dispute mechanisms are in place to hear worker complaints.
Comment. Government has sought to lessen the influence of some unions whose leaders were anti-government, especially when they sought support from Australian and NZ unions that, according to Government, could have threatened Air Fiji and the tourism industry. Government action, however, left the unions little alternative. It is expected that the Essential Industries Decree and similar decrees will be re-visited if FF forms the new government —and scrapped if it does not.]
FIJI TIMES COMING OUT OF ITS SHELL. It would seem the Fiji Times, that has published little to no political news for many months is now more confident of its position. The Fiji Times-Tebbutt Research polls are one welcome indication. Another sign was the publication of "What politicians say" in which spokespersons for the opposition parties gave some indications of what they would do if they became government.
- SODELPA's Mere Samisoni said the economy needs political stability, people need to respect each other and their religious differences, and the media needs to keep government accountable. Other than saying unemployment was a problem, she did not say what SODELPA would do in government. The party's manifesto is still to be released.
- Independent candidate Roshika Deo said she would focus on youth and unemployment, and policies on increasing agricultural production, rights-based labour legislation, and matching education with the skills the country needs.
- Amar Ravindra Singh of the PDP singled out unemployment as the biggest issue and pointed to the need for internationally accepted labour laws, the promotion of rural employment and increasing informal sector production.
- Biman Prasad said a NFP government would reduce unemployment by tariff, labour market and tax reforms and by stimulating labour-intensive industries.
- FLP's Mahendra Chaudhry questioned government statistics on unemployment and said jobs would be created naturally in a buoyant economy, but investor confidence needs democracy.
SANEEM RESPONDS TO OBJECTIONS
Fiji election authorities say an objection received over the Fiji First Party's registration contravenes the law.
The Registrar of Political Parties Mohammed Saneem confirmed Fiji First's registration last week, rejecting the six complaints it received.
Among the objections were accusations the regime-led party had campaigned before being registered, it had wrongly used the Fiji flag and its name resembled that of another party, Fiji 1st.
In his written decision dismissing the objections, Mr Saneem upheld Fiji First's responses to the objections.
His statement outlined three objections made by Tupeni Baba of the Sodelpa Party including that a former office holder of the party, Bijai Prasad, had lied over not having a conviction.
Mr Saneem, described the conviction as irrelevant and he said Dr Baba was in breach of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act by raising it.
To Dr Baba's complaint about illegal campaigning, Mr Saneem said he hadn't provided particulars to substantiate the claims.
He said in any event the ground's raised by Mr Baba did not qualify under the law.
Three applicants objected to the use of the name Fiji First, saying the Fiji 1st party already existed.
But Mr Saneem said there was no evidence the party's registration had ever been approved.
Mr Saneem also said one of the objectors Amit Singh had not signed his letter.
Another applicant Nazia Khan Rauf had objected to the use of the Fiji flag by Fiji First in its logo.
But Mr Saneem said no law prohibits the use of the flag and in any case Fiji First was using a variant of the flag.
Mr Saneem said another objector, Mick Beddoes, had misconceived certain facts and not signed his letter of objections.