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“SODELPA has learned nothing. Instead of providing the country with a vision of a new Fiji, it is dragging everyone backwards by employing the same old fear-mongering tactics of the old Fiji. Every political party has the right to develop the manifesto of their choosing, but I have to point out that so much of what this leader of SODELPA says is utter nonsense.”
Mr Bainimarama said: “Our nation’s new Constitution protects the rights of all Fijians, including unprecedented levels of protection of iTaukei land in the Bill of Rights. In fact, Ro Teimumu was part of a Government that eroded iTaukei land rights by allowing the conversion of native land to freehold title. The new Constitution for example gives landowners now a fair share of royalties from mining activity. There are other protections and benefits. In short, the truth is that my Government has strengthened iTaukei rights, not eroded them.
“My Government has also empowered ordinary Fijians by giving them the things they need to improve their own lives and those of their families. But Ro Teimumu wants to take away that power and hand it back to a privileged elite.
“In fact, all of Ro Teimumu’s comments indicate someone who wants to drag Fiji back into the past. She demonstrably avoids talking about the need to deliver basic services to ordinary Fijians – which has been the cornerstone of my Government’s reform programmes – because she was part of an SDL Government that always made false promises but never delivered.
“She mentions jobs and economic growth, but what politician wouldn’t? Nowhere does she actually present any economic policies or initiatives that will create those jobs and stimulate that growth. The remarkable economic turnaround that Fiji is currently experiencing hasn’t been based on words, but on the smart and consistent policies put in place by my Government, which we will continue.”
Ro Teimumu said: “Our central goals in promoting sustained growth in all parts of the economy are to accelerate employment creation, continually improve the health and general well-being of our population, reduce income inequalities, eradicate homelessness and poverty, and ensure that Government services and the benefits of development are spread evenly in all areas of Fiji.”
The PM said: “The SODELPA says that she will restore the power of the chiefs and remove equal distribution of lease monies. She should know that a chief’s mana is not based on receiving lease money. It is based on looking after your people. It means caring and loving your people not taking away their fair share of money. What’s more, the direct distribution of lease money is improving the lives of ordinary commoner Fijians, empowering them to take charge of their own destiny. We can already see it leading to economic growth as ordinary people take greater ownership of their economic resources and capabilities.
“She also says that she will restore the FAB scholarship scheme and the multi-ethnic scholarship programme – a divided way of looking at building national capacity. As a previous Minister for Education, she should understand that more Fijian youths than ever before now have access to tertiary education under the new toppers scholarship and Government loan scheme. To revert to the old system would rob so many students around the country of the opportunity to pursue their dreams with a university education.
“It would also mean going back to that system that lacked transparency where you accessed scholarships depending many times on who you were or who you knew. She is noticeably silent on my Government’s policy of free primary and secondary education. She is notably silent on the subsidised bus fares and free text books that we offer. I also note that she never made any such progress or put in place such initiatives when she was Minister for Education.”
Ro Teimumu said: “Recognising the importance of giving as many of our students fair and equal opportunity for higher level tertiary education, the SODELPA-led multi-party government will reinstate the FAB scholarship scheme and the multi-ethnic scholarship programme for eligible students from low income families.”
The PM said: “Her comments about bringing God back into our national life are frankly offensive. Is she saying that God has been absent from our lives? Is she saying that God has not been in Fiji? This is an insult to all believing men and women of our country. God is central to our national life and no Fijian is being prevented from worshipping privately or publicly.
“And our new Constitution guarantees religious freedom – for every Fijian to choose for themselves. The Secular State ensures that the Government of the day does not force one denomination or one faith on anyone and at the same time promotes religious freedom for all.”
Ro Teimumu said: “They see no place for God in their 2013 Constitution. They made this decision without the permission of the people and then declared that it had our approval. Let me, therefore, give this undertaking. If you give SODELPA victory in the general elections, our very first action will be to take steps to restore God to His rightful place in our country’s supreme law.”
The PM said: The 2013 Constitution is set in stone and can only be changed through a vote of three-quarters of the members of our new Parliament and a referendum with three-quarters of registered voters in support. So for Ro Teimumu to speak about changing the Constitution after the election ignores that fact that a very careful, detailed and transparent process will have to be undertaken.
“It cannot be changed at the whim of SODELPA or any other party and to suggest otherwise is misleading and irresponsible. I know they are used to the idea of doing whatever they like when in government but the rules have changed. We are all bound to uphold the Constitution: the Military, the Judiciary, the Executive and the Legislature. A seat in Parliament nor a simple majority in Parliament does not give a person or a political party the authority to subvert the supreme law of our land.”
Ro Teimumu said their first legislative action would be to revoke all current restrictive decrees on fundamental freedoms and political and civic rights.
The PM said she was surrounded by other political leaders “with whom the whole country knows she has nothing in common except their opposition to his Government’s reforms to empower ordinary Fijians.”
“It is a coalition of the hypocrites – the same tired old political faces who brought Fiji to its knees in the first place through their petty squabbling and division and now supposedly joining hands. They are united only by their determination to wind back the clock, to reject the advances of the past seven years and restore their own privileged positions at the expense of ordinary Fijians.
“This marriage of convenience and without any principle by the NFP leader and his officials is a direct affront to the founders of NFP (AD Patel, Siddiq Koya and James Madhavan) who always pushed for a common roll, fought for the rights of all Fijians under the notion of common and equal citizenry and the principle of “one person, one vote, one value”. These lot have lost their way. Of course the leader of the Labour who is well known for his chameleon behaviour simply to stay in power at all costs is in bed with the very people he accused of being racist and corrupt only a few years ago.
“It beggars belief that these old politicians can regard ordinary Fijians as being so stupid to see this alliance as anything more than a total sham – a sham which involves fear-mongering and not giving the full facts. I certainly believe in the intelligence of the Fijian people to see through this farce when it comes to polling day.”