Political Update for the Third Week of May

It's a mixed bag this week with more of the same from Government and the opposition parties, new happenings in voter registration and education, an update on renewable energy, something more on land, and an update and insight into government work and planning on rural and outer island development. There's also mention of a convicted sex offender in the pulpit after his release, the PM's alleged astronomical salary, and further statements from SODELPA, NFP and FLP. 

My posting on Thursday noted what could become a turning point in Taukei voting. Kubuna chiefs said their people would vote as they wished and not according to how their chiefs instructed them. Let my people go!

IT'S THE FIRST TIME THIS HAS HAPPENED. Elections officers who are preparing voting procedures and voter education material for disabled people  are in the process of identifying a consultant to help them.

The Elections Office has been closely discussing the needs on voting day of persons with disabilities with the Fiji National Council for Disabled Persons.

Government development work

NORTH HIGHWAY 40% COMPLETE. When completed, the 70km $228 million Nabouwalu and Dreketi Highway will reduce travel time from the Nabouwalu Jetty to Labasa from five hours to under three hours, and open up development in Vanua Levu's west.

OUTER ISLAND DEVELOPMENT: ROTUMA. Speaking in Rotuma on Rotuma Day the PM noted the upgraded water system (a 10,000 gallonn water tank costing $204,000), High School upgrading (new buildings, teacher quarters, furniture and equipment costing $400,000) and five new ships, in addition to the MVs Sigavou and Vunilagi,that will serve the island by next year. Further work will also be conducted on more boreholes and a water treatment plant. Efforts will be made to revive the Rotuma-Tuvalu trade that after a promising start, ceased 13 months ago. Some government fees will be halved and a new hospital is also planned.

Cynics may see this as vote buying and there is obviously an element of this but the Bainimarama Government has been working on rural and outer island development for several years. Witness, improved roads and maritime services, the solar energy, copra energy, micro-hydro schemes and agricultural promotion work, women's centres, and ....and the next four  items.

NEW TOWN AND MINI-TOWNS PLANNED.Korovou on Kings Road in Tailevu is working on its infrastructure before it becomes a town; a mini-town is planned at Navatumali in the inland sub-province of Navosa, and four other rural growth centres are planned in the Western Division, at Bukuya, Nadarivatu, Waimedia and Namara.

This is not just about rural development; it's about decentralising economic and other activities and taking pressure off the larger urban centres, especially Greater Suva. I wish successive NZ governments had similar policies. Growth in NZ has meant growth in Auckland and the potentials of the computer age has resulted in no decentralisation.

LOOK NORTH UPDATE. Government spent about $100million on health, roads, telecommunications, agriculture, fisheries, aviation and shipping in the Northern Division (Vanua Levu) between 2010 and 2014. Development expenditure is expected to rise to $800 million
between 2015 and 2019.

RENEWABLE ENERGY. Another company has come forward with a proposal to supply electricity to the Fiji Electricity Authority grid. Bio-gas independent power producer, Vuda Renewables says it can supply 17.8 megawatts to FEA within two to three years. Two state-owned biomass companies, Tropik Woods and the Fiji Sugar Corporation, are currently providing about 10 megawatts. The FSC expects to add another 15Mw from the Labasa mill by September, and a further year and 30Mw from the Rarawai mill at Rakiraki later on.

LANDOWNERS COLLECT $33M IN RENT. More than 1,600 landowning units have collected about $33 million in rent subsidy since 2008.This is after the establishment of the Committee on Better Utilisation of Land (CBUL) initiated by the PM. Following the formation of CBUL ALTA lease renewals increased from 43% in 1997 to 80% last year.

 The objective of CBUL is to ensure expired ALTA leases are renewed for sugarcane farming and to allow landowners and farmers achieve a higher return through the conversion of land into productive agricultural and commercial use. Since 2008 79% of 7,864 cane farm expired leases have been renewed, and 52% of expired dairy and other expired leases. CBUL's target for 2015 is 85%.
The Opposition speaks

THE PM'S SALARY. The story that the PM was earning $1.7 million was first made public on one of the anti-government blogs that tend to publish (from unstated and often unreliable sources) before they check a stories validity. In earlier statements they had added up each of his portfolios and assumed his income was their total. The PM denied this but he did not reveal his income which would have put an end to the speculation and guestimates.

Now, the FLP is saying reveal the income and identify the political party that's distributing flyers claiming his salary is $1.7million. SODELPA leader Ro Te Teimumu says "as far as she is concerned" it's not her party but the PM should reveal his income. The PM denies the $1.7 million and says "people will find out what his salary is after the registration of the proposed Fiji First party." Other party officials will also have to disclose personal incomes, assets, business connections, directorships, gifts, and liabilities.

NO COALITION BEFORE ELECTIONS. SODELPA leader Ro Teimumu has dismissed suggestions that SODELPA may form a coalition with another party before the polls, saying negotiations will be held after the elections if they have a chance to form the next government. However, initial discussions have started.

NFP TO FILE CASE IN COURT. Although government has confirmed that the ballot paper design will not be amended, NFP General Secretary, Kamal Iyer said the party believes that the change is necessary, and will file a case in court in the next few weeks. The A-G says its "one of the most uncomplicated ballot papers Fiji will ever use" and the Open List System will ensure that people know who they want to vote for. Fiji only has one constituency. The current ballot paper only lists candidate numbers. The NFP and other parties want party symbols and photos included.

A-G SHOULD STEP DOWN AS ELECTIONS MINISTER.The FLP has urged the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau to ask Elections Minister and A-G Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum to step down from his post immediately, claiming the elections "would be tainted" if he does not. I don't see how. The A-G does not have a hands-on role in the elections. That's the job of election officials, the Supervisor of Elections and the independent observers.

Other news

NEW POLICE CHIEF South African national, Bernadus Groenewald arrived on Wednesday. Groenewald has been recommended for his South African position by Nelson Mandella.

UPDATE ON CITIZENS' CONSTITUTIONAL FORUM BOOKLET. The CCF has begun work on amendments to its 2013 Constitution booklet while it awaits word from the Attorney General Office. The A-G used the booklet, prepared by foreign consultants, in support of Government's decision to exclude NGOs receiving foreign funding from participation in voter education. He alleged the booklet contained errors of fact and misleading interpretations.

I trust the amendments and protestations of goodwill by CCF will persuade the A-G to allow CCF to participate in voter education submit, of course, to their material being vetted by the Electoral Commission. The FijiLive poll on voter education Should voter education material be sanctioned remains about the same: Yes 69%, No 37%.

FORMER HIGH COURT JUDGE NAZHAT SHAMEEM has been formally commissioned as Fiji's first permanent representative to the UN and other international organisations based in Geneva. Shameem will be ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Switzerland. Her role will be in two folds; to represent Fiji in all the UN organisations in Geneva and as Ambassador-designate to Switzerland, which is a first for Fiji. On a personal note, I think her wise counsel will be much missed in Fiji.

VOTER REGISTRATION IN NEW ZEALAND will resume this week, starting in Whangarei this Saturday and concluding in Christchurch on May 24.-- FijiLive.

SEX OFFENDER BACK IN PULPIT. The Fiji Women's Crisis Centre is rightly appalled that convicted sex offender, Epeli Ratabacaca, was back in the All Nations Christian Fellowship pulpit last Sunday. Ratabacaca has not expressed any remorse and his sermon urged people not to dwell on the past. "The fact that this convicted sex offender has been welcomed back with open arms into the church and is allowed to preach is appalling and shows an absolute lack of sensitivity towards the victim of his assault, as well as to all women who experience sexual assaults" said FWCC Coordinator Shamima Ali. His victim was a member of his congregation.

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Anonymous said...

I'm with you on this Croz. The illegal regime will certainly miss the guidance and counsel of Shameem. She has been a central point and a lead person in the overthrow of the legitimate Government of Fiji and the subsequent acts of treason and human rights abuse. However she has all the qualities and characteristics now reflecting those running the UN and their great success in countries like Syria and Sudan.

A. Pseudonym (happy now asshole) said...

I like the way you call your article "political update" instead of election update, Croz. It allows you to mention the pork barrelling. Who cares what this corrupt regime are doing. Please update on the election and the parties policies, not the vote buying of a desperate and corrupt regime.

Shallow academics said...

Regarding Tupeni Baba's email to fellow SDL members about politically laid back Fijians: yes, Fijian race is so laid back they marched in their thousands in 1987 and 2000 and helped overthrow two governments and burn part of Suva down and plan a mutiny and elect SDL by 80 percent of vote.

And Mahen Chaudhry and Jai Ram Reddy and NFP and FLP have been faking their enmity to mask a grand Indian design to take over Fiji. Yes, NFP deliberately lost all seats in elections to FLP because of a grand plan. Yeah right! what a brilliant analysis by Baba.

That's why Indian birthrate has been lower then Fijians since the 1970s - because of a grand plan to takeover Fiji. If Mr Tupeni Baba is such a great reader of history, how come he left out this population fact from his analysis?

Mr Baba not only needs to revise his understanding of history, he has to take his head out of the history books and get a dose of reality also. he needs to stop looking at everything from the prism of race, hard as it may be for someone like him.

One wonders what he has leant from his academic training. No wonder he never rose to any great heights as an academic and remained mired in mediocrity. His thinking is quite shallow. Its people like him who keep repeating that Fijians are laid back that make the problem among his people worse and give them an inferiority complex, than blame others.

Anonymous said...

Another racist attack from a shallow indian?

Anonymous said...

hahaha, whenever we defend ourselves against shallow tirades by so-called academics spreading misinformation and perpetuating racial stereotypes, we are immediately branded racist. Go read Tupeni Baba's email. On second thoughts, don't bother. Your position is very obvious.

Crosbie Walsh said...

Correction. Tupeni did rise to "great heights." He has a doctorate and was professor of Education at USP before he entered politics. But please supply me with a link to what he said. I'd like to read it.

Crosbie Walsh said...

I have published as much as has been made public by the opposition parties, and I hope to write more, but as several people have previously commented, so far not much policy has been mentioned. .

Anonymous said...

When you say 'opposition parties' - do you mean those without the guns?