#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Fiji budget: Millions for army vehicles and cash reward for Fiji Olympians who win medals

Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum delivered his budget yesterday.

Instead of focusing on health, he said the government will be redoubling its efforts to rebuild and recover after Cyclone Winston. 

Also notable is that $7.5 million will be spent on specialised vehicles for the military. Khaiyum says the vehicles will be used for recovery during natural disasters.

Khaiyum also announced that any Olympian who brings home a medal from the Rio Olympics will receive $30,000. $0.5 million has been set aside for this.

Here are other highlights:

From next year, ministries will present 3 year and 5 year plans.

Macro economic growth for Fiji is expected to be 3 percent for this year despite Tropical Cyclone Winston

Government has a sound recovery plan after Winston.

Nine consecutive years of economic growth years expected for Fiji for the first time

Inflation is expected to remain at 2 to 3 percent

FNPF is expected to credit members 6.25 percent interest despite paying out the Cyclone Assistance funds

2016/2017 National Budget projects 3.64 billion expenditure and 3.18 billion dollars revenue

Ministry of Finance will change its name to Ministry of Economy from 1st August.

Government had to act and set up the Help for Homes Initiative. Government has spent $88 million so far to assist people living in cyclone affected areas. Another $20 million will be allocated in the 2016/2017 National Budget. $207 million allocated for rehabilitation efforts. $142.6 million has been allocated to rebuild education facilities.

38 schools for Adopt the School Program.

$5.2 million allocated for damaged primary schools.

Replanting of pine - $0.5 million allocation.

$8.7 million for water and sewerage systems damaged after Winston.

Insurance companies need to do more.

Public consultations will be held soon on insurance services and those who are under-serviced at the moment.

$527 million allocated for the Fiji Roads Authority in the 2016/2017 National Budget.

Rural roads have been allocated $95 million.

$4.5 million has been allocated for high priority bridges.

$0.5 million allocated for urgent repair of Ellington Wharf.

$200,000 allocated for preliminary works for the development of a new airport in Seaqaqa.

$308.6 million has been allocated to the Water Authority of Fiji, $229.4 million has been allocated for capital works.

Increased salaries for Early Childhood teachers in the 2016/2017 National Budget.

Grants for Early Childhood Schools increased by 33 percent.

30 more scholarships available under the National Toppers Scheme in the 2016/2017 National Budget.

Fiji National University to begin construction of its new campus in Labasa.

FNU will begin to offer graduate medical programs from next year. This will increase the pool of doctors in the country.

200 percent deduction for employers who take in graduating students for practical attachment, work placement or part-time jobs.

$1 million allocation to build a world class pilot training academy in Nadi.

Fiji Airways working with Airbus and Boeing to set up this academy which includes world class pilot simulators.

Fiji National University may be involved in this academy.

New Births, Deaths and Marriages offices to be set up Nabouwalu and Navua.

Legal Aid offices to be opened in other areas.

$3 million allocated for the extension of the CWM Hospital Maternity Unit.

New remand centre to be constructed in Lautoka.

New police station to be built in Nakasi.

Construction of all police stations will now be standardized.

$7.5 million allocated to RFMF to get specialized vehicles. This is to assist in recovery efforts after natural disasters.

New vacuum street cleaners to be introduced in some areas including Suva from next year.

National Micro Small Enterprise Council to be set up. This will be chaired by the Prime Minister. The council will provide funding, training, collect data, support and evaluate data.

Tourism industry budget allocation increased to $36 million.

Departure Tax eliminated for those visitors who stay in Fiji for less than 72 hours.

Investment Fiji allocation increased to $2.2 million.

New bill to be presented in parliament to have new retail hours. There will also be protection for shop assistants.

Govt will relax the requirement for car park spaces for new buildings.

24 hour Domestic Violence Helpline to be set up.

Food voucher program will continue.

300 percent tax deduction on wages paid to disabled employees for the first 3 years.

Govt will pay for the vocational teachers teaching at the centres for the people living with disabilities.

New regulation to be put in place tomorrow for the first two seats in buses to be reserved for people living with disabilities.

Revenue collection - machines linked to cash registers will be deployed this year to ensure that there is tax compliance.

All new hybrid vehicles will continue to enjoy duty free for the next two years.

A modest duty will be charged for second hand hybrid vehicles from next year.

FRCA will publicize details of vehicle prices when they are landed in Fiji and the price set by individual car dealers.

Cigarettes and alcohol - fiscal and import tax increased by 15 percent. This rate will continue for 3 years.

Excise tax for sugar sweetened drinks has been increased by 20 cents per litre.

$14 million set aside for doctors’ salaries.

FICAC allocated $8.5 million.

Police constable salaries increased by 20 percent.

Police budget - $131.7 million. This is an increase of $5.5 million.

World Weightlifting Championships may be held in Fiji in 2018.

Cash rewards of $30,000 has been allocated for any Olympian who brings home a medal after the Rio Olympics. $0.5 million has been set aside for this.

Read the full budget here - http://www.fiji.gov.fj/Budget/2016-2017.aspx

Friday, June 17, 2016

Breach by strange bedfellows sanctioned by TISI Sangnam

Controversial headlines back to haunt DS Naidu.

Remember this picture?

It's from page of the Daily Post newspaper in July 2005, which reported Dorsami Naidu had assaulted his wife after allegedly being caught by her in his law office/home with another woman, an employee.  

The picture was taken by the newspaper during the 2005 Sangam Convention in Suva three months earlier,  showing DS Naidu in traditional costume with his "wife" Angila Devi "Naidu" (at right) closely following him.  

It later emerged that  DS Naidu was in fact in a de-facto relationship with Angila Devi "Naidu"  for many years without marriage.  

He was stood down as President of NFP following the incident but continued as Sangam Pesident until 2011, when he was defeated by Sadasivan Naicker.  

Now an NFP candidate in the 2014 general election, DS Naidu has teamed up with Parveen Kumar "Bala", a Cabinet Minister in the Fiji First Government, and has attempted to coup the current leadership.  

Interestingly,  TISI Sangam has never taken decisive action against DS Naidu, despite the fact that  he registered Angila Devi as a Life Member of TISI Sangam, well before he became President in 2000.  

Firstly, Angila Devi is firstly not a South Indian, as required by Sangam's Constitution to be eligible to be a member or even life member. Secondly, a South Indian male can register his wife as member even though she is not a South Indian. 

In the this case, Angila Devi was not a South Indian nor DS Naidu's wife but lived  in a de-facto relationship with him for many years.  

In the past, TISI Sangam has taken severe disciplinary measures against those found to have breached this provision of the Constitution, by registering Non South Indians as members.  

So far no action has been taken on DS Naidu. Is this a case of double standards? Is this a case of Animal Farm where some are more equal than others because DS Naidu  is a former President of Sangam?  

And what of DS Naidu teaming up with Parveen Kumar "Bala", who is yet to stand trial for the charge of causing death by dangerous driving?  

Fiji First  (Parveen Kumar) teaming up with Dorsami Naidu (NFP) makes for very strange bedfellows and has a strong whiff of a soap opera or South Indian, Therukuthu. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Reinvention of Frank Bainimarama

By Adam Boland

When John Key touches down in Fiji on Thursday, he will become the first New Zealand Prime Minister to do so since Voreqe “Frank” Bainimarama’s coup 10 years ago.

Mr Key says the timing is right because democracy has been restored.

So, how did Bainimarama – a former military strongman – reinvent himself and bring his country in from the cold? And is Mr Key right in declaring a win for democracy?

Quick history lesson
Frank Bainimarama seized power from Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase during a bloodless coup in December 2006 over two key issues.

The first, ironically, was that Bainimarama felt Prime Minister Qarase had been too lenient to the people behind an earlier coup in 2000.

Secondly, he was furious with moves by the Qarase government to hand over all coastal land rights to indigenous Fijians.

“We will be left with our grass skirts, our canoes and a life back to cannibalism,” he said at the time. “What will happen to the common Fijian when there are no investors?”

He argued the move would be unfair to the country’s ethnic Indian minority and destroy the thriving tourism sector.

When Qarase refused to back down, Bainimarama’s men moved in, placing the Prime Minister under house arrest.

Bainimarama promised new elections would be held in 2009 but the country was later suspended from the Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands Forum when that didn’t happen.

A new mandate
Elections were finally called for 2014 after the unveiling of a new constitution. Bainimarama stood down from the military to run for office as leader of the newly-formed FijiFirst Party.

image of bainimarama votingThe party won 32 of the 50 parliamentary seats – an overwhelming majority from an election declared by international observers to have been conducted fairly.

Political experts felt Bainimarama was endorsed for his strong record on building key infrastructure like roads and hospitals and for trying to dismantle ethnic divisions.

In his victory speech, the now democratically-elected Prime Minister Bainimarama promised to “rule for all Fijians”.

His critics say that actually means he doesn’t allow opposition.

Still ruling by decree?
“The biggest reform now needed is for FijiFirst to reach an accord with the opposition parties over the Constitution,” says Professor Robbie Robertson from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.

Fiji’s relatively new constitution includes an extensive bill of rights. But those rights can be easily eroded by a series of old decrees that were never removed and aren’t subject to judicial review.

They’re used selectively but enough to remind people of who’s in charge.

Makereta Komai is editor of the regional news agency PACNEWS which is based in Suva. “The situation has improved somewhat and the media is free to report here in Fiji,” she says. “But the Media Decree in place still places a lot of fear in journalists because of the fines for breaches.”

The decree sets strict parameters on how a story should be reported with special emphasis given to balance. “That is one of the major hurdles for investigative reporting,” says Komai. “Editors have canned stories because there is no comment from the other party, especially if the other party is a government official in a story relating to corruption.”

Parliamentary muscle
The government has found other ways to silence opposition.

Apart from FijiFirst, two other political parties are represented in parliament. The Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) has 15 seats while the National Federation Party (NFP) has three seats.

Just last week, the NFP’s Roko Tupou Draunidalo was suspended from parliament for almost two years. Her crime was to call the Education Minister “an idiot” during the kind of robust debate considered normal in many democratic parliaments.

Draunidalo is a lawyer who in 2012 represented deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase in his corruption trial.

“There are concerns that she is actually being censured for trenchant criticism of the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General and the FijiFirst government,” according to regional political analyst Tess Newton Cain from TNC Consulting.

In January, all three members of the NFP were briefly suspended. The official reason was the party had failed to use a properly certified accountant, but the timing was curious. Just two days earlier, party leader Dr Biman Prasad had written a scathing opinion piece about the state of democracy in Fiji.

After the suspension, Australian Greens senator Janet Rice claimed Fiji had moved from a military dictatorship to a parliamentary dictatorship.

Democracy a “work in progress”
James Batley was the Australian High Commissioner to Fiji when he was suddenly expelled from the country in 2009 as Bainimarama set out to prove his country’s sovereignty.

Batley still hasn’t been allowed back but has told Pasifik News Fiji’s new democracy is a work in progress.

“I think there’s always been a view in Australian circles that it was unrealistic for Fiji just to flick a switch from an unelected government under Frank Bainimarama to a fully functional democracy straight after the elections,” he says.

Mr Batley, who’s now a policy fellow at the Australian National University, says Bainimarama will be around for some time. “So it’s a question of finding ways to deal with him.”

From dictator to Mr Popular
Frank Bainimarama has done much to reshape his image on the world stage.

That includes spending more than FJD$2 million on Washington-based public relations firm, Qorvis. “When Fiji was ostracised by traditional partners such as New Zealand and Australia after the coup in 2006, Bainimarama devoted a lot of time to making new international friends and this has not changed since the 2014 elections,” says Tess Newton Cain.

The Prime Minister is often seen at world events taking leadership positions on pressing issues. “There is no justification, no excuse, for any man to inflict violence on a woman or abuse her in any way. Those who do so are cowards and criminals,” he said on domestic violence. “Fiji is a stark reminder to the world of the frightening new era that is dawning on us all,” he declared on climate change.

It seems his progressive approach doesn’t extend to same-sex marriage. When asked about it recently, he asserted “there will no same-sex marriage in Fiji in my lifetime.” He suggested anyone seeking “that rubbish” should move to Iceland.

Regional power play

And that brings us to this week’s visit by John Key.

New Zealand and Australia led the international outrage over the 2006 coup. They did all they could to freeze the South Pacific country out of regional blocs.

“They assumed in the past they could pressure Fiji and bring it to its knees,” says Swinburne’s Robbie Robertson. “They failed.”

Fiji now has strong bonds with countries like China and Indonesia. Many observers say Bainimarama was keen to show Australia and New Zealand that he could survive without their support.

It seems the New Zealand Prime Minister has accepted the new rules: “It’s time to put the past behind us and move forward.”

Friday, June 3, 2016

Reddy implies Opposition 'dumb natives' but Draunidalo to be suspended

Fiji's Parliament is debating whether to accept a recommendation by the Parliamentary Privileges Committee for NFP President and MP Tupou Draunidalo to be suspended with immediate effect from today.

The recommendation follows a complaint by Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum after Ms Daunidalo called Education Minister a fool and an idiot after what she says he called the Opposition 'dumb natives'.

“HON. DR. M. REDDY.- If there were any toppers on the other side Madam Speaker, they wouldn’t have raised this issue of petition, Madam Speaker. Unfortunately. They need to have some toppers there, Madam Speaker. I tell you in another ten years or 5 years’ time there’ll be some toppers seated on that side but they’ll be part of this government, Madam Speaker.

According to the audio transcript from Parliament:

(Chorus of inaudible interjections)

HON. A. SAYED-KHAIYUM.- Hey don’t call him a fool. You called him a

HON. DR. M. REDDY.- Madam Speaker as the Finance Minister said, this is the last…
(Inaudible interjections)

HON. DR. M. REDDY.-…I was a topper

HON. A. SAYED-KHAIYUM. - Point of order Madam Speaker, Hon. Draunidalo called the Minister for Education a fool.

HON. T. DRAUNIDALO. - And he implied first in his speech. Calling us dumb natives. You idiot!

The Committee has recommended Ms Draunidalo formally apologise to Mahendra Reddy and to the people of Fiji and be suspended for the remainder of her term of Parliament, effective immediately.

Monday, May 30, 2016

TISI Sangam denounces 'disgruntled members' and 'hooliganism'

The Then India Sanmarga Ikya Sangam has released the following statement following an aborted meeting on Saturday, that involved police. We publish the release as provided to us:

The Annual General Meeting of the Then India Sanmarga Ikya Sangam (TISI Sangam) scheduled for 10am today at the Sangam Sadhu Kuppuswamy Memorial College in Nadi was cancelled late Saturday afternoon after police issued an Order NOT to hold the AGM following serious threats at the Then India Valibar Sangam (TIV) meeting yesterday.

Despite the cancellation of the meeting by the official TISI National Board, a very few limited disgruntled members of Sangam who incited tension and hooliganism through threats of harm at the TIV meeting called their supporters for a unsanctioned meeting around 11.30 am at the Nadi Special Education School today.

We make it abundantly clear these disgruntled members led by the Past President Dorsami Naidu, (who lost the election in year 2011) Area Vice President North Western (TISI) Parveen Kumar Bala and Area Vice President Southern (TISI) Raja Kumaran have no locus standi or legal basis and status to call their meeting an Annual General Meeting of TISI Sangam.

These individuals through their servants and agents and supports attempted to break into the Nadi Sangam College through bolt cutters & grinder and attempted to break in only to be foiled by the police.

Hooliganism and abuse of the rule of law has no place in a civilized society. And TISI Sangam, which has always strictly adhered to the rule of law, is no exception.

If they can condone illegality, hooliganism and abuse of the rule of law, then how can they be trusted to run Sangam?

Today’s so-called unsanctioned meeting is in defiance of Sangam’s constitution and has no legal basis. It is being conducted without the presence of the current official office bearers who preside over such a meeting. 

Its attendance is also questionable as the membership status of those in the meeting cannot be determined by the Sangam’s Head Office and the Returning Officer.

We wish to advice our members that all current office bearers continue in office. A National Council of Management meeting will be called on later date for a redress of what has transpired.

Any election of office bearers by today’s bogus purported AGM/Meeting is unlawful illegal and boarders on criminality.

Sadasivan Naicker

National President TISI Sangam Fiji