The Rewa chief takes on Bainimarama and launches SODELPA's manifesto
Today we give Fiji the SODELPA manifesto for national happiness, progress and freedom. I wish to sincerely pay tribute to the party members who contributed to it over a period of several months. They have performed a great service to SODELPA and the country.
|SEA OF BLUE: SODELPA supporters defy regime and turn out in numbers to march in solidarity in Lautoka with leader, Ro Teimumu Kepa|
The time has come to put Fiji back into the arms of the people. We own this country and we will decide its future. Our manifesto explains how SODELPA will restore and renew Fiji and lead it into a new world of togetherness and respect, where we overcome our differences, live as good neighbours and help each other. It will be a Fiji of prosperity and opportunity. Our nation will shine again as a symbol of hope for humanity. Guided by the principles of our party, we seek God’s blessing for the task ahead. It will not be easy given the hurt, the stress and the damage caused to the country.
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We are embarked on a crusade against the forces of tyranny! For all this time the dictatorship of Voreqe Bainimarama and Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has kept Fiji in a tight web of control. They have encircled us with unjust decrees; inundated us with lies; limited our rights as human beings and acted with unimaginable cruelty and heartlessness when this served their purpose.
Fiji’s evolving democracy – government of the people, by the people and for the people – was crushed. Our voices were stilled as authoritarianism and fear gripped the land. Even within the ultimate sanctuary of our homes we were not safe, and did not feel safe, from the oppressive rule of the usurpers. We are still not beyond their reach. But we are protected by our solidarity and unity of spirit, firm belief in our cause and trust in God. As we go about our daily lives, we observe decline in so many parts of our national life. Poverty weighs down on us.
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Our citizens have to be provided with the means of supporting themselves. That calls for more jobs and opportunities for earning. We devote many pages of the manifesto to restoration of the economy and development, for this is what will provide work and incomes.
We feel for all who have been driven into poverty; they groan under the burden of rising prices and struggle every day to feed their children and themselves. The second policy point in the manifesto is for them. SODELPA will continue with price control on basic food items which will be free of value added tax. We will immediately allocate $50 million annually to subsidise the cost of food. This is an emergency measure that should lead to costs below the controlled prices. Never again, ladies and gentlemen, must we allow our freedoms to be taken from us. They are a cherished part of our humanity. We are born free. Civilized nations live according to laws and rules which guarantee freedom to speak out and express opinions.
There is a natural instinct to be free from excessive control and command from those in authority; to be free to act according to our beliefs and seek the happiness of which we dream. We have lived for almost eight years in a Fiji of stolen freedoms. Even now, as we approach the election, they have not been fully returned. The Bainimarama-Khaiyum constitution contains a long list of rights and freedoms. But many of them can be limited, and the “terrible two” know this only too well; they know these freedoms can be limited. They know that these rights and freedoms can be changed. This applies to Fijian land ownership.
So how much value do these rights have? What is their worth? SODELPA stands for freedom. Our manifesto contains a pledge to abolish laws that suppress our freedoms. We will ensure that any limitations on them are justifiable in, and consistent with, a free society.
We wish to exercise our freedom to restore God to a constitution that is owned by our citizens. The constitution imposed on us in 2013 is Godless. Bainimarama and Khaiyum decided in their arrogance that Fiji should become a secular state. They should be reminded that Christianity came to these islands when the Fijian were heathens. It changed forever the nature of indigenous society. The people were converted and saw the light of Jesus Christ.
This was always recognised in our constitutions until the imposition of 2013. The 1997 document spoke of the enduring influence of Christianity and its contribution to Fiji, along with that of other faiths. But this unelected regime simply removed God from their version of the supreme law and then untruthfully claimed that we the people had established the law.
We did not. We were not allowed the time or opportunity to properly present our views on this very emotional and sensitive issue. Now Bainimarama and Khaiyum are pushing what they call neutral prayer and an anonymous supreme being. Pope Benedict XVI told us that “without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understand who he is …..” Our manifesto affirms SODELPA will place God in His rightful position. So that our people in this globalised world, will have a strong sense of identity and purpose. The religious freedoms of all citizens will be guaranteed.
We say to the two authors of the 2013 constitution: We do not need your advice on how to pray. We reject your attempts to encourage worship of an unknown deity. Our manifesto says we are reclaiming Fiji for truth, justice and peace. Truth has never been more important when we live under a regime that has nourished itself through lies. So let the truth be a guiding beacon for Fiji. SODELPA commits to an enduring truth: We are answerable to God and we are answerable the people.
Let justice be restored in all its grandeur. We believe in the rule of law and an independent judiciary. At the moment there are unjust limitations on our legal rights. These must end. The law must treat everyone equally no matter who they are. SODELPA asks how it is possible that the indigenous Fijians have become victims of a decree that denies some of their fundamental rights in law, including international conventions particularly the ILO Convention 169 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People2007.
The indigenous Fijians have been pushed into a state of inequality. What kind of people are they who have written and enacted such discrimination? It is unbelievable that two people born and bred in Fiji, and brought up in our society could act like this towards a community and expect gratitude and loyalty in return. This will soon come to an end. We yearn for peace my friends. We simply want to be part of a society dedicated to this great virtue, that plays such a central part in Christianity and in the other religions which define our country. May peace be written on our hearts. Our party rejects totally the notion that our national challenges can be solved through acts of violence, force intimidation and illegality.
We have drunk from this bitter cup too often. SODELPA dedicates its manifesto to future generations. I tell myself all the time that our responsibility is not just to put right the Fiji of today.
We must leave a better country for those who follow. That is what our manifesto will do. I come to the end of what I wish to say with a message for the military. It is this: We are all of this country. You are our brothers and sisters, our relatives; our family. It is time to bring the family together. There is much to be proud of in your record of helping to keep peace in the world.
But here in Fiji we need peace too; peace in its fullness. There must be reconciliation between the army and the people. You are here to serve them through their elected representatives in Parliament. That is where the national sovereignty lies. A SODELPA Government will care for everyone in Fiji; it wants to care for you as well.
We must therefore build a new relationship founded on trust. A first step in the healing is a truth and reconciliation commission headed by an independent international jurist. It will give the people and the army an opportunity to say what went wrong; it will help to find answers that to this day still remain elusive.
We need to listen to each other and decide together how coups can be stopped. Our children surely deserve a future with no more coups. SODELPA intends that the commission will be tempered by the principles of restorative justice, forgiveness and mercy. The time-tested Fijian ceremonies of matanigasau will be part of the process. As a separate exercise, we will commission a comprehensive review of the military’s operations and role and consult its leadership on the terms of reference.
Ladies and gentlemen, SODELPA goes forward from here into the most intensive period of a long campaign for election. We are ready to reclaim Fiji, for work, food and freedom; for truth, justice and peace; for our future generations. I thank you for the love and respect you give to me. I hope I am worthy of it. I give my love and respect to you. And now I am greatly honoured to launch our manifesto. I ask that God bless us all.