Saturday, 12th July 2014
Address by Leader of the Party - Felix Anthony
"Madam President, the Deputy Leader of the Party, Members of the Management Board, Party candidates and Delegates, welcome to Nausori and to the Party’s Delegates Conference. I know many members and supporters indicated their wish to be here today with us. Unfortunately our budgets did not allow all to be here. However, I know their best wishes are with us and they are ably represented by you all here today.
On the outset let me thank our Nausori Branch for hosting us here today. I know that Sat Narayan and Master Peni have been working hard to make our stay here comfortable.
The People’s Democratic Party is the first Party to launch its Manifesto. We do not seek to play hide and seek and await others to do so to better our own. If our being the first is going to better the others, than I believe the PDP would have already proven its worth and begun the delivery process, which we are eager to do for the people of Fiji.
The Manifesto is lengthy despite our efforts to keep it simple and short. This is because there are so many issues that need immediate attention to get Fiji back on track and ensure that everyone has a fair go in Fiji.
The last seven and a half years have been littered with human rights abuses, including workers rights, indigenous rights. Intimidation, arbitrary arrest, torture, beating, threats, denial of our right to free speech, media control, imposition of decrees that repealed laws passed by elected parliaments, imposition of new laws by decrees that violate the rules of good governance, transparency and accountability, which actually violate of International laws and agreements. Fiji has been a bad world citizen. Many Governments, ILO, Amnesty International, International Trade Union Confederation and Human Rights Watch around the World have called upon this Government from time to time to respect Human Rights and Workers Rights and are closely watching the behavior of this Government. Unemployment today is at its highest, underemployment is equally a huge concern. Poverty levels have reached historic highs. Our medical system is on the verge of collapse. Our industries such as sugar is in serious trouble despite all the polish talk, Our timber Industry is no longer sustainable, tourism numbers remain static, gold production has declined again, Mahogany exports are down, Construction Industry has over the past years barely surviving. Ladies and gentlemen we are indeed in serious problem. It is time to rebuild our country.
In the absence of the Auditor General’s Report for the past 7 years, it has been a difficult task to prepare a manifesto not knowing the real state of government finances. The PDP has resisted the temptation of making promises that it may be unable to keep. It has focused on essential issues that need immediate attention and those that affect our people almost daily.
The PDP is proud to be a truly multiracial Party born out of a struggle for democracy, respect for human rights, and compassion for the poor and the underprivileged, equality and social justice for all. The Party offers a new beginning.
The Constitution of Fiji was abrogated in 2009 despite assurances by the Government that the Constitution will be protected and promoted. The current Constitution does not have the approval of the people of the Fiji despite the preamble of the Constitution stating “We the People of Fiji Hereby Establish this Constitution for the Republic of the Fiji Islands”. The fact remains, that this Constitution was imposed on the people of Fiji by this Government. They represent no one other than themselves. Clearly, such a claim in our Constitution is fraudulent. The process charted out by Decree No. 57 of 2012 ‘Fiji Constitutional Process (Constitution Commission) Decree and Decree No. 80 of 2012 ‘Fiji Constitutional Process (Constituent Assembly and Adoption of Constitution) (Amendment) Decree 2012 was breached by the same people who manufactured the decree. The PDP recognizes the input the people of Fiji made to the Ghai Commission and will incorporate the positive aspects of the Ghai Draft and the 1997 Constitution.
The PDP pledges to have a clean Government that is accountable and transparent in the true sense and not as proclaimed by this Government. We are committed to building a multicultural society through a process of recognition of rights and interest.
The PDP is mindful of the hurt and pain this coup has caused many and will promote national reconciliation by establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, similar to that of South Africa. There must be a closure to all the hurt suffered. Only then can we proceed to rebuild our country.
The rule of law is of paramount importance. An efficient, independent and well resourced judiciary is a must.
Denial of human rights including workers rights, and indigenous rights has been a curse on this Country. It has put Fiji amongst the worst in the world. Fiji today at the International Labor Organization is listed as one of the three worst violators of workers’ rights in the world. This has brought us shame and humiliation as a Nation. Yet this Government seems to be beyond that. The PDP will as a matter of priority repeal any Decree that violates Human Rights in any way. We will restore to the people of Fiji their rights, which is their birth right. Our people deserve to live with dignity and respect. The PDP will empower the people of Fiji and drive out the fear in people that has been instilled by this government and has been the hallmark of this government for the past 7 years. Our people need their freedoms back. They need their right to speak and be heard. They need the right to disagree, to demonstrate, to freedom of movement without intimidation. This election is about reclaiming our rights and saying “never again”.
Our indigenous brothers and sisters have suffered worse. Their tradition and cultures have also been under attack by this government. The removal of the Great Council of Chiefs and that too with great insult cannot go unchallenged. The PDP undertakes to safeguard indigenous rights and promote indigenous knowledge. The Party will mainstream indigenous knowledge, restore the GCC and ensure that it has a meaningful role to play in assisting government in uplift the economic well-being of our people. The Chiefs play an important role and are central to the traditions and cultures of the indigenous people. The PDP Government will not interfere in the elections of the Provincial Councils. The people must decide.
Gender equality is not only a manifesto issue; it is a matter of principle for PDP. We practice this in the Party. The manifesto sets out some of the steps that PDP will take to ensure women are in the mainstream in all aspects of our policy.
Media censorship has been the norm in this country for the past years. People who praise this government are clearly been victims of this censorship. Praise for this Government can only come from those that believe in the government propaganda dished out to the people over this period.
While the Government now denies any form of censorship, the decrees in place force self censorship by the media. This is currently still the practice today. There can be no democracy without a free media. The PDP will reinstate a free media without delay. We will review ownership laws to ensure that Government does not interfere nor is there any form of monopoly in the industry.
Economic growth must be reflect improved living standards of our people. Simply to gloat about GDP growth makes no sense. Benefits of any growth must flow to the people and particularly those at the bottom of the ladder. Resource mobilization policy is critical to economic growth. The manifesto has policies that also concentrate on employment. Promotion of small and medium size enterprises is a critical part of PDP policy on growth.
There has been much concern in all circles on the continual massive deficits this Government has incurred. The PDP realizes that it would be a major challenge to achieve a fiscal balance. The PDP is however committed to achieving this. A number of steps will be pursued in this regard such as limiting the size of Government, curtail borrowing to serviceable levels, review of our taxation policy.
Education has been a subject of much interest. PDP has a holistic approach to this important issue. The PDP will concentrate on quality as well as the appropriateness of our current curriculum.
Human resource Development and job creation is central to our policies. This in turn will assist our fight against poverty. Unemployment and poverty have been the two most pressing challenges for PDP. The Manifesto list a number of programs that PDP will initiate to lift our people out of poverty. Price control, a living wage as minimum wage, social security, home ownership and resettlement of displaced people are other incentives. Review of FNPF pension scheme for low wage earners is a must. The PDP will ensure there is a pension scheme that will fit the FNPF slogan “Securing Your Future”. In addition to this, the PDP will introduce other measures to assist our poorest and underprivileged. They include removal of VAT on electricity charges for those that fall within the means test qualification and free water supply. The PDP Government will also make available to this group free medical treatment in all government hospitals and all charges would be waived. This incentive will progressively be applicable to others living below the poverty line. (This has been omitted in the printed copy of the Manifesto)
The PDP remains seriously concerned about at the deteriorating health services. Our people deserve better as a matter of right rather than government assistance. The PDP is committed to quality health care for all.
Foreign affairs and trade have been under considerable pressure for years. Establishing diplomatic relations with countries may be good International relations but of little benefit to Fiji. We cannot deny the fact that our closest neighbors are the most important to us for trade and development. Fiji must restore its leadership role in the South Pacific as a respected member of the region. The formation of a rival Forum to PIF is not the answer and is a waste of resources. The PDP will restore Fiji relations with PIF to deepen regional cooperation based on mutual respect.
Land is a sensitive issue and a PDP government will deal with this matter decisively. This must be done through thorough consultations with all stakeholders with a clear view to ensure a fair outcome for all. A review of TLTB operations is essential.
The sugar Industry is in serious decline despite all the propaganda on the success of the industry. The PDP will take a realistic and honest approach to dealing with the industry. Unlike other Parties who promise a guaranteed cane price of $80 and another who betters that with $85 per ton (as if this was some sort of an auction), the PDP offers no such promise. We will assist farmers wherever possible. We must determine cost and identify funding for such guarantees particularly when the preferential price regime is coming to an end in 2017. More importantly, the PDP government will ensure the viability and sustainability of the industry come 2017.
The tourism industry is important and will receive the support from PDP. More particularly, the PDP will introduce incentives for local owned investors and those that extend the industry to other parts of the country that do not have a cluster of tourism operators.
The Police Department has been taken for granted for far too long. It is high time to assist our police with capacity building programs including skilling and re-skilling. Low morale has been a constant problem within the Force. The PDP offers a plan to deal with this. The PDP will allow the police and prisons officers to form their Union and enjoy all rights. They are workers who must have rights and decent working conditions.
Ladies and Gentlemen, recently we have seen that the LTA has become a partner with Fiji First in campaigning for the coming elections. LTA billboards around the country with the leader of the Fiji First saying that we can save millions of lives. We only have a population of 874,000. I wonder what else he has counted.
This is an abuse of public funds to say the least. An investigation is in order. We are also told that vehicles with Fiji First Posters or stickers are exempt from any booking by LTA as well.
The PDP will review the operations of LTA and ensure that the current abuse of power will never be repeated. The role of the police will not be duplicated by LTA. LTA will be limited to be the licensing authority. Enforcement will be by the Police.
The PDP will ensure local Government elections are held as soon as possible. We will promote democratic institutions throughout the Country. It is time that people have a say in the running of the Government. For long 8 years the people of Fiji have been dictated to and this election offers an opportunity to say enough of dictatorship and power to the people. We urge people of all races and walks of life to join hands with us to move the Country forward and reclaim our respect and dignity. It is time for us after long eight years to say it is time for real change; it is time for a new beginning.
The future is in your hands."
"We urge people of all races and walks of life to join hands with us to move the Country forward and reclaim our respect and dignity. It is time for us after long eight years to say it is time for real change; it is time for a new beginning." PDP Party Leader Felix Anthony; Read Manifesto in full in right column