Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) member and businesswoman, Mere Samisoni, says she will be standing in next year’s general elections.
Her business acumen is something she will bank on leading up to the polls.
As a businesswoman, she built the Hot Bread Kitchen brand, a pioneering success story for iTaukei businesswomen.
Mrs Samisoni is today also a member of the Fiji Native Tribal Congress.
In the 2006 elections she won the Lami Open Constituency for the then Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party (SDL).
She had been unsuccessful in her previous campaigns in 1999 and 2001 for the Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei party (SVT)
“I was deposed in 2006 for no valid reason in my opinion,” she said.
“I still have my dream to tell my story on why an indigenous Fijian businesswoman succeeded in business and therefore any other indigenous Fijian can do so, if they put their mind to it.”
Mrs Samisoni said she was unusual given the low participation of indigenous Fijian women in business and other sectors, like education, health, social, technical and political development.
“So, I need to tell my story in order to encourage more indigenous Fijian that if they have the motivation and the interest, not to be afraid, but to welcome opportunities that lift us out of our disadvantaged position in the development framework.”
Hot Bread Kitchen brand
Without the regional constituencies as earlier suggested in the draft constitution, Mrs Samisoni believes that she has an added advantage. Her Hot Bread Kitchen (HBK) brand is known Fiji wide.
She said: “Hot Bread Kitchen has public trust and this brand position is powerful.
“The public and the staff know the Hot Bread Kitchen products and me. We employ over 400 staff Fiji wide and most have been with us since we started in 1981 and they know and trust the company management style that empower them to serve.”
Mrs Samisoni said that since 2006, the public was aware about what she stood for throughout Fiji.
She calls it ‘Team-Building Leadership’ that sustains service for 6-7 days a week 5am-8pm according to their needs.
Issues to highlight
In her future campaign, Mrs Samisoni wishes to bring about certainty through clarity of meaning on issues that people disagree on for peace in Fiji.
Her focus will be on what she calls are three key areas – racial discrimination, property rights of the indigenous and what she calls the ballooning national debt.
“Fiji needs a friendly political environment for free adult parliamentary debate and voting.”
How will SODELPA fare?
“Well, it makes sense that SODELPA will do well given the concerns I have outlined above, which are concerns of our markets, customers and constituencies alike.”
What will it take to win?
Mrs Samisoni said: “Serve its customers needs using market information within a free and friendly environment through democratic institutions to put all the facts on the table and by using diplomatic discussions and mature debate, take Fiji forward with grace and faith.
“After all we are human beings with a moral level of understanding to do the right thing in the name of justice and the rule of law.”
Voting age at 18
Mrs Samisoni is all for the reduction in the voting age.
“Increasing the voting market by reducing the voting age to 18 years is a good idea.
“It is democratic to empower the people who can add value to the development process and in this particular case, youth. They will now have a say in who represents them in Parliament.”
But she believes this inclusion is rather hollow when she says other group rights like iTaukei, and women, through Special Measures, for equality, human rights and freedom are still debatable.
“However, having said all that, there is still hope for changes through Section 161 of the Constitution, 2013, before or till December 31st, 2013.
“Naturally, SODELPA is putting up a submission to address group rights, human rights and iTaukei land rights.”
To draw the youth vote
Obviously, for young people their priority would be employment opportunities, she said.
Mrs Samisoni said the immediate prospect for employment looked bleak – especially with the data provided by the National Employment Centre (NEC).
The centre recorded that since 2010, 25,801 unemployed persons have registered, but only close to 1400 have been able to secure full time employment, she said.
Despite this, Mrs Samisoni commended the Bainimarama government for the recent Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) agreement on labour mobility relating to skilled workers, in order to provide some cushion.
Her emphasis to the youth will focus on: “Interventionist type policies (ITP) that promote the growth of innovative entrepreneurial small to medium business, in line with the growth of Information Communication Technology (ICT) and the internet, green technology and the service industry aligned to world-wide market opportunities through supply value chain management.”
Fiji Native Tribal Congress
Mrs Samisoni said her role in the Congress, along with her entrepreneurial business model and experience will assist in her campaign in what she called the democratisation of the political process in Fiji through the participation of groups especially indigenous people, women and youth.
She said the Convention of the Elimination of Racial Discrimination or CERD recognised positive discrimination – at the same time dismantling customary institutions could be racially discriminating, she claimed.
Source: Rosi Doviverata interview, Fiji Sun, November 16, 2013: http://www.fijisun.com.fj/?p=187648
Read here on the Fiji Native Tribal Congress
Bulls Eye! Businesswoman and SODELPA stalwart Mere Samisoni captures issues and challenges facing party and country before poll