Saturday, 16 June 2018

Tebbutt Poll results contradict self-praising by PM Bainimarama says Rabuka

Response to Tebbutt Poll on the most pressing issues for Government and the most pressing issues facing the people
15 June 2018

Former Prime Minister and Party Leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA), Sitiveni L Rabuka issued this statement today in response to the results of the latest Times Tebbutt poll on the most pressing issues facing the government, and the most pressing issues facing those questioned in the poll.

Although the sample size of the Tebbutt poll is small in relation to the total population for a realistic evaluation of results, it can be argued that the results can be used as a benchmark, indicator or broad idea of peoples’ thinking on a particular issue.

The results of the latest Tebbutt poll confirm the feedback I have received from ordinary Fijians in my visits around the country.

According to the results, the cost of living, unemployment, and wages are top issues of concern. Half of those interviewed or 50% named the cost of living as an issue. We cannot look at cost of living in isolation from unemployment and wages. These variables are interdependent or correlated. When there are employment opportunities, then people have a choice. Since there is limited employment opportunities, people have to be content with what is available despite low wages.

The results of the Poll are consistent with our observations in urban and semi-urban areas. 

For those in our rural areas, farming opportunities and rural development are bigger issues.
Coconut sellers
Gio Vakaloloma (left) removes coconut husks with a machete in Suva, Fiji. He is among the one-third of Fiji's 840,000 population who live below the poverty line. Neil Sands / Agence France-PresseSource: ChinaDaily.Com

For landowners, land leases, the continuing lack of consultation by government with landowners and fair rent continue to be a challenge.

The results contradict all the self-praising by the Bainimarama Government that there is prosperity in the country. There are lessons for the Bainimarama Government to learn from the poll results. They cannot turn a blind eye to the truth that almost 50% of ordinary Fijians are facing hardship and only a select few are benefitting from the high growth that FFP continues to boast about, which is not true.
A march to eradicate poverty. Source 

The results of the poll are also an indication of the lack of consultation with all stakeholders to put in place the right policy mix to address the concerns of our people about the high cost of living, low wages, unemployment, education, land issues, health and poverty and all the other issues of concern.

Authorised by:

Sitiveni L Rabuka
Party Leader

PM Bainimarama's claim of economic prosperity contradicted by reality on the ground says Rabuka

Bainimarama’s claim of economic prosperity is contradicted by the high cost of living, increase in the incidence of poverty and reality on the ground
16 June 2018
By Sitiveni L Rabuka Former Prime Minister and Party Leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA)
Published in the Fiji Sun, Saturday 16 June 2018

PM Bainimarama’s boasting about his FijiFirst Government’s performance in Naseyani, Ra earlier this week on Tuesday June 12 2018, is patently false given that more of our people than ever before, are reliant on government handouts.

Today 28% of our population is living below the poverty line, and another 20% are living on the margins. This means almost 50% of our population are facing hardship in making ends meet, and government policies have created an environment of ‘dependency syndrome’ for the average Fijian.


Regarding PM Bainimarama’s warning to communities to be wary of political rhetoric, this warning applies equally to PM Bainimarama’s own boasting. Voters will have to evaluate his political rhetoric, against the reality of their everyday economic struggles.


There is nothing new in Prime Minister Bainimarama’s comments made in Naseyani, Ra on Tuesday June 12 2018. As usual, he continues to boast about his government’s performance. It is time that Bainimarama embrace the truth, and reject lies.


The people of Fiji know from their own experience over the last 12 years, the reality of the performance of the Bainimarama Government. The standard of living and freedom of expression of ordinary Fijians are worse off than before. The incidence of poverty has continued to increase in the last 12 years. 





According to the latest Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES), poverty in the country has continued to increase due to the high cost of basic food items despite the FFP promise to keep basic food items VAT free in their 2014 Manifesto. Deteriorating health services, inconsistency of government policies, among others, are testimony to the failures of the Bainimarama Government.



As for the claim that there is widespread prosperity due to high economic growth, the truth is that:


- Today, more people are reliant on handouts from the Government. Rather than empowering the people the be self-reliant, the Bainimarama Government have created a ‘handout mentality’ or widespread dependency syndrome; and

- 28.1% of our population are living below the poverty rate according to the latest Household Income & Expenditure Survey (HIES), while another 20% are living on the margins of poverty. This means that almost 50% or half of our population are facing severe economic hardship, and struggling to make ends meet.

It is unfortunate that PM Bainimarama is misleading the people of Fiji by saying that only his government is growing the economy. Previous governments have performed better, the Alliance Government’s average growth rate was 5%, the SVT’s average growth rate was 4.2%. The Bainimarama Government’s average 
growth rate is only around 2.1%, so why is he misleading the public when the actual figures say otherwise.

The Bainimarama Government has benefitted from resource based industries established by previous Governments including mahogany, pine, sugar, fisheries, tourism, garment industry and the development of ICT. Major infrastructure  development (roads, airports, seaports) were all constructed by previous governments and were considered adequate and relevant at that particular point in time. As we modernised, and technology improves, there is no doubt we need to make the necessary adjustment to meet the standards and current demand. Therefore, it is the responsibility of successive governments to make the necessary adjustment and improvements where necessary.


The only growth industry developed under the Bainimarama Government is the increase in our national debt stock and the unprecedented increase of handouts. Despite these handouts, almost 50% of our people are facing hardship in meeting their basic needs according to the latest HIES.


The increase in freebies, handouts and non-targeted subsidies have not improved the incidence of poverty but made the poorer segment of our society more dependent, rather than empowering them to support themselves. 


Despite the favorable international trading environment in the last 12 years, inflation continues to increase and little progress has been made in improving the lives of ordinary Fijians. Domestic inflation is normally driven by international price fluctuation, particularly the price of petroleum products which has been quite favorable in the last 12 years. Something is wrong, somewhere.


FijiFirst promised not to impose VAT on basic food items in its 2014 Manifesto, but broke this promise. Although Value Added Tax (VAT) was reduced to 9% with effect from 1 January 2016 (a reduction of 6%), an additional 16% increase was put into place, with the imposition of 10% Environment & Climate Adaptation Levy (ECAL) and Sales Turnover Tax (STT) of 6%. The two new taxes have more than doubled tax to be paid, compared to the reduction.

Prime Minister Bainimarama cannot continue to blame previous governments for the poor performance after 2006, because the figures reveal otherwise. His performance has to be measured on its own merits by the voters.



Authorised by:


Sitiveni L Rabuka

Party Leader

Democracy: Government Leadership that listens to the people

Democracy: Government Leadership that listens to the people
16 June 2018
By Sitiveni L Rabuka, Party Leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) and former Prime Minister.
Fiji Times Saturday 16/6/18 

Governments must still consult the people, even with a parliamentary majority. We believe every citizen wants leaders who listen and are responsive to their views. Democracy is consistent and in harmony with our traditional values and culture where dialogue and consultation is the cornerstone in addressing issues of common interest.

SODELPA’s collective vision is “to build a secure, peaceful, prosperous and stable nation through inclusive leadership and governance that will foster improved livelihoods, sustainable economic and social development, protection of our environment, and reduced vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change​”. We are united in our belief that Fiji, more than ever before, needs strong leadership, and a transparent and accountable government.


I sincerely believe that our country is at a crossroad and it is time that we make a choice, a critical decision as to how we want our country to be governed. The decision you make as an individual at the poll, will determine the future of this country that we all call our home.


My personal vision, which is consistent with the party’s vision, is based on two fundamental principles. First, as a humble Christian, I am committed to share and spread the message of love and respect for one another, as we are all children of God. Second, I sincerely believe that for the nation to progress with confidence and a genuine sense of purpose, we must all continue to embrace consensus decision-making for our collective good.





The word ‘Democracy’ comes from the Greek word Demokratia : ‘demos’ meaning ‘the

people’ and ‘kratos’ means “to rule​” or ‘govern​.’

Abraham Lincoln, the former US President famously declared that “democracy is Government of the People, by the People, for the People.”


To elaborate I would like to reiterate President Ronald Reagan’s view that, “​We the people tell the government what to do. It does not tell us. We the people are the driver, the government is the car and we decide where it should go and by what route and how fast. Almost all the world’s constitutions are documents in which governments tell the people what their privileges are. Our constitution is a document in which we the people tell the government what it is allowed to do.”


Free, fair and regular elections ensures that the consent or “mandate” of the people is renewed or given to the governing group or party. However, elections alone do not guarantee a democratic or just Government. Democracy requires the continuous and active participation of the citizenry, as individuals, or in groups, in politics and the civic life of the Nation. Unreasonable limitations on freedom of expression, media freedom, or freedom of association reduce the participation of the people in the governance process. This is why a SODELPA Government will review the Media Decree and the limitations on human rights in the 2013 Constitution.


Democracy also requires the protection of human rights of all citizens including ethnic or religious minorities and minorities who may hold political opinions contrary to the majority or the government of the day. The constitutional separation of powers of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary, the independence of watchdog institutions and the rule of law are fundamental to democracy.


The opening phrase of the 1997 Constitution is “WE THE PEOPLE OF THE FIJI ISLANDS...”​ and ends “With God as our witness, give ourselves this Constitution.” This confirms that the people consented to that Constitution, and that it is from them that sovereignty flow, to the government they choose in free and fair elections.


In the traditional Fijian context the traditional values and practice of veirogorogoci (reciprocal consultation), veirokorokovi (reciprocal respect) and veivakaturagataki (respect for elders) capture the essence of traditional governance and democracy, where the views of the people are conveyed through a consultative process from the Tokatoka (family grouping) to the Mataqali (clan) to the Yavusa (a group of mataqali defined as the direct agnate descendants of a single Kalou-vu (deified ancestor) to the Turaga ni Yavusa or Chief.


Since Cession in 1874, the colonial government formalised the Bose Vakoro (Village Council), Bose ni Tikina (District Council) and Bose ni Yasana (Provincial Council) which then nominated representatives to the Bose Levu Vakaturaga (BLV or Council of Chiefs), which ensured that the views of ordinary indigenous Fijians are heard by Government at all levels, including at national level. Importantly, the BLV had a veto vote on laws that affect indigenous Fijians (iTaukei Affairs Act, iTaukei Lands Act, iTaukei Lands Trust Act, etc), and this was in line with the recognition of the iTaukei as the indigenous people of Fiji, codified in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) and the ILO Convention No. 169 on Indigenous Rights.


Pluralism

A democracy requires pluralism​. A pluralist system is one where there is more than one center of power. This recognises that Government is not the only repository of wisdom or knowledge. Even with an electoral mandate, the people, either individually or through their associations, must continue to be heard by the Government and influence how government makes decisions. Freedom of association is respected and the people are free to form associations, political parties, NGOs, trade unions and other groups and they need not depend on the government for their existence or legitimacy.

In Fiji however, we have since 2006 seen a crackdown on the media, religious bodies, NGOs, civil society, trade unions and political parties. In addition to the Judiciary, Auditor General, Human Rights Commission, Police, Military and other constitutional bodies, voluntary associations can also be described as a fetter or watchdog on the exercise of the power or authority of the State through the Government of the day.


Government progressively weakened these institutions, removing the BLV in 2007, while the whole Judiciary was removed when the 1997 Constitution was abrogated in 2009, as was the Office of the Ombudsman, the Higher Salaries Commission, the Fiji Law Reform Commission, to name a few, which have not been re-established. The FijiFirst Government also continues to drag its feet on the Code of Conduct and the Freedom of Information requirements of its own 2013 Constitution.


Effective consultations: listening to the people

A SODELPA Government will enable the people of Fiji, in particular communities affected by particular decisions like for example mining of the Ba and Sigatoka rivers, to tell the government how certain decisions will affect them.

We will foster regular consultations with the people. We will not limit parliamentary petitions, as is the case now where the FFP uses its parliamentary majority to block petitions.


SODELPA will not limit freedom of association. NGOs, Civil Society, Religious bodies political parties and Trade Unions will be free to represent the views of the people at all times with the removal of laws that limit freedom of expression and association.


One of the benefits of effective consultation, is that the people are fully aware of and have contributed to the reforms you are making, so they are supportive of the changes and take ownership of the reforms since they have been heard and participated in the reform process. Since the 2014 elections, some laws are being passed within a day in our Parliament, without consultations with relevant stakeholders and the communities directly affected by these laws.


Threats to democracy

For our democracy to work, all citizens, all parties must observe the principles and rules of democratic conduct. We must never justify violence and disrespect political opponents. We must not demonize political opponents, because everyone has a right to be heard. Any group that feels excluded and disenfranchised may become disillusioned in their anger and frustration. We must not allow this to happen and we must be alert to this.

Poverty or hardship can also result in a community that is focused only on survival, that it does not examine how a government is managing the nation and using the taxpayer funds or government resources. The increasing incidence of poverty, which is at 28.1% of our population in the latest Household Income & Expenditure Survey (HIES), with another 20% living on the margins, means more of our people are focused on their family’s survival to address hardship they are going through. However, their effective participation is important, to evaluate how government is making decisions on wages, on disaster or cyclone relief and rehabilitation and whether poverty alleviation measures are really working, or whether they are creating a handout mentality or ‘dependency syndrome.’


SODELPA’s commitment

SODELPA’s constitution commits the party to promote peace, stability and to pursue a policy of genuine dialogue to achieve peaceful solutions to our common challenges. We reject the notion that solutions to our  nation’s challenges can be achieved through violence, intimidation and illegality because Fiji’s progress must be founded on the rule of law, parliamentary democracy, equality and social justice of our people.

The coming general election is an opportunity to the people of Fiji to choose or give their mandate to those whom they believe will govern in their interest.


A SODELPA Government will review the constitution to ensure the separation of powers, independent institutions or watchdog agencies, a free media, and to rollback limitations on civil society, religious bodies, NGOs and Trade Unions. SODELPA will ensure we have a Constitution that represents the will of the people, one that they vote in and adopt; genuine debate in the House of Parliament; Elected leaders by consensus, convention or custom in our Bose Vakoro, Bose ni Tikina, Bose ni Yasana, Town and City Councils etc; Freedom of speech, worship, association; respect for Human and Group Rights. We will ensure local government elections are held to ensure ratepayers in towns and cities choose the Mayor and Councillors who will govern their towns and cities.


In conclusion, SODELPA believes it is time for change, to have a Government and national leadership that genuinely listens to the people. Instead of only one or two people deciding for all of the 900, 000 people of Fiji. A genuine democracy brings together the view and interests of all the people so that our future is decided collectively.


Authorised by:


Sitiveni L Rabuka

Party Leader

Monday, 11 June 2018

Rabuka addresses mischievous Labasa rumors that SODELPA will distribute cyclone assistance this week

SODELPA Leader addresses fake Labasa rumors of cyclone assistance
11 June 2018

Former Prime Minister and Party Leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA), Major-General Sitiveni L Rabuka issued this statement today expressing his disappointment about a rumour in Labasa that SODELPA is distributing $100 credit to the general public this week.

Today, I am again being informed of rumors in Labasa Town, that the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) would be distributing $100 vouchers to those affected by recent cyclones. I apologise sincerely to those in genuine need who have been misled by these mischievous rumors.

It is unfortunate that as we move towards the elections, some people find it useful to spread rumors.  These incidences are designed to confuse the public and disappoint members of our community who are in genuine need.

This unfortunate incident is also an indication of the hardship that many of our ordinary Fijians face, given that poverty is at 28.1% according to the latest Household Income Expenditure Report (HIES), while another 20% are living on the margins of poverty. This means many more of our people are facing extreme hardship meeting their basic needs. It also drastically affects their ability to recover from devastating cyclones and extreme weather events which are becoming more regular, with increased severity.

Members of the public reaching out for their numbers at a recent CARE for Fiji distribution event by the Ministry of Social Welfare & Poverty Alleviation. Source: Fiji Times 

All disaster rehabilitation programs like the ‘CARE For Fiji’ program is the responsibility of the Government and its obligation to assist all vulnerable and unfortunate members of our community, particularly those affected by natural disasters like the recent Cyclones TC Josie and TC Keni.

Again I apologise for this unfortunate mischievous rumors and thank those who contacted us for clarification.

//ENDs

Authorised by:

Sitiveni L Rabuka

Party Leader

Saturday, 9 June 2018

A common name for the people of Fiji

A common name for the people of Fiji9 June 2018
By Sitiveni L Rabuka, Party Leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) and former Prime Minister.
Published in the Fiji Times 9 June 2018


Our rich cultural and ethnic diversity define our nation united. A common name or ‘national identity’ is a very important subject for all of us in Fiji today, more than ever before. I believe that our cultural diversity is our strength, rather than a hurdle to progress. We must all continue to embrace diversity as an opportunity rather than a threat to nation building, for a progressive and inclusive society.

To start off, I would like to share with you a statement made by the late Archbishop Petero Mataca, the then head of the Catholic Church in Fiji, that was related by Rev Stanley G Andrews a former President of the Methodist Church of Fiji. In his book, “Prepare your Servant,” Rev Andrews recalls the statement by Archbishop Mataca when they discussed the future of Fiji:

“No matter how we come to be in Fiji, or how long we have been here…we are all part of this land. It is the land of our birth or the land of our adoption, the land to which we belong”

 When I read and continue to review the late Archbishop Mataca’s statement on his vision for Fiji, sharing his thoughts with the then head of the Methodist Church, which represents the majority of our Christian population, it inspires and continues to have a profound transformative influence on me, until today.

I sincerely believe that we must all embrace and value the sentiment expressed by the late Archbishop Mataca because it truly reflects who we are as a nation, and we must collectively nurture such thoughts in our daily lives.



The statement greatly helped me to change my perception and realise that the narrow, myopic belief I had in 1987, and to display the kind of national leadership I felt I owed to the people of Fiji when I was elected Prime Minister in 1992. And it was to be my constant guide in my SVT Government’s approach to the review of  S G Andrew Prepare Your Servant, Auckland 1988, p. 96  the 1990 Constitution, which essentially was an interim one, to take Fiji back to Parliamentary governance, while providing for a mandatory review before the end of seven years from its promulgation.

There were other very important insight; in all my travels, studies and operational tours overseas, I had come to realise that Fiji has progressed so far ahead of our Pacific island neighbours in its economic, social and political development.

It was clear to me that the major contributing factor in this, derives directly from the many advantages of being a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multicultural society. It is the combined contribution of all our different communities, professional people and corporate entities in their unique and variety of ways. We are strong when we are united in our diversity.

During my Tours of Duty in the Middle East, as a soldier, I also witnessed the destruction of nations torn apart by social, ethnic and religious intolerance. This influenced my close partnership with Judge Jai Ram Reddy, in formulating the 1997 Constitution through a consultative national process.

We both agreed that for such a very important national undertaking, it was imperative that as people’s representatives in Parliament, we should leave aside our partisan positions and put the collective interest of our country and all its citizens and communities, first and foremost.

The ultimate result of this democratic constitution review process was the joint sponsorship by me as Prime Minister and Hon Jai Ram Reddy as Leader of the Opposition, in the House of Representatives in July 1997, the Bill for the new Constitution for our country, which was unanimously enacted on 27 July 1997.

 Unfortunately, both Mr Reddy and I lost public office when our political parties were defeated in the 1999 General Elections. It is unfortunate that the 1997 Constitution was unilaterally revoked in July 2009 by the Bainimarama-led Military regime when the Fiji Court of Appeal declared as unlawful its forcible removal in December 2006 of the democratically elected SDL Government led by Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.
                                         

However, despite all this, I remain confident and hopeful that our country will return to genuine democracy and constitutional legality and legitimacy.

In the event SODELPA, the party that I have been entrusted to lead, wins the majority number of seats in Parliament in the 2018 General Elections, I shall resume the work that Hon Jai Ram Reddy and I started in the 1997 Constitution. And this is to develop in full consultation with the people of Fiji, and with an all-parties consensus decision in Parliament, for a review of the 2013 Fiji Constitution.

The purpose of such a review is to ensure that our Constitution genuinely reflects the wishes and the aspirations of “We, the people of Fiji,” and that it is broadly acceptable to all our communities.

 A review of the 2013 Constitution and the status in law of the 1997 Constitution will, of course, include a comparative consideration of the approaches adopted in the two constitutions for a common national identity.

 For me personally, I have three reservations about the adoption in the 2013 Constitution of “Fijian” as our common name.

Firstly, the people were never consulted. It was imposed, just like the Bainimarama regime’s unilateral revocation of the 1997 Constitution and removal and abolition of the Great Council of Chiefs.

 The people of Fiji have a right to be consulted and to be heard on this very important issue.

Secondly, the 2013 Constitution, for the first time in Fiji’s constitutional history, has allowed a Fiji citizen to hold citizenship of a foreign State simultaneously. This dual nationality is a good thing in the context of our globalised world. But it creates the dubious situation about a person’s patriotic loyalty and attachment to Fiji when one is at the same time the national of another State.

 Thirdly, and most seriously, it ignores the group rights and self-determination of indigenous iTaukei and Rotuman people. These group rights had been recognised from the outset of British colonial administration of Fiji following the Deed of Session between the British Crown and the High Chiefs of Fiji on 10th October 1874.

They are codified into the State laws of Fiji through the Constitution, and statutes such as the iTaukei Lands Act and the Rotuman Lands Act.

Article 33 of the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples defines the group right of self-determination of indigenous peoples as including their “…right to determine their own identity or membership in accordance with their customs and traditions.” 3

Under international law, a distinction is made between indigenous community rights and the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic communities. Indigenous community rights are group rights vested in the community, and not through individual members.

Ethnic, religious and linguistic minority community rights are not group rights as they are individual rights enjoyed and exercised collectively with other members of their respective community.

However, our ethnic, religious and linguistic minority groups will be interested to know that the Human Rights Committee, the oversight body that monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has broadened its interpretation of ethnic, religious and linguistic rights of minority communities to include the ability of each community to maintain its culture, language or religion. And further, it has called on States to introduce positive measures necessary to protect the identity of a minority community and the ability of its members to enjoy and develop their culture and language and to practice their religion.

To me, what is unacceptable in the approach taken by the Bainimarama regime in the formulation of their 2013 Constitution, is their founding presumption.

They presumed that there can be a clear separation, on the one hand, between the State of Fiji as a political community of culturally undifferentiated individuals and, on the other, Fiji as a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multicultural society.

As part of the new political culture, all citizens of Fiji are to be called “Fijians.” The only justification given is that by granting common and equal citizenry as Fijians, this constitutionally imposed political identity will induce among the citizens of Fiji a greater sense of unity as a nation.

Nothing can be further from the truth.

An imposed political culture based on a “single all-embracing national identity” is no different from cultural assimilation. Our different communities will feel more confident and secure about their future in Fiji when their ethnicity, religious faiths and cultures are publicly acknowledged by the State and given equal protection and treatment.

It is this open recognition and assurances of equal protection and treatment, and not their relegation to be exercised only as personal and private rights, that will engender greater feelings of unity and patriotism in our diverse society.

For an indigenous iTaukei, to be called a “Fijian” means much more than being a citizen of Fiji. It means being registered in the iTaukei Vola ni Kawa Bula (VKB) as a member of a customary landowning Mataqali.

It is for this reason, that it has been very hard for many iTaukei to understand the Bainimarama regime’s rationale for unilaterally appropriating the name “Fijian” for use as the common name of all Fiji citizens.

 For the iTaukei, it would have been more acceptable if we adopted the Canadian practice of using hyphenated identities as part of its multiculturalism policies of promoting unity in diversity.

{In the Taukei vernacular, anyone who is not Taukei is Vulagi meaning Alien, Stranger, Visitor or Foreigner} That’s not good!

The pathway to Canadian citizenship is through one’s affiliation as native Canadians, French Canadians, Guyanese Canadians, Japanese Canadians, etc. They each supplement the generic national identity of “Canadian.” This dual identity encapsulates the inclusive and uniting values of mutual recognition, reciprocity, partnership and continuity.

Here in Fiji, depending on the context, we can all be Fijians when we are overseas, or when we are representing Fiji, but locally for ease of identification of who we are, we can refer to each other as native or indigenous Fijians, Indo-Fijians, Chinese-Fijians, European or part-European Fijians, and Banabans and Rotumans.

 Whilst this methodology identifies who we are in terms of our origin, its concurrent utility and overriding efficacy is that as citizens of Fiji every person is guaranteed under the Constitution equal fundamental rights and freedoms as laid down in the Bill of Rights.

The United Nations Educational Science and Cultural Organisation [UNESCO], of which Fiji is a member, reminds us that it is our cultural diversity that gives our society its unique character and heritage. Accordingly, it is our duty to affirm and to promote it for the benefit of our present and future generations.

In my personal submission to the Professor Yash Ghai Constitutional Commission during the post 2006 Military Regime, I suggested that the then Indians in Fiji should not be forced to discard their distinctive identity as members of a very proud race and adopt a name already used to identify the proud indigenous race of Fiji.

Authorised by:


Sitiveni L Rabuka 

Party Leader

Friday, 8 June 2018

SODELPA: Government Must Respect the Vanua and Its Protocols


Government must respect the ​Vanua  and its protocols 
08 June 2018

Former Prime Minister and Party Leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA), Major-General Sitiveni L Rabuka issued this statement today urging calm, and issuing a caution, for respect for the ​Vanua and its protocols.

I note with dismay the series of unfortunate events, where a High Chief was arrested today by armed military and police personnel.

Since the State of Emergency was lifted in 2012 with the repeal of the Public Emergency Regulations(PER), there is no place for participation of the military in policing matters, in a peaceful family and traditional setting. 


 I urge the Prime Minister to respect ​Vanua protocols, respect our traditions of veirokorokovi, veirorogoci and the Vanua’s own problem-solving and mediation processes. I caution the Government to consider a peace-promoting and problem-solving approach to the Vanua, rather than the opposite. 



Authorised by:

 

Sitiveni L Rabuka 
Party Leader 
Social Democratic Liberal Party
 

Sudden taxi permit issuance blatant vote buying

Sudden taxi permit issuance without consultation is blatant vote buying strategy

8 June 2018


Former Prime Minister and Party Leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA), Major-General Sitiveni L Rabuka issued this statement today regarding the recent issuance of taxi permits without due consultation with all stakeholders.


This is another classic example and clear indication of the current government’s dictatorial approach without due consideration to genuine consultation with all relevant stakeholders.


It is important that a review must be carried out involving City and Town Councils, Local Rural Authorities, Ministry of Transport, Fiji Roads Authority and the Fiji Taxi Association to determine the need and priority areas for the issuance of taxi permits.




Why the rush at this point in time just because the election is around the corner. It appears, that this is another vote buying strategy.


The way forward to improve transparency and accountability in the issue of taxi permits, is to review the current process and make it relevant to the current environment.


The current process for those individuals who wish to acquire a taxi permit, must first clarify the availability of a taxi base from the relevant City Council, Town Council and Local Rural Authority.


Once the responsible local government authority confirms the availability of a base, then an application is made to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) who will gazette and publish a notice for objections, before a permit can be issued.


It seems that the FijiFirst Government is trying to buy votes and has not given due consideration for the number of Taxis currently on the road, whether there is an additional need, the capacity of roading infrastructure, the availability of other modes of public transport, among other relevant issues that must be considered. These are the basic considerations that need to be taken on board, before new permits are issued.


While we congratulate those operators who have been waiting a long time for a permit, the consequences for traffic management, and the administration of local government areas, is compromised by the current government’s ill considered and rash policy for the issuance of taxi permits without due consideration to all relevant issues.


Authorised by:


Sitiveni L Rabuka
Party Leader

Commemorating forty years of Fiji's Peacekeeping efforts

“We will remember them”
Commemorating forty years of Peacekeeping
8 June 2018
By Sitiveni Rabuka, Party Leader, Social Democratic Liberal Party


This week, I wish to recognise, celebrate and commemorate the fortieth anniversary of Fiji’s participation in the United Nations peacekeeping operations.
I congratulate the Government and people of Fiji, in particular the Republic of Fiji Military Forces on this coming week of celebrations of Fiji’s exemplary forty years of peacekeeping duties.

On 10th June forty years ago, the then Prime Minister, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara farewelled the first contingent of 500 soldiers to Lebanon to serve in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The contingent was led by the first Commanding Officer, then Lt Col Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, LVO, the former President of Fiji.



I also pay tribute to the former Permanent Representative to the United Nations (PRUN), the late Minister, Ambassador Berenado Vunibobo who facilitated our entry into peacekeeping in 1978. I also recognise all succeeding PRUNs who have continued to enhance and facilitate our peacekeeping commitments.

Our nation’s proud tradition of over 40 years in peacekeeping service by members of our disciplined services, beginning with the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF), the Fiji Police and augmented by members of the Fiji Prisons & Corrections Services was key in keeping the peace in many countries including Egypt (Sinai), Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, East Timor, Solomon Islands, Syria (Golan Heights), PNG (Bouganville), Cambodia and Sudan.

As a proud, former Commander and Commanding Officer of our Battalion in Lebanon, I want to acknowledge and commend this great gesture by the Fiji Military to have a special week to recognise the work and sacrifice of our UN Peacekeepers, past and present, all over the globe, to restore and build peace in the troubled areas of the world.

As a proud Fijian, I remember with pride and sorrow those who have died and made the ultimate sacrifice in the course of their peacekeeping duties. To their widows, children, families and vanua we say, 'say, 'We salute your husbands, fathers and sons ultimate sacrifice and vow that we will remember them.'


Authorised by:

Sitiveni L Rabuka
Party Leader

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

SODELPA: Rabuka Commemorates 40th Anniversary of Fiji's Peacekeeping Operations


Commemorating forty years of Peacekeeping  
5 June 2018

Party Leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party(SODELPA) and former Prime Minister,  Sitiveni L Rabuka issued this statement to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of Fiji’s participation in the United Nations peacekeeping operations.



I congratulate the Government and people of Fiji, in particular the Republic of Fiji Military Forces on this coming week of celebrations of Fiji’s exemplary forty years of peacekeeping duties. 

On 10th June forty years ago, the then Prime Minister, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara farewelled the first contingent of 500 soldiers to Lebanon to serve in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).  The contingent was led ​by the first Commanding Officer, then Lt Col Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, LVO, the former President of Fiji.  

I also pay tribute to the former Permanent Representative to the United Nations (PRUN), the late Minister, Ambassador Berenado Vunibobo who facilitated our entry into peacekeeping in 1978. I also recognise all succeeding PRUNs who have continued to enhance and facilitate our peacekeeping commitments. 

Our nation’s proud tradition of over 40 years in peacekeeping service was key in keeping the peace in the following countries: Egypt (Sinai), Afghanistan, Iraq, East Timor, Solomon Islands, Syria (Golan Heights), PNG (Bouganville), Cambodia, Liberia and Sudan. 

As a proud, former Commander and Commanding Officer of our Battalion in Lebanon, I want to acknowledge and commend this great gesture by the Fiji Military to have a special week to recognise the work and sacrifice of our UN Peacekeepers, past and present, all over the globe, to restore and build peace in the troubled areas of the world. 

As a proud Fijian, I remember with pride and sorrow those who have died and made the ultimate sacrifice in the course of their peacekeeping duties. To their widows, children, families and vanua we say, 'We salute your husbands, fathers and sons ultimate sacrifice and vow that we will remember them.' 



Authorised by:

Sitiveni L Rabuka 

Party Leader 
Social Democratic Liberal Party

 

SODELPA - Rabuka Congratulates Fiji 7s Gladiators

Sevens Team do Fiji proud at London 7s Tournament 
5 June 2018

Party Leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party(SODELPA)and former Prime Minister, Sitiveni L Rabuka issued this statement to coach Gareth Baber and the Fiji Airways Men’s national 7s team on winning the HSBC London 7s tournament on Monday 04 June 2018.



As a proud former National Rugby representative player and National Athletics representative, I've always been proud of our National Sports Teams' victories and also feel with them the disappointment of losing. 

I join all Fijians and Fiji's sports fans in congratulating Coach Gareth Baber, Captain Jerry Tuwai and the players and Team Staff for a very well deserved victory from a very well structured strategy and execution. 

Our sevens gladiators go from strength to strength and I join other Fijians in expressing our pride and gratitude for their spectacular performance at the London 7s last weekend. They now lead the points table for the 2017/2018 IRB Sevens Series. 

I also congratulate Coach Baber on his performance and perseverance which has now earned him the status of becoming the most successful Fiji 7s coach in one season. 

You are all to be commended for your efforts and for bringing much joy to the nation. The joy expressed by our 7s Gladiators was a sight to behold and brought our nation together, as we all watched them defeat South Africa in that pulsating final. Your sportsmanship and your enjoyment of the game, make you exemplary ambassadors for our small nation. 

I look forward and wish you every success in your games in the final leg of the Series in Paris, France and my prayers are with you all that you will win this year’s World Sevens Series. 

May God Bless our 7s Team and God Bless Fiji.   


Authorised by:

Sitiveni L Rabuka 

Party Leader 
Social Democratic Liberal Party

Friday, 1 June 2018

SODELPA: Rabuka Response to Bainimarama Comments at Launching of MLC Veivueti Medical Vessel


Response to Bainimarama allegations  
1 June 2018

Party Leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) and former Prime Minister, Sitiveni L Rabuka issued this statement in response to Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s remarks launching the new hospital ship ‘Veivueti’ on Thursday 31 May 2018.

It is unfortunate that Prime Minister Bainimarama decided to engage in political mudslinging when he should be celebrating the happy occasion, rather than making personal and political attacks.

As I said to Prime Minister Bainimarama after his statement in Melbourne last Sunday 27/5/18, “he can fool some of the people some of the time, but he cannot fool all of the people, all the time.”

I believe it is unbecoming of the PM to make petty attacks and arguments without any statistical basis, when the writ of election is yet to be issued. Perhaps he is now worried because people are no longer buying his propaganda and all the misinformation from his Qorvis speechwriters. 

 

While launching the ‘Veivueti,’ it appears that PM Bainimarama has lost the plot and is speaking out of context. 

We appreciate and welcome the new hospital vessel, the ‘Veivueti’ but it is not a milestone or  ‘first’ for Fiji. 

The argument that the new hospital ship “Veivueti” is groundbreaking, is false. Yes, this a historic milestone for the ruling Fiji First Party, but it’s not the first for Fiji because we also had dedicated vessels equipped with medical facilities for emergencies particularly in our remote rural areas and maritime zones during the Alliance, SVT, and SDL Governments. ​‘Nasi Yalodina,’‘Nasi ni Yasawa’ ​ and ​‘MV Vuniwai’​ were a number of vessels that were used by the Ministry of Health to serve rural and maritime populations. In addition, seaplanes and naval vessels were used for medical evacuation.


It is the duty of every government to build and improve on the achievements from previous governments.  

It is also important for Bainimarama to appreciate how our health infrastructure had evolved since colonial times. We had a referral system, and the technology available at the time, dictated the need for medical vessels such as ​Nasi Yalodina, Nasi ni Yasawa and ​MV Vuniwai, among others, to serve rural and maritime populations. As the nation progressed, other health services available to our people also became modernised, such as seaplanes, navy vessels and helicopters. 

Each government utilises the resources available at that particular point in time in the most efficient and effective way to serve its people. As we modernise and there are improvements in technology in areas such as health, roads, education, social services, etc, governments are also expected to improve and modernise them accordingly. 

So the “Veivueti” is a welcome improvement on what was available in the past. In addition, it will also be used during emergency to supply relief and rehabilitation items. Whilst in the past, we had smaller vessels serving the rural and maritime zones. As we progress, we now have modern technology and facilities for the government to provide emergency services to our deserving rural and maritime communities. 

As we developed and improved our health facilities in our remote and maritime zones, the need for such a sophisticated vessel was not given priority due to the availability of helicopters and other fast mode of modern transport to evacuate emergency cases, including the navy. In addition the upgrading of our health facilities from nursing stations to health centers in our rural and maritime areas, enables doctors to be stationed in all health centers throughout the country. This reduces the need for emergency evacuation. We commend the availability of such multipurpose vessel for emergency and during natural disasters.

It is important for Bainimarama to at least appreciate the efforts made by previous governments in trying to improve services, taking into account constraints and technological limitations. As we progress it is the responsibility of each government to provide that enabling environment based on modern technology and advances available to improve basic services such as health. Rather than criticising other political parties out of context, Bainimarama must try to be relevant and be practical and consistent in his messages to the people of Fiji as Prime Minister. 



Authorised by:

Sitiveni L Rabuka 
Party Leader 
Social Democratic Liberal Party