Why vote Labour back into office?
Because in our 12 months in government we set an unparalleled record of good governance, financial prudence and sensitivity to the needs of the ordinary people.
- We undertook several measures to alleviate poverty in our genuine concern for the workers, the poor and the disadvantaged.
- Our pragmatic policy directives and good governance boosted investor confidence. The economy grew by a record 9.6% in 1999. Statistics show we created 6640 jobs in the non formal sector, 3000 new jobs in the subsistence sector and 10,637 new jobs were expected in the year 2000.
- Government finances were very healthy for the first time in decades under our prudent stewardship and the strict revenue compliance measures of Customs and Inland Revenue departments.
Yet, our government was deposed a year into office in a terrorist takeover of Parliament on 19 May, 2000. Behind the coup were some corrupt businessmen, politicians who had lost power and renegade elements of the army and police. The coup was executed in the name of the indigenous people but we all know it had nothing to do with indigenous rights. The businessmen who financed the coup were opposed to PCG’s policies on social and economic reforms.
In the past 14 months our nation has been through a traumatic period of devastation, violence, bloodshed and suffering unparalleled in our short history as an independent state . The experience has shaken us all to the core, eroded our trust in institutions like the army, the police and the judiciary and left most of us feeling vulnerable and bewildered. We are now faced with the mammoth task of rebuilding our nation and rekindling the doused out flames of confidence and trust.
It is not going to be an easy task. No reconciliation process can succeed unless we face honestly the true reasons for the armed overthrow of the People’s Coalition Government and those who were behind it.
The People’s Coalition Government was a clean, caring government sensitive to the needs and aspiration of the ordinary people. It did nothing that justified its violent overthrow by terrorist elements.
Vested interest groups, of all races, made up of a number of defeated politicians and some big business interests felt threatened by Labour’s policies on social justice, equality, good governance and a corruption-free society. They worked on the emotions of a section of Fijian society and enlisted the support of renegade elements in the army and the police to stage a coup.
The forces opposed to change wanted business as usual – corrupting government officials, getting deals done through underhand means, evading taxes and benefiting from the public purse. They wanted to keep the political system in their hands and politicians under their control.
It is now well accepted that unlike the coup of 14 May, 1987, the May 19 insurrection lacked popular support. The racial riot of May 19 in the city of Suva, the attacks on the residents of Muaniweni, Dawasamu and other areas of Tailevu were orchestrated to create an air of instability and to instil fear.
The truth behind what happened must be disclosed if our nation is to learn from its mistakes. Too many innocent people have suffered and a number of lives have been lost because of what happened.
An independent inquiry
We will instigate an independent inquiry into last year’s acts of terrorism focused on ascertaining the real instigators and their motives. The inquiry will also recommend precautionary measures necessary to avert such catastrophe in future.
Compensation for Victims
A number of loyal, innocent soldiers and policemen died in the course of duty defending the State.
Hundreds of others, victims of orchestrated acts of terrorism, lost their property when houses were torched or suffered personal injury through torture and violence. Families in Mauniweni, Dawasamu and Dreketi in the north were forced to flee in fear. Many lost their homes and farms as a result.
They were all innocent victims of the terrorism that gripped our nation. The State must compensate families that suffered.
Five Year Plan
As we unfold to the nation our five year development strategies, we must make it clear that our ability to deliver depends very much on the resource available to post-coup Fiji. Our focus will therefore be on rebuilding the economy as fast as we can. But it presupposes political stability and respect for rule of law.
Just 12 months in office and the Mahendra Chaudhry-led coalition Government set a record no other government had achieved. We made it clear our concern for the ordinary people was genuine. Our management of the nation’s affairs could not be faulted. Through its founding principles the Fiji Labour Party, unlike other parties, is committed to the welfare of the workers, the poor and the disadvantaged in society. In just 12 short months, we initiated several new measures to help create a just and fair society.
What we did for the poor
- Brought down the cost of food by removing VAT and Customs Duty from five basic food items
- Brought 17 essential everyday consumer items such as soap, toothpaste, detergents under price control putting a price mark up ceiling of 25% on these items
- Increased State assistance to the poor needing overseas treatment from a nominal allocation of $2000 to $200,000
- Introduced a $1m Student loan scheme for needy children unable to afford higher education at tertiary level.
- Fee-free education raised to Form Five level in high schools
- Brought down interest rates on Housing Authority loans to 6% for workers in the lower income group
- Reduced water rates by 10% while changes brought to the billing system made actual bills much cheaper
- Electricity rates brought down by 16 %
- International telephone charges reduced 10%
Tax Relief Measures:
- Increases in personal tax concessions effectively raised the tax threshold to $10,000
- 1. child allowance raised by $200 to $500
- Spouse allowance increased to $1000
- FNPF/insurance allowance increased from $1500 per couple to $1500 each
- Third Party premiums for motorists cut by almost half
- Micro Finance scheme – to help the poor start self-employed projects
- Direct Social Welfare assistance raised by $3.3 million to $11 million
This table of economic indicators underneath shows how the economy surged forward under the People’s Coalition Government in all spheres of economic activity:
- Government revenue was the highest ever
- Government expenditure lowest ever
- Economic growth exceptionally high at 9.6%
- Inflation rate lowest ever
- Sugar revenue highest ever
- Tourism performance the best ever
- Every economic sector performed much better under the PC Government.
- The Fiji dollar was at its strongest.
|Government RevenueCustoms and ExciseInland Revenue||$1013m$228m$496m||$1201m$250m$541m||
What more we intend to do if re-elected
Our programme for social and economic reforms were interrupted when our five year tenure in office was cut short by the coup of May 19 last year. If re-elected we will implement the policy initiatives outlined in our 1999 manifesto with particular emphasis on introducing the following measures:
Assisting the poor
FLP has taken court action to challenge the re-imposition of VAT on basic food items by the Qarase regime. We will once again remove VAT from basic food items, as we did when in government.
To bring down the cost of essential items, the Labour-led PCG had imposed price controls on 17 essential household items. The controls were removed by the insensitive Qarase regime. We will reinstate price controls on these items.
We will restore and increase the $200,000 fund PCG had allocated for overseas medical treatment for the poor. This was removed by the Qarase regime.
Family Assistance Allowance will be reviewed from time to time
We will put in place a special programme to help abandoned and underprivileged women acquire skills to become self-employed. Money from the Micro-Finance programme will be made available to help them start small businesses.
School dropouts and street kids
Similar programmes to inculcate skills will be put in place for school dropouts and street kids. Centres will be set up in each district for boys and girls. Approaches will be made to overseas governments to provide resources and technical assistance for these centres.
The move will take young people off the streets and address the growing problem of juvenile delinquency and unemployed youths.
Old Age Pension
In pursuance of our policy to look after the aged and the poor, we will introduce an old age pension scheme for the elderly who are without adequate income to provide for their basic needs.
Fiji National Provident Fund
Benefits under the Fiji National Provident Fund will be improved with:
- Employer/employee contributions progressively increased in consultation with workers and employers representatives to a ceiling of 12.% each from the present rate of 8%.
- Legislation will be amended to allow members to withdraw savings in order to finance viable small business schemes or to invest in shares
- Medical insurance cover for workers and their immediate family members will be provided through FNPF. The cover will include both local and overseas treatment.
PCG increased the Education Budget by $10 million
|1999 Budget SVT Government||2000
Budget People’s Coalition Government
What we did
- In keeping with our election promise we appointed a high powered Education Commission to review our educational policies with emphasis on indigenous education
- To help poor students, examination fees were waived for students sitting the Fiji Intermediate, Fiji Eighth Year and the Fiji Junior examinations
- Fee-free grant extended to Form Five students in rural areas and those in under-resourced urban schools
- A $50,000 grant was made for a Fijian Education Unit to review and enhance Fijian educational programmes and activities
- $1m Student Loan Scheme set up to assist poor students get tertiary education
- $1m for urgent maintenance works in government schools
- $1.3 million for upgrading facilities at the Queen Victoria and Ratu Kadavulevu schools
- $4.5 million for the upgrading of non government rural schools and insufficiently resourced urban schools
- We increased the allocation for multi-ethnic scholarships. This will be further increased.
What more we will do
- To help equip poor students for school we will make an annual allowance of $50 per child in primary school and $100 per child in secondary school. The allowance will be made available through the school system for students from families living below the poverty line.
- To reduce the burden of school bus fares on parents, we will deregulate licensing of school buses, where necessary, without compromising safety standards
- We will continue with our policies on education for all with particular emphasis on training for job skills and information technology
- We will bring ethnic Fijian students into the main stream of education to provide opportunity for them to work in a fully competitive environment. We will also ensure constant monitoring of educational standards, home environment and performance levels of Fijian students. This will be done through a special unit set up in the Ministry of Education.
- We will continue the special assistance provided for Fijian education in the Budget
- The teaching of Fijian and Hindi languages will be encouraged and made compulsory over time
Housing and squatter settlements
Statistics show that 20% of Fiji’s population live in single room dwellings and that approximately 50% of all houses are occupied by an extended family unit… These are indicators of an acute shortage of housing in Fiji. More than 25,000 of our poor people are living in pathetic lean-to shacks as squatters. Many of them have no piped water, no electricity and no sanitary facilities. More than half of these unfortunate people live in and around Suva.
One of the main reasons for the mushrooming of squatter settlements is a lack of affordable housing for the poor and the low income worker. It is estimated that close on 15% of Suva’s population live in squatter settlements.
High interest rates have been the main deterrent to home ownership. Unless rates are reduced, affordable housing will remain just a pipe dream for ordinary workers.
To assist as many of our people as possible to own decent homes, the Fiji Labour Party will:
- continue its policy to bring interest rates on Housing Authority home loans down to 6% for all income groups
- give a $1000 grant to first home owners to encourage home ownership
- A Labour Government will upgrade the condition of Public Rental homes to convert them into single home units. Present single room rental facilities under the PRB are in a deplorable state
- We will continue with the Village Housing upgrading scheme introduced by the PC Govt
- Squatter settlements will be developed and converted into housing estates with all services and amenities
- We will also continue our policy of providing relief to a worker unable to meet repayments to HA because of job loss. We will help save the home by allowing a grace period of 6 months when the home loan will be frozen without interest.
Our aim is health care for all
PCG increased Budget allocation for Health by $14 million
|1999 Budget SVT Government||2000
Budget People’s Coalition Government
|$94.7 million||$108.3 million||$91 million|
- A study will be undertaken to establish a National Health Scheme for the aged and the poor
- Management of specialist and divisional hospitals such as CWM, Lautoka, Labasa and Nadi will be contracted out to private health care providers to raise the standard of curative health care. There will be no job losses.
- Contracting out management will bring in expertise and technology not usually available through the public service system
- More specialist doctors will be recruited under special arrangements to overcome skills scarcity in this area
- Adequate funds will be provided for the upgrading of facilities and urgent maintenance work in hospitals and health centres
- We will move the current focus on curative health care to emphasise primary or preventive health care. A vigorous campaign will be directed against increasing incidence of substance abuse such as yaqona, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes which are major causes of illnesses among our people.
Focus will also be placed on the preventive aspects of lifestyle diseases, such as hypertension and coronary diseases, diabetes and kidney failure. The campaign to create awareness will be undertaken at school and community levels.
Business Development, Infrastructure and Employment Creation
- We will establish a Venture Capital Fund to stimulate the development and growth of small and medium sized businesses. Fledgling entrepreneurs with viable business propositions will be assisted through the Fund for their capital needs on favourable terms and conditions.
- We will continue with our policy of bringing down the cost of doing business here by reducing telecommunications and electricity charges – the two largest cost components.
- Bank charges and fees will be brought under surveillance to ease the cost of doing business. Bank fees and charges in Fiji are higher than what the foreign banks here charge in their own countries.
- Interest rates will be monitored to ensure that the margin spread between the lending and deposit rates is maintained at an acceptable level.
- We will promote transparency in business dealings by requiring full disclosure to create an even playing field for all.
- To discourage improper and unethical business practices we will require full compliance with the Fair Trading Act
- Infrastructure upgrading will be undertaken through a partnership between the public and private sectors. The partnership with private sector is necessary for capital injection and technology. The continued role of the State will be to facilitate its social obligations – that is job creation, the need to ensure affordable services to all sections of society and to make modern amenities available to the people in villages and rural settlements.
- Private sector partnerships will be invited to develop and improve health services, roads and bridges, and the supply of electricity, water, and telecommunications.
- Jobs will be secured through a vigorous expansionary programme.
- A major highlight of our development strategy will be the raising of long term bonds to finance the upgrading of education, health and infrastructure. It will enable upgrading and improvements to facilities to be undertaken immediately instead of having to wait for the normal budgetary process and the availability of finance. Such a scheme will relieve pressure on the Budget each year, freeing up funds for other urgent programmes
Infrastructure is an important indicator of a country’s progress and development. It also plays a significant role in determining investor confidence. We had placed major emphasis on infrastructure development, substantially increasing the allocation for it.
FLP will continue this emphasis on infrastructure development so that people can enjoy safe roads, clean and uninterrupted supply of piped water and easy access to electricity and telephones which are no longer considered luxuries but necessities in a growing modern society.
- We will aim to progressively reduce top rates of personal and company tax from the present 35% to 30%.
- The tax threshold for those exempt from paying tax will be progressively raised to $8000 from the current $6500
- To encourage savings, tax exemption on interest income of up to $200 a year will be retained
- The existing Customs Duty and tax concession regime to tax free industries will be reviewed and rationalized to achieve equity through a level playing field
- to restore it to its former colonial grandeur.
Tourism emerged as one of the most dynamic sectors of the economy during the 12 months of the People’s Coalition Government. We promoted tourism as a major avenue of development to create jobs and show investor confidence in the country.
We proved we have the right mix of policies, the dynamism and the vision needed to attract big investors into the country. Close on $300 million in hotel investment projects were poised for takeoff. It would have created some 3000 jobs which were lost because of the coup:
- 3 major hotels at Denarau – the Hilton Fiji, Accor Air Pacific Hotel and stage 2 of time share apartments of Trendwest were ready to get off the ground.
- In addition, the Lomolomo Beach Resort was on the drawing board
- The PC Government bought a $25 million equity in the Natadola Resort project. We also allocated $10 million in Budget 2000 to develop infrastructure, in particular roads and water works for Natadola.
- We moved to repossess the decadent Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva to restore it to its former colonial grandeur.
What more we will do:
- We will opt for an open skies policy to attract more airlines to fly into Fiji
- We will commission a special study on the development of the island of Ovalau and Taveuni as a tourist destination
- Existing aid and concession packages to hotel investors will be continued
- Additionally, a special fund will be established to assist and encourage participation of Fijians in the tourism industry through development of eco-tourism activities etc on land owned by them. This is to help them generate income earning activities through development of their resources.
Our plans to open up areas in the hilly interior to eco tourism projects which would have boosted income earning opportunities for remote villagers in the interior was interrupted by the coup. These areas of our tourism industry are undeveloped and largely unexplored. We will encourage development in these areas.
Tropical Fiji has a vast array of beautiful flora and fauna, many of which are unique to our islands. These will be nurtured and cultivated as part of our plan to develop nature parks and gardens (refer to section on environment) which will attract tourists and provide recreational facilities for our people.
- Certain provisions of the Land Transport Authority Act introduced by the SVT Government are very unpopular. In view of the public protest over exorbitant fines and penalties under the Act, the FLP will review the Act.
- The public transport system will be deregulated to overcome transport problems in rural areas. We will look at the best available mode of transport to meet the needs of rural people.
- Mini Buses will be legalised and regulated in the interest of public safety
FLP believes the safety of the travelling public is of prime importance. The existing system will be reviewed and reorganised to ensure public safety and environmental standards are enforced.
The Sugar Industry
Some 150,000 people depend on the sugar industry for their sustenance. It provides income for cane farmers, landowners, mill workers, cane cutters and those who provide ancillary service to the industry. It accounts for 15 % of the GDP and is the largest net foreign exchange earner for the country.
But the industry will not be able to survive were it to rely solely on the free market price for sugar. It is the heavy price subsidy by the European Union (EU) that keeps us afloat.
By the year 2007 the EU subsidy will run out. This means we have to achieve well before then, efficiency and productivity levels which would sustain the industry on world market prices. It is a mammoth task requiring huge investments but that will not come until the long term viability and prospects of the industry can be assured.
The problems that plague and threaten it are:
- uncertainties over lease renewals and
- incompetent management resulting in frequent milling and other operational problems. The Fiji Sugar Corporation is facing huge losses of about $21 million current with accumulated losses running close to $35 million. If this is not arrested now, the industry will kill itself.
We will move decisively to tackle management problems. Performance based management contracts will be put in place in each of the mills which will operate as stand alone units. When the long term future of the industry is assured, cane farmers, landowners and mill workers will be invited to take up shares as co-owners of the FSC.
“We will move decisively to tackle management problems”
The State will divest a percentage of its shares to these stakeholders.
Assistance to cane farmers
In its short 12 months in office, the Labour-led People’s Coalition Government initiated several very popular measures to help cane farmers in difficulty:
- True to our promise, we scrapped legislation requiring farmers to pay back the $27 million cash grant and crop rehabilitation loan provided as drought relief in 1998/1999. The write-off of this loan benefited all cane farmers including some 5000 Fijian cane growers.
- The $28,000 grant to each evicted tenant farmer to help towards rehabilitation and resettlement of the family. Close to 250 farmers, Indian and Fijian, benefited from this scheme before it was scrapped by the Qarase regime.
- A $10,000 assistance package through the Fiji Sugar Corporation and the Sugar Cane Growers Council to incoming indigenous Fijian farmers who wanted to take up cane farming. It is this same scheme that the Qarase regime is now offering Fijian farmers.
” We will reinstate the $28,000
rehabilitation grant to displaced
farmers and the $10,000 assistance
grant to incoming indigenous farmers”
In addition we will:
- abolish drainage board levy. The State will take over the function of maintaining agricultural drainage.
- assist farmers to enhance production. To facilitate this, efforts will be made to bring down the cost of fertiliser and other farm chemicals.
- soft loans will be provided to enhance productivity and good husbandry practices.
- cane farmers with small holdings will be encouraged and assisted through the soft loan scheme to diversify into other high income cash crops
Upgrading FSC Operations:
Efficient transportation of cane has become a problem that needs to be addressed urgently:
- We will upgrade the rail system. At present rail trucks are inadequate to meet demand. Rolling stock are in a pathetic state of disrepair. Finance will be made available for these capital works without it being a burden on cane farmers or the FSC.
- FSC will be required to diversify into other agro-based industries. This will provide income support to farmers during the slack season. The State will assist in getting the diversification programme off the ground.
- FSC is in urgent need of new capital injection. We will examine the best possible way to assist in this regard.
The Sugar Industry Act will be reviewed. The role and effectiveness of the Sugar Commission, Sugar Industry Tribunal and the Sugar Cane Growers Council will be re-examined. The Commission and Council will be fully funded by the State thus easing the burden on cane farmers and FSC.
Land owners will be encouraged to renew leases. Where this is not done, outgoing farmers will be assisted through the rehabilitation grant to pursue new opportunities for livelihood.
Incoming landowners will, likewise, be helped through the farming assistance scheme mentioned earlier.
The Land Problem
Land as a resource is vital to the development of an agricultural country like Fiji. Our full potential for land development must be realised if we are to boost rural incomes and, in particular, improve the quality of life of indigenous people in rural areas.
Yet, successive governments since independence have failed to come up with an enlightened policy on land, hiding behind the excuse that it was too sensitive to touch. It has not been viewed as an economic asset except in the development of sugar industry during the colonial era, and some hotel ventures.
A sensible land use policy, based on the premise that ownership of Fijian land is fully protected, such as that envisaged in our 1999 manifesto, can do a lot to raise the quality of life of villagers.
Fiji has vast areas of vacant land which can be utilised for the production of commercial crops and fruits, market gardening, livestock raising, horticulture and aquaculture.
With proper direction and assistance unimproved land can be converted into intensive, small-scale, family based units of production. Where feasible and appropriate, agro-based industries will be set up to provide jobs and a ready market for produce.
” A sensible land use policy, such as that envisaged in our 1999 manifesto, based on the premise that ownership of Fijian land is fully protected, can do a lot to raise the quality of life of villagers. “
Since 1987, and particularly under the deliberate policies of the previous SVT government, Fiji neglected agricultural development.
The result was deterioration in rural conditions, a sharp decline in rural incomes and increased rural-urban migration by people seeking low-paid jobs in towns and cities.
The Labour-led People’s Coalition Government had a vision to revitalise land use and build on agricultural traditions set by the Mara-administration before 1987.
Labour’s policies were deliberately maligned and distorted by the SVT Opposition to arouse the emotions of the landowners and turn them against the Coalition government.
They lied to the Fijian people that Labour intended to take land away from them knowing full well that Fijian land rights are so well protected by the Constitution that land cannot be alienated.
Land should be used to earn income
Labour’s intentions to introduce a Land Use Commission was to improve incomes of the villagers and landowners through sustainable and proper use of land now lying idle.
Land has for decades been used by unscrupulous politicians as a weapon to whip up Fijian emotions and play on their fears. Such unfounded fears have prevented the Fijian people from realising the full value and potential of their land assets.
The indigenous Fijian must realise that while emotional attachment to land is understandable, it does not translate into bread and butter.
Land lying idle brings no income to the owners. It must be developed and put to productive use to generate income.
“Land has for decades been used by unscrupulous politicians as a weapon to whip up Fijian emotions and play on their fears.”
The People’s Coalition Government’s package on land offered substantial initiatives to the landowners to embark on small-scale commercial agricultural activities to enhance their incomes.
There are some chiefs who realised this but were prevented by some negative elements in the Native Lands Trust Board from working with the People’s Coalition Government to develop their land.
Need for enlightened management
The present attitude of the NLTB management is proving to be the biggest obstacle to the betterment of Fijian people. It’s stance over land in the past three years or so, has turned many investors away and given native land a bad image in Fiji.
NLTB management’s hostile and intractable attitude on leases is driving tenant farmers who view investment on native land as insecure and unsafe, away from land.
A land tenure system cannot be imposed on the people if they are unwilling to accept it. Yet, NLTB management persists with its counter productive attitude.
Any community owning the magnitude of rich natural resources that the Fijian people own, should not be lagging behind in economic prosperity.
The truth is that Fijian institutions like the NLTB and governments in the past have shown a singular lack of vision in developing these resources to enhance the quality of life of their people.
The NLTB, for example, should be one of the most dynamic and financially healthy institutions in the country yet it is struggling to survive.
It has not tapped even half the potential of the resources the indigenous people own and views with distrust and suspicion any honest attempts by others to help develop these resources for the benefit of the ordinary Fijians.
Unless this distrust is overcome and the Fijian people begin to utilise the full potential of what they own, the picture will remain grim. It is ironical that the real owners of land remain poor while those who administer their assets enjoy a comfortable lifestyle in cities and towns.
Landowners must become more assertive about their rights to decide for themselves how best their resources can and should be utilised to bring them prosperity.
Affirmative Action for indigenous Fijians
Fiji Labour Party recognises the need for affirmative action as identified in the 1997 constitution. Our emphasis on poverty alleviation measures will assist all poor people and low paid workers.
However, throughout our manifesto, we have outlined special schemes to assist Fijian people in education, the improvement of village housing and sanitation and the provision of utilities such as water, electricity and telecommunications.
We have also focused on agricultural and rural development, tourism with particular emphasis on eco-tourism and other income generating avenues which will improve the lifestyles of ordinary Fijians by providing them opportunities to raise their income levels.
An area of concern to the Fijian people is their lack of participation in business. This has lagged behind on account of their resources remaining largely under-developed or undeveloped. FLP will address the impediments they continue to face under the existing schemes which have failed to bring the ordinary Fijians into the mainstream of commerce.
This has been due to the institutionalised approach taken so far by those in authority under the guise that the benefits of it will trickle down to ordinary Fijians. In reality these schemes were designed to benefit only the elite in Fijian society.
We believe that the wealth of the indigenous people lies largely in sustainable development of their land, forest, mineral and marine resources, and that there must be an equitable sharing of wealth among the Fijian people themselves.
We recognise that sound national development can only take place with a fair distribution of benefits between the workers and owners of industry.
This means jobs with decent wages, and safe and secure working environment.
- We will bring in a national minimum wage, without disturbing the Wages Councils
- We support a fair and equitable system of arbitration and conciliation. We believe workers are entitled to the full protection of the law
- We recognise the importance of trade unions as active partners in development
- We will ratify and uphold all core ILO Conventions pertaining to workers rights and security
- Tripartite Forum – we will continue with our policy to reinstate the Tripartite Forum and broaden its membership to include the agricultural sector. The Forum should play an active part in the formulation of government’s social and economic policies.
Equity for Women
Women represent 35% of the workforce, 50% of the population but only 3% of the decision makers. Many barriers and prejudices still exist in our society to prevent women from participating equally in the affairs of the nation. The Labour-led PCG took determined steps to appoint women to boards of statutory bodies, public enterprises and service commissions.
We will continue our focus on women issues, in particular:
- We will amend all laws that discriminate against women.
- We will pay particular attention to the problems of working women and take positive steps to eliminate all forms of exploitation and discrimination against women in the workforce.
- We will continue our policy to ensure women are adequately represented in decision making processes at all levels.
- We have enunciated special policies to assist and rehabilitate abandoned and disadvantaged women and girls who drop out of schools.
Agriculture and Rural Development
People’s Coalition Government increased the Agricultural Budget by $10 million. The Qarase regime reduced it by $18 million
|1999 SVT Budget||2000 People’s Coalition||2001 Qarase Regime|
|$58 million||$68 million||$49.7 million|
The Labour-led People’s Coalition Government restored the emphasis placed on agricultural development by the Mara government before 1987. Agriculture was sadly neglected under the SVT Government with agricultural exports dropping by $85 million in the five years from 1994 to 1998, falling from $374 million to $289 million.
The People’s Coalition Government revitalised agriculture, bringing about a 19% increase in agricultural output within a short 12 months. Agricultural development is an integral part of the Fiji Labour Party’s emphasis on enhancing rural incomes through rural development.
We believe opening up land for development in the rural interior will lead to the building of good roads and bridges, the supply of water, electricity and telecommunications to these areas.
“Agricultural development is an integral part of the Fiji Labour Party’s emphasis on enhancing rural incomes and lifestyles through rural development.”
Fiji’s towns cannot provide quality jobs for all our people – employment will have to be created through improved land use projects and sustainable use of marine and timber resources.
In our 12 months in office:
- We set up a $15 million Agricultural Diversification Programme to boost rural production
- We revived rice farming and imposed import controls on rice to encourage local rice production
- We salvaged the Rewa Rice Company at a cost of $4.2 million to buy and distribute locally grown rice and pay off its debts for imported rice
- Set up rural market centres to help farmers sell their produce
What more we intend to do:
If re-elected, we intend to contract out supervision of agricultural research, extension and marketing services to internationally recognised institutions to achieve better product variety, higher yields and incomes
The FLP will continue to give priority to the revitalisation of agriculture in areas such as rice, poultry, beef, tropical fruits and vegetables and other agro-based industries. We will promote horticulture and floriculture to further develop Fiji’s potential in agriculture and create self-employment for our people.
Irrigation schemes will be considered to address the adverse effects of drought on agricultural production in the western and northern parts of Fiji.
The independence of the judiciary must be restored
The independence of the judiciary and its credibility was seriously compromised following the coup of May 19 and developments that have taken place since.
The role of some judges and certain magistrates in political events after the coup and in the handling of certain cases brought before them have incurred heavy criticism from the Fiji Law Society and the rest of the local and international legal fraternity.
The FLP wants to see the independence of the judiciary and respect for the rule of law restored.
We will allocate resources to the judiciary, the DPPs office and the State law office to remove the inefficiency and incompetence that have characterised these institutions for some time.
We had put in place measures to speed up the court process and clear up the massive backlog of cases. This will be continued.
Fiji’s security forces need to regain lost credibility. Their failure to act in time to contain the terrorist activities of May 19 and thereafter has raised doubts about their impartiality and loyalty. The professionalism and independence of the security forces need to be restored if Fiji is to enjoy lasting peace and democracy.
The involvement and support of the Fiji Military Forces in usurping the mandate of the people in particular, has become a matter of serious disquiet. It planned and executed the two coups in 1987 and some elements were the effective force behind the May 19 insurrection of parliament.
George Speight’s attempt to takeover Government failed but the army completed the process put in place by Speight, making sure it appointed its own people to run the government, after abrogating the 1997 Constitution and forcing out of office the constitutionally appointed President, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.
The military abrogated the constitution and imposed an illegal regime on the people, using the breakdown in law and order as an excuse for doing so. When it was ready to deal with the rebels once it had a government of its choice in place, it moved swiftly and with a vengeance to quell the rebel forces.
“The involvement and support of the Fiji Military Forces in usurping the mandate of the people, in particular, has become a matter of serious disquiet. “
The army has now given assurances it will uphold the constitution and the elected government. The nation which has suffered deeply as a result of the violence and mayhem of last year, expects such assurances to be honoured and the choice of the people respected by the security forces.
To be able to do this, the army needs to crack down on rebel forces within its ranks. The November 2 mutiny last year is a clear indication that the army is split and its loyalty to the elected government cannot be guaranteed.
The Police Force
The total breakdown of the police machinery to effectively deal with the events of May 19 and the lawlessness that followed has raised serious questions about its effectiveness and the credibility of its leadership.
Senior police officers themselves have blamed ineffective and unethical leadership at the top for the humiliation and embarrassment the force suffered during the months of unrest.
The police were ineffective in containing the situation around parliament. It made no effort to check the riots in the streets of Suva on May 19 nor did it take any action to curb the violence against the Indian community in isolated rural settlements.
Morale in the police force is at an all-time low. Its administration and operational efficiency are seriously hampered by poor leadership and an archaic organisational structure. Steps will be taken to address these problems.
“There was a total breakdown of police machinery last year at the height of the terrorist activities of May 19 and thereafter. Police did nothing to contain the riots in Suva or the terrorism and violence against the Indian community in rural areas in the months that followed. The Police Commissioner himself went missing at the time of the rioting in Suva.
Criminal activities have escalated since last year’s civil unrest. We will make the fight against crime a top priority. We will mount a multi-pronged attack on crime:
- bring in competence and skills into the Police Force through adequate training, and promotions based on merit
- raise police morale by improving working conditions in the force
- ensure adequate, modern resources for the Police Force
- demand a high degree of discipline and professionalism in the Force.
The Labour Party will also fight crime through:
- increased job opportunities
- the introduction of a national service scheme which will take our young people off the streets
- change laws to ensure harsher sentences for violent crimes and crimes against property
- and bring in more rigid bail requirements
We will review the location of existing prison sites in order to move them away from towns. We will also allocate more resources to offender-rehabilitation programmes.
Fiji’s foreign policy must be guided by what is in its best interest. As a sovereign nation, Fiji must exercise its right to pursue an independent foreign policy.
We will take steps to redeem our lost reputation in the region on account of events that followed the May 19 insurrection.
We will ensure Fiji’s commercial interests are promoted with vigour through its diplomatic missions, and strengthen links with international and regional organisations.
We will concentrate all our resources in securing maximum development assistance and continued accessibility for our major exports to the EU.
We will continue our friendly relations with our neighbouring island states and with Australia and New Zealand. We value also our relations with all nations and organisations which provide us technical assistance and trade opportunities.
At the same time Fiji will actively pursue alliances with other vulnerable economies around the world to combat the adverse impact of globalisation and trade liberalisation policies on our economy.
National and municipal laws and regulations on pollution control are outdated and badly in need of updating. We will bring legislation in line with the expanding industrial technology so that they meet with the need to keep our waterways and the air around us safe and clean.
Our rivers and creeks have become clogged and polluted. As a result they are both unsightly and prone to quick flooding. We will keep rivers and creeks constantly dredged and cleaned. Our waterways must be restored to their original natural beauty.
Tropical Fiji is blessed with natural beauty. Our rugged, mountainous interior offers areas of pristine beauty and healthy recreation.
We will focus on developing nature parks and walkways etc. both for the enjoyment of our people and as a particular attraction for tourists.
Fiji has a beautiful array of flora and fauna, some of which are unique to our islands. These will be specially cultivated and nurtured to provide points of focal interest to these parks and gardens. We will continue with steps we had initiated to protect the unique beauty of our tropical reefs and corals and other marine lives.
We will strengthen the role of the National Trust in preserving our national heritage.
We will ensure that development of Fiji’s natural resources is only carried out after careful consideration of the environmental consequences and that the harnessing of mineral, forest and marine resources are regulated by appropriate environmental conservation legislation.
We will act to contain the problem of industrial and traffic pollution, particularly in urban areas.
Fiji’s towns and cities are in a state of neglect and deterioration. They look unkempt and dirty and are sadly lacking in amenities for the public. Ratepayers are just not getting value for money despite regular hikes in rates.
There has been little development of recreational facilities, parks and gardens in the past decade or so.
FLP believes the existing local government system is fraught with inefficiencies, corruption, and laxity in enforcing regulations and by-laws and promoting the interests of the ratepayers.
We will carry out a review of the present system to bring about changes to ensure maximum benefit to ratepayers.
Culture and Fine Arts
Nothing much is being done to preserve and develop the rich cultural heritage of our people. The SVT government even allowed the demise of the prestigious and world renowned Dance Theatre of Fiji.
We will encourage and promote this much neglected area of our social and cultural life.
Local artists and musicians will be given assistance; encouragement will also be given to preserve and develop the dance, drama, music, folklore and other special cultural attributes and accomplishments of our indigenous peoples as well as those of other ethnic communities in our society.
We have a rich cultural diversity that we must develop for our enjoyment.
Youth and Sports
During our one year in office we did much to encourage the development of sporting activities.
Among our achievements:
- The negotiation of a loan from China to develop a multi-million dollar sports complex for the 2003 South Pacific Games.
- $1.2 million assistance package to Fiji Rugby Union. We wrote off the FRU bank loan and gave funds towards rugby World Cup expenses.
We will continue with our policy to actively promote sports in the country as a healthy pursuit particularly for our young people.
We will assist in the development of sporting facilities at all our centres to facilitate this.
Our people have a lot of sporting potential as we have ably demonstrated on the international arena. We will assist in the development of this potential.
We will revive neglected sports such as hockey and cricket. We will also ensure that cultural sporting activities are revived as part of the rich cultural diversity of our people.
We have already stated our plans to introduce a National Service Scheme for our youths. This will not only take our young people off the streets but we hope to inculcate in them a spirit of discipline and service to the country. At the same time they will be able to earn some pocket money until they find regular employment.
The media has a crucial role in an open, democratic society. We must encourage the highest standards of journalism through training and self-evaluation. We will ensure that:
- the media is free to inform and express opinions
- encourage the media to support the values of our multi-cultural society
- support the establishment of a television channel for programmes in both the main vernacular languages, Fijian and Hindi which should eventually be extended to other ethnic groups.