Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga must have a very short memory if he needs to be given examples of how the people of Fiji have been enslaved in the past three years, says Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry.
Under the Public Emergency Regulations our people have had to seek permission for religious gatherings, weddings and other family functions and the media was placed under rigorous censorship. No criticism of the regime’s actions or policies was allowed. No action of the regime could be challenged legally because the Courts were placed under restricted jurisdiction.
There was a total ban on political activity and trade unions were under heavy assault with complete disregard for workers’ bargaining rights.
“The restrictions under the PER were reinforced by a number of draconian decrees that have taken away the basic freedoms of our people. Are these not sufficient evidence of the manner in which the people of Fiji were repressed and enslaved in the past three years?” Mr Chaudhry asked.
The Labour Leader has rejected claims by Colonel Tikoitoga that he failed as Minister of Finance and was dismissed.
“My record as Finance Minister belies any such claim. By the time I left office in July 2008, Fiji’s financial and economic situation had stabilized and the nation was well on the way to economic recovery and growth. Government finances had been rescued from the highly critical state it was in at the time of the Army takeover in December 2006. In addition:
Foreign Reserves had stabilised and was up 8% in May 2008 compared to the same period a year before despite the pressure from escalating fuel and food prices
Government’s operating expenditure was down with figures for the six months to June 2008 showing a surplus of $77.4m
Budget deficit for 2007 was contained at 1.5% of the GDP well below the targeted 2% and a vast improvement on the 5.2% of GDP under the previous government
Government’s debt position had improved with debts falling 4% compared to the previous year
“Col Tokoitoga is equally wrong when he claims that I was dismissed. I resigned effective 19 August 2008 along with my two Labour Party colleagues in response to a directive from Prime Minister Commodore Bainimarama to his Cabinet that all those wanting to contest the next general elections should vacate their Cabinet portfolios at least six months ahead of the elections which were then scheduled for April 2009,” Mr Chaudhry said.
I wrote to the Prime Minister on 18 August 2008 informing him that since work on the Draft People’s Charter for Change, Peace and Progress had been completed and it was being put to the people for their views and comments, the FLP National Council had resolved that the Party should “withdraw its Cabinet Ministers from the Interim Government in order to enable them to concentrate on the consultation process on the Charter and prepare the Party for the next general elections”.
“For the evaluation and consultation exercise to be considered credible, the FLP will need to ensure that it is conducted at an arm’s length from the interim government and is independent of any form of attachment to it…”
On 22 August 2008, Prime Minister Bainimarama wrote to me acknowledging receipt of my letter of resignation with the following remarks:
“Your input as Minister for Finance and National Planning, Sugar Industry and Public Utilities (Water and Energy) has been invaluable in the Interim Government’s pursuit for good governance and stabilizing the economy and for this I am grateful… Please accept my heartfelt appreciation once again for the sacrifices you have made and for the services you have provided the Interim Government.”
Colonel Tokoitoga would do well to check his facts before he speaks out against people who may not see eye to eye with him.