All kinds of claims, credits and, unfortunately some misinformation, circulate during election times.
It is the duty of political parties and candidates to ensure that their claims are historically and factually sound and accurate particularly when a party goes around brandishing TRUST as its election slogan.
People need to be aware of propaganda and misinformation so that they can make informed decisions about who to vote for. The National Federation Party in its election manifesto has made some astounding claims as to its “achievements” in the past.
In the interest of putting history right and dispelling some of these myths NFP has woven around itself, we submit the following facts on their claims.
Who should take credit for the following achievements?
1. Establishment of the Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF) –
The truth is that if one man has to take credit for initiating the FNPF, it should be Mohammed Ramzan who at the time was President of the Fiji Trades Union Congress and later joined the Alliance Party and served as a Minister. As FTUC President, Mr Ramzan had attended a conference in Malaysia where the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) was discussed. He came away impressed with the notion and did a paper on it. His paper was presented to the Labour Advisory Board which recommended that the concept be adopted.
The legislation for FNPF was introduced by the British Colonial government . They brought in an expert from UK, Ashford, to draft the legislation. He was made an official member of the Legislative Council to pilot the FNPF legislation through in 1966. NFP cannot claim any credit for the FNPF.
2. Establishment of the University of the South Pacific
Initiative for this goes to the Colonial administration. On the eve of their departure from Fiji, the British colonial government conceived the notion of a regional university. As a result, USP was set up in 1968/69.
It is important to digress here a little to put the issue in context. In the 1960s the colonial administration introduced a series of constitutional changes to move Fiji towards independence. In 1964, it introduced the membership system (the prelude to Cabinet ministers). Three members were appointed from the three major races – Ratu Mara as Member for Natural Resources, JN Falvey, Member for Communications and AD Patel Member for Social Services. AD Patel had contested the 1963 general election as Citizens Federation (NFP had not been formed at the times). As Member for Social Services, AD Patel had merely steered the USP legislation through the Council.
3. Brought about ALTO in 1966 and ALTA in 1976 – this is a gross lie.
Again, as the British were preparing to leave Fiji, they decided to do something about resolving the land issue for agricultural leases. The land tenure system in practice at the time had many shortcomings and the tenant community was facing a lot of hardship resulting from insecurity of tenure.
In 1961 it set up the Agricultural Landlord and Tenant Committee headed by Attorney General Greenwood. It was the recommendations of the Greenwood Committee that saw the enactment of ALTO in 1966 as an initiative of the colonial government.
ALTA was enacted in 1976 as an amendment to ALTO. It was an Alliance Party legislation with no input from NFP. In fact, the legislation caused a major leadership struggle within the NFP hierarchy, which eventually spilt over into the debacle that happened in April 1977 when NFP failed to form a government. The bitter rivalry and split within NFP, played into Alliance’s hands.
The ALTA Bill had initially proposed 50-year leases to replace the two 10-year extensions offered under ALTO. But when the Alliance saw how severely NFP was divided, it replaced the offer for a 50-year tenure with 30 year leases. The rebel group in the NFP headed by Jai Ram Reddy, Mrs Irene Jai Narayan and Karam Ramrakha voted with Alliance for the 30-year leases thus, giving it the 75% votes necessary to push the legislation through.
Instead of taking credit for ALTA, NFP should admit that its power struggle prevented the farmers from getting 50-year leases in 1976. General elections were held in April 1977 – NFP narrowly won the election because of a major split in Fijian votes caused by Butadroka’s anti-Alliance Party. Instead of presenting a united front and taking over the government, for 4 days NFP bickered among themselves over who should be the prime minister. In the end, the Governor General called Ratu Mara in and asked him to form a minority government. Fiji went to the polls a second time that year, and NFP now divided into the Dove and Flower faction, lost badly.
So the National Federation Party never formed a government, and wrecked the only opportunity it had to do so, by bickering among itself.
4. The 1970 Denning Award – again it is a gross distortion for NFP to claim credit for this. The actual award – the 70/30 sharing of sugar proceeds – was an Alliance Party proposal.
5. The Housing Authority – was also a Colonial government initiative. It was established in 1955 and began operation in 1958, at a time when the National Federation Party was not even formed. Its vision was to provide affordable housing for low income earners. In 1966, the Authority was declared a commercial statutory authority.