Prime Minister Bainimarama wants to push special legislation through Parliament to penalise victims of Cyclone Winston who may make false claims for relief assistance. But what is more urgently needed is legislation to hold him and his government accountable to the people.
The threat to penalise those making false claims was specifically made in relation to his government’s so-called $70 million Help for Homes Initiative.
Under the scheme people whose homes have been destroyed or partially damaged by Winston can claim from $1500 – $7000, depending on the extent of damage, to rebuild their homes. The offer expires on 30th June 2016.
It is preposterous that a Prime Minister who himself has failed miserably to be held accountable for public funds amounting to millions of dollars, should threaten to penalise hapless people whose lives have been ransacked by a natural disaster.
You are quick to hold others accountable but what about some accountability from you and your government first, Prime Minister?
How about you and Finance Minister Khaiyum first answer to the people of Fiji on the million dollar annual salaries you, reportedly, secretly gave yourselves between 2010 and 2013, paid through the accounting firm of AG’s Aunt Noor Bano Ali.
You are quick to legislate against the poor, but what about a Code of Conduct for yourself, your Cabinet ministers and others holding high office? Code of Conduct and Freedom of Information legislation are mandatory under your imposed 2013 Constitution.
Yet 16 months after you took office, we are still waiting for these two pieces of legislation which ensure good governance and would hold you and your government accountable to the people.
The Constitution also requires the setting up of an Accountability and Transparency Commission . These are all instruments required to hold a government accountable but the Bainimarama regime has made no effort to carry out these provisions of the Constitution. No doubt, because they do not wish to be held accountable and answerable to the people.
They have already manipulated the parliamentary process to gag the Opposition. The media faced with highly punitive fines and jail terms under the Media Decree, is too scared to ask probing questions.
FICAC which was created to stamp out corruption, refuses to investigate numerous complaints that have been lodged with it regarding corruption in high government office or those relating to cronies of the regime. Some 9 years after the anti-corruption commission was set up, it is still awaiting the appointment of a substantive Commissioner.
This is clearly deliberate because FICAC is widely perceived as being merely a government tool to prosecute and harass critics of the regime.