Message to Voters from Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry

  • 12th September 2014
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Dear Voter                                                                       

In a matter of days you will be casting your vote in what is perhaps
the most crucial general election in Fiji’s history.

Fiji today faces its biggest challenge as a nation. Seven years of repressive,  military rule has been a disaster for our nation. Our civil and political rights have been significantly curtailed – media freedom remains restricted. Draconian decrees severely curtail  human, trade union and workers’ rights.

The 2013 constitution is an imposition. It is undemocratic, has no input from the people and is deeply flawed in several respects: the authority, jurisdiction and  independence of the judiciary remains circumscribed. Power is concentrated in the hands of the Prime Minister and the Attorney General, and draconian decrees promulgated since 2009 remain in force, overriding the fundamental rights guaranteed in the constitution.

Governance Issues

There is a pervasive lack of accountability and transparency. Government accounts and Auditor General’s reports have not been published for the past seven years. Despite repeated calls from us, the Prime Minister and Attorney General have refused to divulge the details of their salaries from April 2010 – September 2013, reportedly paid secretly through a private accounting firm with close connections to the AG.

Bainimarama’s record of governance has been dismal, to say the least. Damage to the economy is substantial with a significant decline in our key exports. In the past several years cane and sugar production have fallen 50%, fisheries 59%, gold 40% and lumber 25%.

Put simply, Fiji is living on borrowed money. Heavy overseas borrowings are a huge burden on the taxpayer, and unsustainable in the medium to long term.

Social distress is high with poverty estimated at 45% of the population. High cost of living coupled with unemployment particularly among our youth, low wage rates and a major shortage of housing are urgent social issues which the incoming government will have to address.

Your vote will decide Fiji’s future

Dear Voter, these are the serious challenges facing the nation as you cast your vote on Wednesday.  That is why your vote is so crucial. You carry the enormous burden of deciding whether Fiji returns to enlightened rule – genuine democracy, good governance and the rule of law. 

Or  whether It continues under the misdirection and misrule of self-serving people who have surely put our nation well on the path to becoming a failed state.  Do not be misled by the glitter of some newly paved roads and wild, unrealistic  promises of free water, electricity etc – these will eventually have to be paid for by you, the tax payer. Will the money for all these come from increased VAT or more hidden taxes?

Donating rubbish bins will not resolve the serious challenges facing our nation today. Attempts to buy votes have been blatant, often using State resources, in defiance of the Electoral Decree.

Questionable electoral practices

There is no doubt that you will be casting your vote in an environment of considerable constraint, fear and gross manipulation of the electoral process. For the first time in Fiji’s history you will be voting for a number and not a name or a Party symbol.

The Electoral and Political Parties decrees has been repeatedly amended to put opposition parties at a distinct disadvantage. Yet, the dictatorship has been allowed to break the rules with impunity.

Indeed, we approach the polls with considerable apprehension as to whether it will meet the international benchmark for a free, fair and credible election.

The Prime Minister is now openly resorting to a campaign of fear by evoking memories of the violence against the Indian community that erupted in the wake of the 2000 coup. His statements stand in breach of the Public Order and the Electoral Decrees. But will any action be against him?

Vote wisely

My plea to you as voters is to stay focused. Vote wisely.

Do not be swayed by fear tactics or the glitter of wild promises. You must differentiate between unrealistic election promises that are just vote buying gimmicks and those that are sincere and committed to creating a just and progressive society.

Labour’s record of governance, albeit short, remains unsurpassed. We have shown financial and fiscal prudence unmatched by any administration while promoting social and economic justice.

We have fought fearlessly in defence of your fundamental rights.

Labour has stood by you in times of great adversity while others abandoned you.

You can rely on us.

We thank you for your support in the past and trust you will vote  Labour again.

            Mahendra Chaudhry