The National Federation Party and SODELPA were given a reality check by Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum in Parliament last night.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum did not hold back. While he called out SODELPA members of Parliament for obfuscating facts, he called out NFP on it’s silence and for not calling SODELPA MPs out for their comments. (Obfuscating is making something unclear and unintelligible – dictionaries)
He was speaking in his right of reply during the 2018-2019 National Budget debate.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also alluded that the silence on NFP’s part could be an indication of a future marriage of convenience between the two parties in their bid to form the next Government.
NFP leader Biman Prasad raised a point of order and asked Mr Sayed-Khaiyum to stop accusing him and the party. Speaker Dr Jiko Luveni ruled that his point of order was out of order.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum continued his address and accused the Opposition MPs of introducing racism, lies, obfuscation of facts and figures in Parliament. He did not hold back. He called out a number of Opposition MPs on their response to the Budget.
SODELPA MP Ro Kiniviliame Kiliraki had said that the absence of God from the 2013 Constitution showed that the Government side was godless.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum reminded him of all the shenanigans which went on despite God being mentioned in the previous Constitutions.
He said the crime rate was high, nightclubs were expected to be shut to observe Sabbath, but the nightclubs which could bribe Police officers remained open and former Government MPs were openly seen in those nightclubs during hours when it was supposed to be closed for business.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the members of SVT (Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei) of which SODELPA Leader Sitiveni Rabuka was the Prime Minister and SDL (Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua) in which several SODELPA MPs were Ministers were breaking their marriage vows every night despite having a Constitution in which God was present.
He also called out SODELPA President Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu for saying that when he facilitated the land swap in Momi, he acted within the law. Mr Sayed-Khaiyum reminded the House that a few decades ago, it was illegal for ‘blacks to marry whites’ in America, but having that law did not make it morally right.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the contribution from Opposition on the 2018-2019 National Budget was bereft of credibility.
He reminded the House that when Fiji renamed the Ministry of Finance to the Ministry for Economy, Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa stood in Parliament and read out names of all Muslim countries where there were Ministries for Economy, but did not mention Israel where they too had a Ministry for Economy. He called her out on her hypocrisy.
Permanent Secretary and not Minister
A large part of the Opposition’s response to 2018-2019 National Budget was that a large portion of the money in the Budget was in the control of the Minister for Economy- Mr Sayed-Khaiyum.
This lie was also debunked last night.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum read out a 2004 law which clearly stated that it was the Permanent Secretary and not the Minister who signed off on money kept under allocation ‘R’.
This money is released to respective ministries by the Permanent Secretary for Economy, who in this case is Makereta Konrote and not Mr Sayed-Khaiyum, when respective ministries embark on projects.
There was not even a single interjection from the Opposition when Mr Sayed-Khaiyum revealed this.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said NFP had to be goaded into speaking out against SODELPA, but even then they refused to do it openly. He said he personally had to ‘harass’ Mr Prasad for his silence on a number of issues. When Mr Prasad interjected, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum challenged him to go through the Hansard.
He said NFP was well aware that the number of sugarcane farmers decreased because SDL and the current SODELPA members had a hand in not renewing land leases of cane farmers, but chose not to speak out about it. He said the two Opposition parties do not want to publicly criticise because they “are probably cuddling together”.
In Monday’s sitting, SODELPA MP Niko Nawaikula openly lied in Parliament. He also refused to acknowledge that Fiji had laws and not decrees.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said fellow SODELPA MPs such as Viliame Gavoka, Salote Radrodro, Anare Vadei were all clapping instead of correcting Mr Nawaikula. Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said he shuddered to think about the future of this country, of the children if the Opposition had to form Government.
SODELPA’s Salote Radrodro had questioned how Fiji could have an operating surplus when we have debts. Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said this was basic economics and basic common sense. Mr Nawaikula had put up a post on Facebook that this was a racist budget because money had been allocated to build a museum and to commemorate the 140 years since the arrival of Girmitiyas into Fiji. Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said this was an indication of how Mr Nawaikula thinks.
Not here to fill pockets
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum reminded the House that he was not in Government to fill his pockets. He reminded them that he could do better in the private sector and earn more, but it was the loyalty to the vision of Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and out of concern for Fijian families that he and other career oriented Government Ministers and MPs were in Government.
The cost of NBF’s collapse and what FNPF can go through:
Fiji is still paying for the collapse of the National Bank of Fiji (NBF), he reminded the House.
He read out what the late Savenaca Siwatibau had written about the collapse of NBF and asked how could Sitiveni Rabuka think of coming back into politics, after the debacle of NBF in which Mr Rabuka had a direct hand by putting in place people who had no sense of running a bank.
He said hand written notes from Mr Rabuka’s ministers were taken to NBF in which they would write to the bank to loan money to random people to the tune of $50,000 and in return give, for example, a guitar as security.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum pointed out that the policies SODELPA intends to implement regarding FNPF would also lead to the collapse of the superannuation fund.
He reminded the House that the International Monetary Fund had released a report that by 2052, FNPF would have run out of money if changes were not made. The major change that the Bainimarama-Government made was to review laws governing pension payouts.
The previous arrangement saw people who opted for pension payout through FNPF receiving their entire money within four years. From the fifth year onwards, the money, which was paid out came through contributions of new members.
SODELPA MPs such as Viliame Gavoka have already said that since FNPF was in a better financial position now, maybe the pension rates could be reverted to pre-review days. This is something SODELPA intends to do.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said SODELPA was out to please a handful of elites at the expense of some 400,000 FNPF members.
People of Fiji deserved a civil service which performed and served the people to the best of their ability. Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said SODELPA was calling for the removal of civil servants’ contracts while they themselves had contracts with their party workers, which did not allow young party workers the opportunity to claim overtime and instead were to take time off in lieu.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the civil service reforms meant that high performing civil servants were awarded and that all appointments were merit-based and not on who-you-know arrangements.
He said the culture of hiring the “Old-Boy or Old-Girl” was gone and that Government was not running a charity. He said there were civil servants who went the extra mile, who worked hard and that they are recognised, but the Fijian public deserved a good civil service.
On the issue of teachers, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said Opposition MPs knew that teachers had an automatic right of renewal of their contracts at the end of five years.
However, there were teachers within the system who had to be removed, such as two recently who sexually assaulted young students. He said he had to sign off on the termination while Parliament was in session.
De facto SODELPA Deputy Leader
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said, the “de facto SODELPA Deputy Leader Lynda Tabuya” was on record saying that SODELPA Government will increase the Minimum Wage Rate to $4 an hour and those companies who are not able to pay that would be subsidised by Government.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum questioned the rationale behind something so bizarre. He questioned how would SODELPA decide what percentage to subsidise per company. He said SODELPA’s Mere Samisoni and NFP’s Parmod Chand would know better being business people.
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