Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum yesterday set the record straight on a power project debate and described the National Federation Party (NFP) tactics as cheap politics. While answering a question and giving an update on Duguvatu, also known as the Dugavatu Rural Electrification Project, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum called out the NFP and their leader Biman Prasad for being less than truthful regarding rural electrification in the Western Division.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said Mr Prasad had released a statement on February 19, which claimed that Duguvatu families were still in the dark despite assurances from the Prime Minister that they would get electricity.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said it was the modus operandi of the NFP to release such a statement in order to claim victory that such projects had been made possible after they raised concerns about it.
He said it would be better if Mr Prasad and all Opposition members had read an entire list which had been released with the 2017/2018 budgets which revealed all the places earmarked for rural electrification this financial year.
He said if the NFP really had the interest of people at heart they would have clarified what was happening with the project instead of playing cheap politics.
“That’s what you call bringing service to the public, not playing cheap politics and going to these unsuspecting people as they have been doing in Vanua Levu regarding butter …” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
During the heated response, Mr Prasad and SODELPA MP Niko Nawaikula interjected from the floor saying that everything was politics.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum retorted: “As we have said on a number of occasions, economic development needs to be the objective of all members of this House. Electricity should not be politicised, water should not be politicised, roads should not be politicised, Madam Speaker.
“Not everything is politics. There is a thing called integrity. There is a thing called the truth, honesty, transparency Honourable Nawaikula. All of these issues are outside the ambit of politics. Not everything is fair game in politics Madam Speaker. This side of the House led by Honourable Prime Minister as our leader, we don’t view everything as fair game in politics. We have standards, we have integrity Madam Speaker.”
SODELPA MP Ro Kiliraki Kiniviliame raised a question on the upgrade of rural electrification projects in Naitasiri.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum reminded him that no previous Government had provided electricity to people in Naitasiri, despite most of Viti Levu getting their electricity from the Monasavu Dam.
“When the honourable member raises Naitasiri, it always reminds me of a story Honourable Prime Minister told us – for years people of Naitasiri have provided electricity to rest of Viti Levu through Monasavu and all they could see is overhead powerlines when they had no electricity themselves.
“It was the Bainimarama Government which gave them electricity. We have said it so many times, the other issue with rural electrification was that none of them did it.
“That is the whole point. They just had the clichéd terms. The Ratu Mara Government did not do it. The Rabuka-led SVT Government did not do it, the SDL Government did not do it. The Bainimarama Government did it and no matter how much you yell, the reality is that there has been unprecedented infrastructure development under the Bainimarama Government and the FijiFirst Government.
“They need to read the statistics. They do not even know how to read the statistics Madam Speaker.”
He also reminded Members of Parliament that there was another Budget coming up and if some areas were not in this financial year, they would be addressed in the next financial year.
“The fact of the matter is the honourable member talks about specific areas but let me remind him it was the Bainimarama Government and the FijiFirst Government that removed the requirement to pay the 10 per cent for rural electrification.
“There were so many villages, so many settlements, so many cane farming areas, people who were waiting for electricity and had to contribute 10 per cent each. If there were 50 homes and 25 contributed 10 per cent and the others did not, they did not get electricity. It was just hanging in there. It’s a fact.
“Money kept languishing in trust accounts. It was this Government that returned that money to them and said they no longer need to have any deposit or any contribution to get electricity in their households. And never before in the history of Fijian governance has a Government presented in their budget a list specifically which areas will get covered in that financial year and how many applicants are there. Never before.
“The areas that Honourable Kiliraki is referring to, I urge to look at the list and if it is not there Honourable Kiliraki, I remind you we have another budget coming up.”
Update on Duguvatu:
The area is about four kilometres away from Penang Sugar Mill.
- The total cost of the project is around $495,000 and it will provide electricity to 37 households and approximately 185 people, including the elderly, parents and their children.
- Tender works are expected to be carried out in March after the surveys are done.
- The work comprises installation of 108 power poles, stringing of 23000 metres of overhead power lines. The grid extension and house wiring works is expected to commence in May 2018 to be completed round about August to September this year.