Maiden speech by Opposition MP, Aseri Radrodro

Opposition MP Aseri Radrodro delivering his maiden speech in Parliament this morning. Picture: SUPPLIED/FIJIAN PARLIAMENT FACEBOOK

Madam Speaker, at the onset, I must thank His Excellency the President for his inaugural address at the opening of this new parliamentary term. Generally, the speech outlined a lot of Governments intentions and aspirations for the next four years.

Madam Speaker, I will speak on a number of those issues later in my address, but for now, I wish to join my other colleagues in congratulating you graciously on your reappointment as Speaker of this august House.

I also take this time to congratulate all 51 Members who successfully contested the General Elections and are now Honorable Members of this August House. I look forward to working with you all in performing our roles as Elected Members of Parliament.

Let me begin by acknowledging that the recently conducted 2018 GE has been a closely fought elections.

Whilst I relied on the hard work that I made in the last four years, and my dedication to speak the truth, I submit that it was only through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that I am able to stand before this august house for a second term as a successful politician.

Madam Speaker, some of our colleagues from this side of the House unfortunately and sadly, are not here today. I attribute that, not to their lack of hard work, but to what I perceive as an unfair voting system that is still new, and is yet to be fully understood by our people.

For the Naitasiri Province, there is a reduction of the representatives we had in 2014, when we had two MP’s each from both sides of the House. Now From Sodelpa, I return the lone MP and the other side of the house now has Hon Vijendra Prakash,whose also from Waidravo, Serea.

I lay the responsibility of these loses, on the system and the ineffective public awareness of voting patterns.

Personally I will miss the former Honorable Rokini Kiliraki, a hard working dedicated and loyal MP and comrade, and an outstanding son of Naitasiri.

Likewise, I will miss the likes of former Honorable Josefa Dulakiverata, Semesa karavaki, Mere Samisoni, Ratu Isoa Tikoca whom I wish to also thank them today for their comradeship and many contributions to Fiji and to the Sodelpa Party.

Madam Speaker, In reference to His Excellency Address on elections issues.

The conduct of free and fair elections is at the heart of any democratic process.  But when an election is conducted in a non-inclusive way, it leads to the loss of confidence of the results, escalates structural disparities and inequalities which at times leads to civil unrest. Therefore, it is important to conduct a free, fair and credible election.

But what are the characteristics of a credible election? Although there is no standard definition of a credible election, there are some aspects of a credible election.

The first and foremost feature of a credible election is that

  1. It must reflect the will of the people. Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

The complicated voter registration process adopted by Fiji meant that 30,000 voting citizens were turned away from Pre Poll.

These hindrances were due to wrong polling venues. To assume everyone has a mobile, and can check 1500 for their correct venue, leave alone having access to mobile networks from certain interior areas, is preposterous.

Madam Speaker, what the government should have done in addressing these problems is to open up the polling stations restrictions and allow voters to vote from any polling station nearest to them, as long as they produce their voter ID CARD. The voting system is supposed to be people friendly and not draconian.

On another note, was voting really SECRET AND FREE? No it was not.

For example, The Commander RFMF had earlier stated that the soldiers were free to vote from wherever they wished, and for whom they wanted to vote for. Almost all of them registered to vote near to their residential homes, however on the eleventh hour they were directed to instead cast their votes from their respective Army camps.

Similar practice were applied to the Fiji Police Forces and the Fiji Corrections Services. If Madam Speaker, the Defence Forces were expected to provide security on election day, why were they not encouraged to engage in postal ballot voting to protect the secrecy of their vote and allow them to exercise their freewill.

We all know what has now happened. Already if whats reported in the dailies is correct, the Hon Prime Minister has taken a pot shot at Prison Officers at the recent pass-out parade of new recruits, where he alluded to the allegiance of prison officers during the traditional presentations.

Madam Speaker, the other side of the house may deny it, & the multinational observers can also deny it, but we on this side of the House and the equal majority of the people of this nation, know that this elections voting system was compromised because it allowed for so many discrepancies.

How else do you explain 30,0000 registered people not voting in pre poll areas which we all know are blue ribbon seats for SODELPA. Madam Speaker, because of the system that was adopted, many people were robbed of their right to exercise their civic duty, to elect a government of their choice.

Madam Speaker, it must be noted that another global benchmark for a credible election is the acceptable voter turnout.

The total number of voters eligible to vote in the 2018 General Election was 637,527. Approximately 459,000 cast their votes.

If over 35% of voters could not exercise their duty to vote; we are saying that this election doesn’t fully reflect the will of the people, with barely a half of our total population having engaged in the elections process.

Also when voter turnout across polling stations is between53% to 61%, this gives a sure sign of a democracy not working to its fullest potential.

At this juncture Madam Speaker let me just point out that not all is lost however. It is now very clear that FFP is in its last days.

In 2014 despite 7 years of dictatorship rule and showering people with all sorts of development, Sodelpa still won 15 seats.

Now four years after return to Parliamentary rule, in the 2018GE, we have increased our seats by 6  to reach 21. I personally have no doubts that with the increasing trend of seats gained, Sodelpa will thrash FFP with a resounding general election victory in 2022. Yes we can. Yes we will!! Get ready Honorable Members to change sides in four years’ time, if not earlier.

Madam Speaker, on His Excellency’s remarks of positive outlook by the MOG on our 2018 elections.

Globally an overemphasis by observer on Election Day has been noted which often leads to the production of overly favorable assessments of electoral processes.

In many cases the mechanical aspect of the voting is reasonably fair but the pre-election period is plagued by numerous problems, such as obstacles to the registration of certain candidates, unequal access to the media, and the governing party’s use of state resources to finance its campaign.

The Russian presidential election of June 1996 exemplified this pattern. In general, the dozens of observer groups that collectively fielded well over a thousand foreign observers on Election Day issued ringing endorsements of the process, highlighting the lack of apparent fraud or widespread administrative problems with the voting.

The fact that Boris Yeltsin’s campaign almost certainly used significant state resources for its own purposes, benefited greatly from biased coverage on state television, paid journalists to write favorable stories, and used various other stratagems to ensure Yeltsin’s victory received relatively little attention from the foreign observers.

 

In Fiji’s case, we can definitely draw close analogies. For example, we never had an Interim government as is the convention. Instead, we all know the FFP government ran into elections still very much handing out last minute vote buying freebies.

Coups

Madam Speaker, No coup is a good coup. I note the selective commentary by His Excellency when he spoke about the 1987 and 2000 coups, without addressing similarly the 2006 coup that the leader of the Fiji First Party has earlier referred to as being a radical intervention.

Whether you call it a clean-up campaign or a radical intervention, fundamentally coups involves undermining the rule of law and use of arbitrary power in the pursuit of political gain.
Giving a coup another innovative name does not change what it is.

People can now decide to do a better coup, if they so wish to say the coup of the past was a good coup, but needs an improvement. Very dangerous indeed….

Madam Speaker, His Excellency spoke about the treacherous lies that was imposed on our people by way of the 1987 and 2000 coups whereby acts of brutal force and violence, coupled with a political culture of fear, mistrust and communal antagonism.

Let me just say this and remind this August House that in December 2011, on the eve of five years since the 2006 coup, a joint letter signed by Human Rights Watch, International Trade Union Confederation, International Federation of Journalists and Front Line Defenders asked the interim government to stop “… the ongoing serious human rights violations in Fiji and realise the promises that your government made at the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2010.”

The letter also alleged that that “… four people are reported to have died in military or police custody and several people have been intimidated, beaten, sexually assaulted, or subjected to degrading treatment”.

Madam Speaker, we all know that the recent elections has placed this once great nation of ours on a very dangerous precipice. We are now more racially polarized than ever before.

Thanks to the FEO Apps, we can now easily confirm that 97% of villages and urban centers where indigenous people live and voted, are unhappy with the current Fiji First government.

One thing that is certain is that if FFP continues to underestimate the intelligence of our people and ignore the hurt a bulk of our population, especially the I Taukei people, Fiji is looking at more trouble in times ahead. We have to be pragmatic. For FFP, at present, their popularity is based on their Leader. But we all know, no man is immortal.

FFP needs to look out for the interests of their voters and what becomes of them in the future when inevitable natural attrition occurs. We urge government to be cautious of this fact, and come to the middle ground and work with the majority of our people who are unhappy.

They can begin to do that, by showing us the elected representatives of these unhappy citizens, respect and acknowledgement that we can assist make Fiji great again.

Economy  

Madam Speaker, I just have a general comment on the Economy, There was an initiative on Student Commercial Agriculture Scholarship for two years in 2016.

There are 15 students that should be graduating next week on the 6th December with certificate 3. They have been informed by FNU that they cannot graduate unless they pay $916.00 each interested students.

The package included a farm house, tractor, 100 acres of land, farm tools and implements and start capital of $2000.

How can Government in the last say that the program is supposed to be partially paid by the students upon an enquiry of their missing names from the graduation roll?

I urge the respective Ministry’s (MOE & MOAgric) to look into this matter and stop hoodwinking our young people.

 

Land Security; ITLTB;  

Madam Speaker, His Excellency has stated that   no land has been alienated, and the 2013 constitution provides sound protection.

These sentiments were echoed by the Hon Prime Minister. Hon Koroilavesau on the same subject spoke about the oaths we swore in this House to be honest and truthful.

Let me then say that I am utterly frustrated and disappointed. Angry in fact, because I know these assurances are misleading! I don’t know if the Hon Minister for I-Taukei Affairs in his capacity as PM, understands what is going on under his government and under the Itaukei Lands Trust Board?

This is a newspaper article of the Tui Vitogo in Vitogo Lautoka still awaiting answers on the sale of 700 acres of land without their consent.

Madam Speaker, on a similar situation, a widow with a valid lease title and upto date payment, suddenly found excavation of gravel occurring on her land by a company.

Various communication with iTLTB, in which I became involved confirmed that her lease was sub divided without her consent.

Imagine a recent widow to encounter this kind of treatment. THIS CONFIRMS MORAL CORRUPTION!

Similarly a LOU of Soniwaqa Subdivision Nakasi, today cry foul over the extension and granting of lease over their land without their consent. This LOU had been to the Hon PMs Office many times without satisfaction.

Madam Speaker on that note, Sodelpa’s position that customary land is not Safe is further confirmed by the declaration that a new independent land tribunal will be legislated soon.

If there was indeed no land alienation and the 2013 Constitution strongly protects land like never before, then why the need for such a tribunal?

Actions indeed speak louder than words Madam Speaker.

Review of Acts; Including Village By-Laws

Madam Speaker, in this new parliament term just as we experienced in the last four years, government expects to introduce new legislation through parliamentary engagement.

On the registration of Accountants, it took 8 long years for government to eventually bring to the fore what the Honorable Prime Minister has earlier announced, in 2010, that government would review and establish a new independent establishment Independent Financial Auditing Services Commission (IFASC) to oversight registration and issuing of certificate for practicing Accountants in line with the new companies Act.

I trust this will open opportunities for Chartered Accountants to become Public Practicing Accountants.

Madam Speaker, let me also say that there are some laws that do not appear on His Excellency’s notable legislations for review and inclusion.

One of this notable legislation is the Village By-Laws that the Ministry of Itaukei Affairs has shelved due to popular resistance. May I urge government not to shelve this law, but to terminate it totally.

Our people will not accept being controlled and manipulated. As it is, government is now appointing Turaga ni Koro’s and Mata ni Tikina, as well as Chairpersons of Provincial Councils. Yet, villagers are asked to fork out the cost of running Provincial Offices through fundraising.

Madam Speaker, government needs to stop hoodwinking our indigenous population and grant them the respect and recognition they deserve.

Allow them equitable participation and enjoyment of their resources, and encourage them to become equal partners in development. Provide the financial capital to start with.

We must allow our landowners to participate in 50;50 investment participation, so we can see the same kind of success stories such as the Pearl Resort whereby PNG nationals can afford to invest elsewhere around the world because they have the capital to do so.

Anything less will continue to build in them antagonism and distrust towards everything perceived to be of harm, even if well intended.

On another note Madam Speaker, can the Honourable Attorney General confirm that it is now a requirement for any land to be developed outside of the village boundary, approval needs to be sought from local municipal councils.?

Infrastructure Development 

Madam Speaker, as the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport once again.I intend to speak and advocate on this very important Ministry extensively in the four years to come, as I have done in this past four years.

For now however, I am finalising my long list of requests which will be landing on the respective line Minister’s table shortly. I know the good Honorable Jone Usamate will be accommodating these requests from my office, just as his predecessor had been.

A quick list of these issues include; a review to  remove the barrel draw of Taxi permits, options for travelling public to also use cash payments for bus fare.

Taking driver testing sessions to provinces instead of centralizing it and the current water woes in the West.

I thank the Hon Minister graciously in advance for addressing this issues.

Acknowledgement

I end Madam Speaker by taking this time to thank some very important people for their support during this last four years, and the recent strenuous and nail biting campaigns.

Firstly to my very able, and hardworking wife Sainiana Radrodro. You remain my backbone and the reason why I am able to do what I do. I thank you sincerely for your selfless love and commitment of which I am extremely blessed..

I take this time to acknowledge in particular my campaign team namely, Nau Tamai Ratu Peni, Tamai Noa, kinsmen of Serea Village, Inosi of Roma Village and Kato of Nadovu village.

To my campaign support staff Ratu Emosi Matanababa, Tevita Seru, Josaia Murikanaka.  I could not ask for a more dedicated and loyal team. I owe you all always and pray for your success in all you endevour.

Madam Speaker, I also wish to now thank some of my traditional supporters:

1)Vanua o Nabobuco, Bureca, Turaga na Tui Nabobuco,

2)Vanua o Muaira, Navunitivi, Turaga na Vunivalu,

3)Vanua o Matailobau, Siko I Nabena, Turaga nai Taukei ni Waluvu,

4)Vanua o Lutu, Turaga na Tui Lutu,

5)Vanua o Nagonenicolo, Turaga na Vunivalu,

6)Vanua o Noimalu, Turaga na Tui Nakurukuruvakatini ,

7)Vanua o Nadaravakawalu, Turaga na Vunivalu,

8) Vanua o Rara , Naqaranikula Turaga na Vunivalu

9) Vanua o Nabaitavo, Burenitu Turaga na Vunivalu

10)Turaga na i Liuliu niBose Vanua ena yasana o Naitasiri, Turaga na Roko Tui Waimaro

11) Turaga nai Taukei Burelevu

12)Turaga Taukei Waimaro, and

13) Turaga nai taukei matada

Special gratitude and thanks to the villages of  Naqara, Taulevu, Matailobau, Nabena Delaitoga, Waidracia, Naluwai, Lutu Wainibuka, Nawaisomo, Nakorovatu, Naqelewai,Savusavu, Udu Laselevu Nasiriti, Roma, Nasoqo, Rewasau, and Delaitoga.

A special thanks also to my close relatves in the galley today.

Though I am your lone representative from the Opposition benches, I pledge to do all I can within my powers to maintain the high level of service you’ve come to expect of us on this side of the House.

To my supporters in Koronivia especially the Turaga Vukevuke ni Qaselevu Vakacegu and his family and their loving church congregation and those in Lokiya, To the Turaga nai Taukei Nakaria and my  Yako voters in Nadroga, and my friends and supporters in Vadrayawa Lautoka, likewise in Moala Village Nadi.

Much gratitude likewise to my fellow QVSOBs and ACSOG’s that voted & supported my campaigns and also prayed and fasted for the elections and supported me throughout.

To my professional friends, voters & supporters around Fiji, not to forget our USP & FNU current students.

Last but not least our children & relatives and my in laws, likewise Pastor Vili, Pastor Jerry and Pastor Romulo, thank you sincerely for the amazing support, love and the prayers that you have provided for me always. You have been instrumental in my spiritual walk and I am forever indebted.

To the Sodelpa Management and my former Leader of Opposition na Gone Marama Bale na Roko Tui Dreketi, as well as the newly appointed Leader of Opposition and Party President the Goneturaga Bale na Tui Cakau, . Thank you for your faith in me. I am a firm believer in consistency and loyalty, thus I pledge and assure that I was a Sodelpa man and I always will be a Sodelpa man!

Madam Speaker, to end I wish to say a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year to everyone in this august House given this is our last sitting together for this year.

I now end with one of my favorite Bible verses that I hope we can all ponder on as members of this August House taken from the book of Proverbs Chapter 22 verse 1 and it reads; “If you have to choose between a good reputation and great wealth, choose a good reputation”.

Vinaka vakalevu, and God Bless us all and God Bless Fiji.

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