Maiden speech by Opposition MP, Jese Saukuru

Opposition MP Jese Saukuru delivering his maiden speech in Parliament this afternoon. Picture: SUPPLIED/FIJIAN PARLIAMENT FACEBOOK

Madam Speaker, first and foremost, I thank my Lord Jesus Christ for this wonderful opportunity to stand here as a Member of this Honourable House. 

Isaiah 59:1

“Listen! The LORD’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call”. I rise to give my maiden speech and to respond to the motion before the House.

However, Madam Speaker – allow me to share my congratulatory message first:-

  1. I wish to first congratulate the 458,335 voters that turn out to cast their votes during our General Election from the 5th to 14th
  1. Madam Speaker, Congratulation for your re-election as the Speaker of this august House and the Deputy Speaker – Ms. Veena Bhatnagar,
  1. I congratulate all my colleagues that had won their seats to be members of this House in the next 4 years.
  1. I also wish to congratulate the Hon Leader of the Opposition and all of us on this side of the House,
  1. I further extend my congratulation to the Hon Prime Minister, his new Cabinet and Members of Parliament on the other side of the House.
  1. I also wish to acknowledge and congratulate our10 Women Members with a 20% increase in female representation in this Parliament.

At this juncture Madam Speaker, I wish to thank individuals, groups and organisations that had supported me during my campaign. Without their support, I would not have been a Member of this Honourable House:-

  1. My loving Wife Viniana Saukuru, my Daughter – Makereta Botitu, my Son – Jese Saukuru Junior and my Grandson – Akuila Botitu Tiqe,
  1. Na Momo na Tui Vitogo and the Vanua ‘O Vitogo for their Trust in me and the SODELPA Party to be the vehicle for change on this great Land,
  1. Na Momo na Taukei Vidilo and the Vanua ‘O Vidilo for their nomination and support,
  1. Delaniyavu e Tabuatolu, Na Momo na Tui Naloto and the Vanua ‘O Naloto,
  1. Delaniyavu e Namaravulevu, Na Momo na Tui Yakete and the Vanua ‘O Yakete,
  1. Vanua ‘O Nakoronubu, Suelevu e Nawaiviluri, na Momo na Tui Ba,
  1. Delaniyavu e Naroyasi, Na Momo na Tui Magodro and the Vanua ‘O Magodro.
  1. Delaniyavu e Vatanitawake, Na Momo na Tui Yasawa and the Vanua ‘O Yasawa,
  1. Delaniyavu e Korotuilagi, Na Momo na Tui Drola and the Vanua ‘O Drola,
  1. Delaniyavu e Nawavuso, Na Momo na Tui Yaqweta and the Vanua ‘O Yaqweta,
  1. Delaniyavu e Nadikilagi, Na Momo na Tui Marou and the Vanua ‘O Marou,
  1. Delaniyavu e Neilesu, Na Momo na Tui Naviti and the Vanua ‘O Naviti,
  1. Delaniyavu e Nalotu, Na Momo na Saubuli and the Vanua ‘O Waya,
  1. Delaniyavu e Gaunavou, Na Momo na Tui Viwa and the Vanua ‘O Viwa,
  1. Delaniyavu e Boutolu, Vanua O Waya Sewa
  1. Vanua ‘O Burenitu, Na Momo na Taukei Burenitu of Lekutu, Bua

Madam Speaker, I also wish to thank all the individuals and Church Groups that offered spiritual and moral support in my campaign trail:-

  1. Vakatawa Isoa Sauvakacolo and his family,
  1. Vakatawa Kata Naloma of Waya Sewa and his family,
  1. Nau Meri and her Peceliema Women Prayer Group,
  1. Talatala Tomu Wainiqolo of Tabacakacaka Vitogo and his Prayer Group,
  1. Talatala Bose of Tabacakacaka Saru and his Prayer Group,
  1. All the believers that had been praying for the General Election; I thank you all sincerely.

I further wish to thank all my 555 Team that supported me with my campaign and during the election:-

  1. Mr Kitione Vuataki, Mr Albert Wise, Mr Inia Qereqeretabua, Poasa, Aunty Gina, Vava Vili, Taitusi and Daki,
  1. Jone Tiqe, Ben Sokia and Family,
  1. Tai Sala and all her polling Agents,
  1. Maikeli Sauqaqa and his agents,
  1. Kemueli, Master Naivalu and their polling agents,
  1. Ratu Asaeli, Pita Turua and their agents in Yasawa,
  1. Tuirara Levu Magodro,
  1. Ovini Baleinamau and the Vanua ‘O Burenitu,
  1. I thank BPHCL staff, RKS Old Boys Lautoka and all the volunteers that had assisted during the polling day.

Madam Speaker, I support His Excellency’s reminder that the 2018 General Election is over and we are already going through the next phase of the election process in the formation of Government and we had been sworn in as Members of this Honourable House. Being a new Member of the House I have been following very closely on all the speeches starting from Monday the 26th of November. It is sad to note that some speakers are still in their campaign mode by trying to promote party politics.

I beg each and every Member of this House to rise above that; we are the representatives of our people who deserve much better than our individual interests. Let us work together for the benefit of our people and for Fiji. I support Hon Gavoka’s plea yesterday in this House that we need to change our attitude and a bi-partition approach would be the best platform for the future.

Madam Speaker, my Province is the most populous with more than a quarter of the nation’s total at the 2017 census. The Ba Province covers a land area of about 2,634km2; it is the blessed with its abundant natural resources that our economy relies upon and it is the second largest Province.

Madam Speaker, I will be the lone voice of the Ba Province from this side of the House however, I know that I am not alone as I have other ‘koi Ba’ on the other side of the House and that we will do our best to represent our people with dignity and commitment.

Interestingly, the Hon Prime Minister collected quite a significant number of votes from my Province and we expect a reciprocating gesture from his high office too in giving back to the people what they deserve.

Madam Speaker, I wish to comment on His Excellency’s most gracious speech on democracy and I quote: ‘Democracy is not a static thing; it must grow with the people and incorporate newfound wisdom’.

Madam Speaker, in 1874 Fiji became a British Colony; an Independent Sovereign Democratic State in 1970 and in 1988; a Sovereign Democratic Republic at what time it relinquished all ties to Her Majesty. The Treaty of Cession signed by Ratu Seru Cakobau as Tui Viti and the other 12 Chiefs with the British Crown recited that they were desirous of securing the promotion of Civilisation and Christianity and of increasing Trade and Industry within the said islands”. 

Madam Speaker, in 1776 Alexander Fraser Tytler, a European historian published The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic. In his publication, Tytler reported that from his research he had determined the following:-

Quote:

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government.

It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising them the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over a loss of fiscal responsibility, always followed by a dictatorship. The average of the world’s great civilizations before they decline has been 200 years. These nations have progressed in this sequence:

  • From bondage to spiritual faith,
  • From spiritual faith to great courage,
  • From courage to liberty,
  • From liberty to abundance,
  • From abundance to selfishness,
  • From selfishness to complacency,
  • From complacency to apathy,
  • From apathy to dependency,
  • From dependency back again to bondage.”

Madam Speaker, Fiji was liberated in 1988 and is supposed to still be enjoying life in its abundance state after exactly 30 years of it’s liberation. The move for our spiritual liberation first started in 1835 at Tubou in Lakeba and I am afraid to note that we are only left with another 17 years to complete the average length of this democratic form of government before we are shackled again in bondage and the cycle continues.

Madam Speaker the Government’s debt is at its highest, more students are in debt in the pretext of education scholarships, LOUs have lost control over their resources and there is a clear decline in moral values in our societies.

WHAT IS GOOD GOVERNANCE

  1. Elections & Participation
  1. Responsiveness
  1. Effectiveness
  1. Transparency
  1. Rule of Law
  1. Ethical Conduct
  1. Competence and Capacity
  1. Openness
  1. Sustainable
  1. Management
  1. Diversity
  1. Accountability

THE HEART OF OUR REPRESENTATION

Madam Speaker, the fact of the matter; Ba Province covers a land area of 2,634 km2 and a very resourceful Province that supports our economy. From the highlands of Savatu, Magodro and Rukuruku Districts to the Yasawa Group of Islands; their voices also need to be heard in this Parliament.

Madam Speaker, our cause for fair representation is clear and we wish to articulate this on this response:-

  1. AFFIRMATIVE ACTIONS

Madam Speaker, affirmative action is an outcome of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement, intended to provide equal opportunities for members of minority groups and women in education and employment. In 1961, President Kennedy was the first to use the term “affirmative action” in an Executive Order that directed government contractors to take “affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, colour, or national origin.”

For Fiji, Affirmative action policies were initially focused on improving opportunities for ordinary Fijians in employment, education and in business.

Madam Speaker, it is sad to note that some political leaders in Fiji are interpreting our own affirmative action program as being racist. Our Nation only gained its independence in 1970 and we need affirmative programs to bridge the gap when other nations have aged with their own civilisation.

  1. I TAUKEI WEALTH

Madam Speaker, I am opposed to the idea that I Taukei are ‘Asset Rich and Cash Poor’. The rich have lots of money but they might also have lots of expenses that keep them up at night but the wealthy do not worry about money. The latter defines our indigenous population pretty well; while other people are compelled to grow their assets and make more cash; Landowners are more committed to the protection of their inheritance that had been passed on from generation to generation.

Madam Speaker, I am of the view that the greatest challenge is that Landowners have entered an era of declining trust (though to varying degrees) in government and institutions like the I Taukei Land Trust Board (TLTB). iTLTB was set up in 1940 as the Native Land Trust Board under the iTaukei Land Trust Act. Its initial purpose was to secure, protect and manage land ownership rights assigned to the iTaukei landowners and to facilitate the commercial transactions that revolved around its use.

However, there are several drivers that contribute to our Landowners’ decline in trust towards iTLTB.  These include:

  • Perceptions of bias service.
  • Limited understanding of the processes and expectations of engagement.
  • Political alignment and interference.
  • Unfriendly policies
  • Reactive service response.

In his opening address to the FAO/USP/RICS Foundation South Pacific Land Tenure Conflict Symposium in Suva in April 2002; the late Mr. Savenaca Siwatibau commented:

“They say that land, like financial and human capital, is a factor of production, which helps drive economic and social development, generate national income, wealth, jobs and government revenue, combat poverty, improve the standard of living of all and ultimately entrenched social and political stability in any country.

“Land tenure, like culture and tradition, stands to evolve organically over time within a society. As in all things, changes and solutions have to be made and formulated. Solutions must be formulated from within and must reflect national, family and individual needs and aspirations and the changing global, regional, national economic, social and political dynamics that determine.

There are quite a lot of money sitting with iTLTB today that can be wisely invested for the development of the I Taukei. We are talking about landowners’ money that could easily fund projects and other investments to ensure that the beneficiaries become ‘cash rich’ as well. The SVT Government had initially developed this concept with the setting up of Provincial Companies and the Fijian Holding.

Madam Speaker, the concept will encourage more participation from the shareholders. However, the concept is not well supported by iTLTB to complement the developments on the ground. Example, some other investment companies are winning from the $7.9M worth of Ba’s VKB registered under 18 lease monies annually. With this type of cash flow; Landowners are cash sufficient to fund their own administration and other investments and not to rely on Government funding all the time.

On the same token Madam Speaker, it is my plea to government to consider the following:-

  1. While I thank the Minister for Forest and my Koi Calevu for his clarification yesterday; I am asking Government to kindly consider increasing the shares of the Pine Landowners that is held in Trust by the Fiji Pine Trust at Fiji Pine Limited. I am sure that they could easily do this through their dividend rights to buy the redeemable shares of Fiji Pine Limited.
  2. Review and Restore Traditional Leaders’ share of the lease money to ensure that they are able to perform their customary roles. For 8 years, our Chiefs and leaders of the Vanua have been deprived of their share of the lease money.
  1. I am asking Government to direct ITLTB accordingly to seek the Landowners consent before leasing of the I-Taukei Land.
  1. INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOMENTS

Madam Speaker, infrastructure development is key for faster economic growth and the alleviation of poverty in our country.

A clear message that came out very strongly and a concern during the General Election is Urban Drift. I was saddened to see that more than 50% of our villagers on the islands and highlands are now living in Urban Centres around Viti Levu.

I am asking government to consider the following:-

  1. Offer TAX incentives for local backpacker operators that would create more employment opportunities for our rural dwellers,
  2. Incentive packages for those who wish to explore new business by developing their resources,
  3. Creating Trading Centres on the islands and highlands of Ba that will bring the services closer to the people.
  4. Improve on the shipping service to the Yasawa Group of Islands
  5. The 6 Villages of Tikina Nalotawa need to be linked through good road as they do share the same primary school.
  6. Koroilavesau to facilitate the construction of an ice plant for the people of Yasawa as he had promised them.

Madam Speaker, I am honoured and privileged to be appointed as the Opposition Spokesman on Rural Development and Disaster Management. At the beginning of my contribution towards this important area of Government activity, Madam Speaker, allow me to thank the Hon. Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development, Waterways and Disaster Management for updating this House on the policies and programs of the Government of the day in relation to Rural Development and Disaster Management.

Madam Speaker, in respect of Rural Development, I have the following statement to make:

  1. Need for the continued development and maintenance of communications and transportation infrastructure to link and empower the people of this nation;
  1. Development of infrastructure to open up the vast tracts of land for development and allow the fruits of development to trickle down to the masses;
  1. Sanitization of the policies and programs of other government departments, grants by the foreign governments and initiatives of NGOs to empower our rural and remote communities;
  1. Codifying the selection and appointment of the District Advisory Council Members to enable the people of Fiji to have access to better consular services;
  1. Need to spell out the agenda of the Government of the day in relation to linking Rural and Maritime Development with regard to our National Development Plan and the Small Island Development Goals.

Moving further, Madam Speaker, I have the following to say on Disaster Management:

  1. Rehabilitation works in respect of Tropical Cyclone Winston continues pending;
  1. Revision of our National Disaster Management Plan of Action to withstand the threats of ferocious natural disasters that have been prevalent in the Asia/ Pacific region;
  1. Strategies for contingency supplies for those rural and remote communities affected by disasters toe ease their plight;
  1. Given the threats posed by Climate Change, Fiji needs a plan of action to save and relocate communities at home and in the Pacific;

This brings to the end of my contribution to this debate and in doing so, I offer my best wishes to all the Hon. Members and wish you, all the Hon. Members and our Parliamentary Staff a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2019. I support the motion before the House.

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