Maiden speech by Opposition MP, Salote Radrodro

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

Madam Speaker;

Hon. Prime Minister, Hon. Ministers, Hon. Leader of Opposition and Hon. Members

Firstly I thank God almighty and his son, Jesus Christ for the gift of life, his abundant blessings and especially this opportunity, and I am honored and privileged to be in Parliament for a second term.

  • Madam Speaker;

I join previous speakers in congratulating you, for your re appointment and Hon Veena Bhatnagar as your Deputy.   And we look forward to you upholding in this House the high standards that the people of Fiji demand and likewise, we on this side of the House look forward to a more enabling environment for effective debate.

I am also happy to note the steady increase in the number of women in the House, and Congratulations to the 10 Women Members of Parliament and I look forward to working with you all in championing issues to boost the development and empowerment of women.

  • Madam Speaker;

I also acknowledge and thank my Party SODELPA for the confidence it has placed in me. In particular I extend a big Vinakavakalevu to the Party President Hon. Rt Naiqama Lalabalavu and to the Party Leader and Leader of Opposition Hon. Sitiveni Rabuka for their leadership and tremendous efforts during election campaign that resulted in the shift of the 6 seats from FF to SODELPA.

  • Madam Speaker;

In this journey, Our families make the greatest commitment and sacrifice and for that I  thank my best friend and husband Kitione and who has been my greatest practical support.   To my sons Viliame, Nia and Pate with your dear families thank you for your many sacrifices you had to make on my behalf and to my 7 little heartbeats thank you for the love and laughter which has kept me grounded especially when the going gets tough.

I also thank my sister Meme for joining me in Fiji during election time, my brother Anare for running the campaign team in Vanua Balavu, Tia and Seini, even though abroad, your support was always timely.

I also pay tribute to my late parents for the upbringing built on strong Christian principles and my early childhood days spent  in Tacilevu, Bouma, Tukavesi, Buretu and Noco where my Ta taught as a primary school teacher.

I also acknowledge my teachers at Adi Cakobau School, the early sisterhood formed at Sawani and later Old Girls network that has had a strong influence to what I am to day. Special Thank you to my classmates and  especially those overseas : Kesa, Tuina, Harietta and Elenoa.

  • Madam Speaker;

I got my seat back in Parliament with a lot of help from various people. And I like to acknowledge and sincerely thank the following:

  • my families in Mualevu, Vanua Balavu, Yacata, and Bua and those overseas;
  • my church family –  Tabacakacaka Tacirua,  Delaivalelevu, Kalabu, Wasewase Naitasiri, Wasewase Kinoya, Wasewase Makoi and the Christian Mission Fellowship community;
  • Nasinu Constituency team led by Sitiveni Weleilakeba
  • Liuliu Ni Yavusa Kalabu and Radini
  • Isikeli Raibevu – Tacirua / Kalabu campaign team
  • 20 Polling Venues Co ordinators in Wainivula, Caubati Housing, Caubati AOG, Shree Maruti Kindergarten, CMF Primary School, Kinoya Methodist Church Kindergarten, Assemblies of God High School, Bishop Kempthorne School, Tamavua Primary School, Tacirua Primary School, Colo I Suva Forestry Training School, Sakoca, Sailo AOG, Naveiwakau SDA Church , Delaitokatoka, Veikoba, Delainasole HART, Wainibuku HART and all the 220 party agent volunteers, you know yourselves and who worked tirelessly on election day.
  • A special thank you to Asena and Iliana, and I will always value your tireless efforts and commitment.
  • All those many individuals that supported my fundraising activities and those that I may have missed, vinakavakalevu for all your assistance and support.
  • And to all the 2,235 people that voted me in, thank you most sincerely and I will do my best to confidently carry your voice in this House.
  • Thank you all for your prayers. You have indeed helped me find my political values and dream.
  • Madam Speaker;

May I also thank HE The President for his address in opening this new Parliamentary session on Monday and which gave us a lot of food for thought.  May I respond on the following issues.

  • Election :

Madam Speaker;

It has been said that the 2018 Election was free and fair, but this is far from the truth because of the following:

  • The old people had problems remembering number of the candidate they want to vote for
  • there was public transport problems
  • people had to queue up in the rain before they could cast their vote.
  • I was also advised that members of the discipline forces that undertook postal ballot were told to write their name on the back of their ballot papers.
  • The Electoral law does not specify a campaign financial ceiling for candidates thus the campaign field was very uneven as demonstrated by Fiji First with those huge Billboards that continuously appear overnight and public rallies due to its strong financial backing and so the other parties were at a great disadvantage.
  • Another example is FF campaign radio advertisements, and I wish it could be played here, right now. Whilst SODELPA and NFP focused on policies, principles and truth, the Fiji first gravitate more towards fueling unwarranted animosity.
  • Standing Orders:

Furthermore Madam Speaker;

With reference to Parliamentary sittings and I quote “ that the business of this chamber is      the business of all Fijians wherever they may be”.

Again Madam Speaker;

This is far from the truth due to the following reasons:

  • the Standing Orders does not allow speaking in the vernaculars and  I believe more than half of my voters best understand the business of this House in the I Taukei language. That is also a breach of my Human Rights.
  • To effectively participate in this House requires good preparation but that is a big problem right now due to limited space office in the Opposition. So I ask the Hon AG where is the improved office space you have been promising in the last 4 years?.
  • Therefore Madam Speaker;

To make real progress in our Parliamentary Democracy in this House we must bring back the original 2014 version of the Standing Orders which allows for peoples voices to be properly heard for example through “Petitions” being referred to Standing Committees and whereby peoples concerns are addressed and their priorities aligned and become the Government’s priorities in the developmental agenda.

  • Shadow portfolios – Ministry of women, children and Poverty Alleviation and Civil Service.

Madam Speaker;

I am responsible for the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation and the Ministry of the Civil Service and may I comment briefly on these 2 portfolios.

I acknowledge the efforts by the Ministry in addressing “Elimination Of Violence Against Women” and right now the observation of 16 days of activism.

And despite legislations, policies and programs in place, unfortunately, Violence Against Women and children continue to rise and I call on the Government to do much more to counter this nagging issue.

And in this regards I urge Government to establish a “Commission of Inquiry”  on Elimination of Violence Against Women and Children.  And I also call on the Members on both sides of the House to unite and support this proposal.

  • Civil Service:

Madam Speaker;

Being a former career civil servant, it saddens me to witness the way the civil servants are being badly treated.

For example :

  • The Short term contracts mostly ranging from 3 months to 3years creates low work morale and lack of job security.
  • 55 years retirement age further contributes to unemployment.
  • The huge salary gap between the Permanent Secretaries and Deputy Secretary and below. Simply pay discrimination
  • High presence of Expatriates as Permanent Secretaries, which takes job from our own very well qualified people.
  • Civil Service Reform – In the last 4 years only the 2015 Annual Report was received in the Standing Committee for Social Affairs. Therefore the Government has failed to  provide any written records to substantiate the “Civil Service Reform” success that it has been claiming.

Madam Speaker;

These are some of the things Civil servants care about and I urge Government to seriously look into them otherwise these work conditions create a very bleak future for civil servants.

  • Constituency Issues:

Madam Speaker;

The Government claims that there is high economic growth and I quote ….” We see that prosperity in the record nine straight years that our economy has grown and tens of thousands new jobs we have created.”

  • Madam Speaker;

Unemployment is one of the pertinent problems in the urban Nasinu/Nausori corridor and to say that unemployment is decreasing is very misleading

For example during campaign a young lady in Kinoya who was a recipient of TELTS and graduated from USP with a Bachelor of Environmental Science said that on her graduation day she was also given a letter on the repayment of her student loan.  Unable to find a job, she pursued further studies and attained PGD but until todate she is still unable to find a job. Another young lady in Lakena HART graduated with a Diploma in Fisheries but until today she is unable to find a job.

Madam Speaker;

When those that have formal qualifications cant find jobs, we can only imagine the huge number of unemployed school leavers out there.

Therefore Madam Speaker;

May I remind the Government side to stop talking about reduction in unemployment rates and talk about new employment policies and programs that will create jobs for graduates and youths generally.

It must also be noted that the $1,000 and all these “Care programs” that has been dished out like nobody’s business on the eve of Election is just a “vote buying exercise “ by this FF Government.  It is grossly insufficient to set up viable small business and is also counter productive strategy in building a better Fiji .

Madam Speaker;

They said that the YES program has helped many youths and now the qualifying age has been increased to 40 years but there was no mention of any statistics to substantiate their claim.

Madam Speaker;

Let me share the FNPF story to shed more light on unemployment and the subsequent financial burden that will have to be addressed by this and future Government.

Of the 429,936 members, 71% with below $10k savings and only 29% have balances over $10k.  This can be due to irregular employment, low income and employers paying minimum wage rate of $2.68.

  • Madam Speaker;

A lot has been said about free transport for school children but this can only be true for the children of Savutalele, Veikoba, Rokara Road communities in Kalabu and I ask the Minister for Infrastructure when will these roads (which were constructed by previous Govts) be expanded to allow for bus services to reach them otherwise these children will always be left behind.

Yesterday the Hon. Assistant Minister said a lot about  Infrastructure development so let ask him  when will the bridges (again built by previous Govts) in Veikoba and Vesida HART will be upgraded because whenever there is heavy rain and flooding the people and especially school children are placed at very high risk.

  • Madam Speaker;

In the recent past students at Tacirua Primary School have been involved in accidents due the absence of road humps and student crossing signs and even though I had highlighted this in previous sitting still nothing has been done.  So I urge the new Ministers for Infrastructure and Education to urgently look into this issue to avoid any further fatalities.

Madam Speaker;

A lot has also been said about accessible clean water supply for everyone.  But there is a beautiful island called Yacata Island who are also the traditional owners of Kaibo island where the Kaibo resort is located and where the Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex and beautiful wife holidayed whilst visiting Fiji.  But people of Yacata have struggled for a long time without piped water supply because this FF Govt. has not made any efforts to replace the Water pump which was installed by previous Govts.

Furthermore Madam Speaker;

TC Winston in March 2016 destroyed the Yacata District School and Avea District School and now after more 2 and half years on, may I ask the  Minister for Education when will the construction work be completed otherwise the students, teachers and communities as a whole are being left behind.

Madam Speaker;

The Vanua Balavu jetty underwent temporary repairworks in 2015 and until today no other works has been carried out.  And may I request the Minister for Infrastructure to urgently look into this and also the Jetty in Cicia.

  • Madam Speaker:

Waste Management is a real big big problem in the Nasinu / Nausori corridor.  I acknowledge the efforts done by the former Minister whereby the Tacirua Heights problem was partly resolved, we still waiting for the monthly or quarterly removal of “white goods waste”. Otherwise the bigger and wider Nasinu / Nausori corridor still suffers from unreliable proper waste management system. And this could due to the problematic legislations, Organisational structure and budget of municipal councils.

And In regards I urge the Government to conduct the Municipal elections as soon as possible which this same Government promised but did not deliver in the last 4 years.

  • Madam Speaker
  • Education – TELTS .
  • 4 scholarship streams – PSC, FAB, Multi ethnic and Student Loan Scheme ( As former Director for Training)
  • It is not racist as claimed by this Government
  • It is and “Affirmative action” initiative to bring everyone on a more level playing field in Education. This means bringing the disadvantage group up to be on same level as others.
  • The processes were very transparent – scholarship offers advertised, interview list advertised, successful recipients advertised.

15 ) Concluding Remarks:

I would like the share words of John Wesley and which the Leader of Opposition Hon. Rabuka always remind us with and that is:

“DO ALL THE GOOD YOU CAN, BY ALL THE MEANS YOU CAN, IN ALL THE WAYS YOU CAN. TO ALL THE PEOPLE YOU CAN. AS LONG AS YOU EVER CAN.”

I hope and trust that is a genuine reminder to us as Members of Parliament in our journey to serve the people of Fiji.

And I wish all of us, our families and Fiji  a very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.

I thank the House for your indulgence.

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