Ex-inmate backs FijiFirst after programme secures his job

Yellow Ribbon Project gets the thumbs up JYOTI PRATIBHA and ROSI DOVIVERATA lautoka, suva The Yellow Ribbon campaign is a breath of life for us ex-convicts, says Josateki Labalaba. This
19 Jul 2014 10:16

Former inmates at Gandhi Bhawan Primary School in Lautoka yesteday. Photo: Waisea Nasokia

Yellow Ribbon Project gets the thumbs up
lautoka, suva

The Yellow Ribbon campaign is a breath of life for us ex-convicts, says Josateki Labalaba.
This is why he has declared his support for the FijiFirst party.
Through the Yellow Ribbon Campaign, people have served time in correction facilities through to rehabilitation process and seek ways of acceptance in society.
Through this campaign, those who have served time are also assisted in finding jobs. Mr Labalaba and five others who are now employed by the Fiji Sugar Corporation turned up at Gandhi Bhawan Primary School in Lautoka to meet Prime Minister Rear Admiral (Retired) Voreqe Bainimarama. Mr Labalaba shared his story with the Fiji Sun. He said from 1991 till 2000 he had been in and out of corrections facilities.
While the Yellow Ribbon Campaign is against identifying people who have served time at the Corrections Facilities, Mr Labalaba and his colleagues were keen to share their story to raise awareness that when given the chance – people can turn their lives around.
“It was because of peer pressure and doing what everyone else was doing at that time which turned me to the life of crime. I don’t blame others for my actions. Been inside, I and my friends here learnt a very bitter lesson.
“When one has been labeled as an ex-con, it’s very difficult to turn over a new leaf, very difficult for society to accept us. Without anyone employing us, we turn back to our old lives. But, no more! This Yellow Ribbon Campaign gives us the support we need.”
In a letter to Mr Bainimarama, the six stated that: “We had been convicts, men who would hear their chains even when they were free, who always felt that someone was watching them. We had been all the things, we have seen, experience, undergone, suffered all the things that had urged us to become a marred, evil man, dangerous at all times. Thank you Mr Bainimarama and your Government for your affirmative plans and goals such as the Yellow Ribbon Project.”
Signed by Sitiveni Tukai, Anare Tokalauvere, Joeli Namaku, Kaminieli Raqio, Josateki Labalaba and Kaliova Bainivalu, the letter was given to Mr Bainimarama in Lautoka. The six have also called on voters to understand the motives of older politicians.
On Tuesday night at the Kalabu High School where the FijiFirst party held one of its campaign meeting, Mr Bainimarama was asked to explain why his brother-in-law (Francis Kean), who was a former prisoner, now holds a senior position in Government.
In response, Mr Bainimarama asked: “What was Kean’s sentence? You don’t even know what his sentence was and now you ask for an explanation – that’s why many people are confused, when they don’t know the facts about what they are talking about.
“Is it just because he is my brother-in-law? Kean appeared in court and had served his sentence, he was also released from the court. I did not release him, he was released from the court. I want that to be clear to those of you who might have questions about Kean.”
Mr Bainimarama went on to say that like Mr Kean, former prisoners have the opportunity to rebuild and reform their lives through the Yellow Ribbon Project.
He said after he was released from prison, Mr Kean had worked for the Corrections Department. Through the programme, many ex-prisoners are now back at work and are able to look after themselves and their families.
“We all deserve a second chance in life,” Mr Bainimarama said.

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