FIJI NEWS

NFP:VAT, Decree and Racial Intolerance

Party opinion National fedearetion Party Team The following are public statements that were issued by the NFP this week but used sparingly by the media. Team NFP is therefore printing
09 Aug 2014 08:42

Party
opinion
National fedearetion Party Team

The following are public statements that were issued by the NFP this week but used sparingly by the media. Team NFP is therefore printing the full version of the statements through this newspaper for you to judge the facts.

Electioneering by senior
civil servants
Senior civil servants are blatantly politicking via the media by doing bidding for
Government whose leadership and ministers are contesting the elections under the banner of the FijiFirst party.
The latest example of civil servants publicly indulging in politics was on ‘4 theRecord’ programme on Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Television last Sunday night (August 3).
The guests on the programme were the Permanent Secretary for Finance Filimone Waqabaca, Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji Arif Ali and chief executive of Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority (FRCA) Jitoko Tikolevu.
While responding to a leading question from a journalist on the panel, Mr Tikolevu said a reduction in Value Added Tax (VAT) would have little impact on the price of goods. Mr Tikolevu, in dismissing the issue of VAT reduction, went on to say even an increase in VAT to 20 per cent would be insignificant.
It is quite clear that Mr Tikolevu was trying to rubbish the National Federation Party’s promise to reduce VAT from 15 per cent to 10 per cent, that has been consistently advocated by the leader and the Party for the last four months.
As a senior public servant, Mr Tikolevu should know his role is only to implement Government policies. And this includes any government that comes into power after the September 17 General Elections.
By commenting on a policy proposed by a political party, in this case explained in detail in the NFP’s manifesto, Mr Tikolevu has totally compromised the neutrality and independence of his position as FRCA head as well as that of the Institution.
He should have remained apolitical and completely refrained from making political comments. An ordinary civil servant is disallowed from even to be seen at political party meetings or gatherings as it is construed as showing support towards a political party.
FRCA is an independent institution. Unfortunately, Mr Tikolevu has given it a semblance of a political wing of government and the FijiFirst party.
Also Mr Waqabaca commented that he was on the programme because of what he called “misleading statements about the economy”.
Instead of politicking, Mr Waqabaca must tell the people of Fiji what is the real state of Government finances and the proposal in the 2014 Budget to rake revenue through sale of State assets.
The NFP once again calls upon officers in all independent state institutions to remain apolitical at all times.
We also warn that by indulging in political campaign, senior public servants are showing their political bias and this tarnishes their credibility and suitability to hold similar senior positions following a change of government and restoration of democracy after the elections.

Electoral Amendment Decree on meaning of “ordinarily resident”
The National Federation Party condemns in the strongest terms, the amendment to the electoral decree issued last week (July 31) with regard to who is “ordinarily resident” in Fiji to qualify to stand for elections.
The amendment has ruled out two of the party’s leading candidates from standing in the upcoming elections, Makereta Waqavonovono and Jone Vakalalabure.
Former national rugby representative and school teacher Seru Rabeni also withdrew his endorsement before his announcement as candidate because of the amendment.
These two, (Waqavonovono and Vakalalabure), highly qualified Fiji islanders would have been two of the best parliamentarians to have served our country.
This is the calibre of Fiji islanders that our country needs to take Fiji onto another level of service to the public. Yet the interim administration sees it fit to disqualify them for being away acquiring higher professional skills that would have served our country greatly through
Parliament.

The process of amending the decree last week was just as bad as the substance of the amendment.
The amendment was from the office of the Attorney-General whose most senior lawyer was representing the defendants in litigation before the High Court.
Litigation brought by Ms Waqavonovono asking the court for constitutional and human right redress with regard to her eligibility to stand for elections.
And as we all know, the A-G is also the general secretary of a rival political party and one of the defendants in that litigation as Minister Responsible for Elections.
It is a matter of grave concern that a defendant in live proceedings, who happens to be A-G as well as general secretary of a rival political party and Minister Responsible for Elections and the Electoral Decree, be allowed to change electoral rules by decree, weeks away from the elections. It is also very disrespectful to the Court.
The party also expresses great concern that while the matter of the litigation was live before a Judge of the High Court, the Chief Justice signed the amendment decree as Acting President of Fiji.
The NFP is not taking this issue of disenfranchisement by decree lightly. The party will be exploring its options further.
After eight years, the people of Fiji deserve, at the very least – free and fair elections. One that is free of interventions by decree from one of the parties contesting those elections.

We will reduce VAT and put $256 million in the hands of our people
NFP categorically DISAGREES with the following claims by FijiFirst candidate Mahendra Reddy and the FijiFirst party
Claim 1: VAT will not provide relief to the poor
n It is true that VAT is zero on tinned fish, flour and sharps, powdered milk, edible oil, rice and tea. However, a typical poor household does not only consume these items. A typical basket for any poor household also includes consumption of electricity bill, water bill, mobile phone recharge, frozen meat, bread, processed food such as noodles, transportation and entertainment.
n The rich consume more fresh meat products (such as fish, goat, chicken) while poor totally depend on supermarket for meat (tuna, lamb neck, frozen meat).
Claim 2: Reducing VAT from 15 per cent to 10 per cent will reduce VAT revenue by 33 per cent
n It does not necessarily mean that reducing VAT by 5 per cent will reduce VAT revenue by 33 per cent. VAT is a consumption based tax. As prices go down after VAT reduction, consumption expenditure is bound to increase which will also increase the tax base. The revenue that would have come to the government will now go to into the pockets of the people.
• It should also be noted that between 2012 and 2014, VAT revenue increased by F$160m. During this time, there was no increase in VAT rate. This is evident that VAT revenue is not totally dependent on the VAT rate but the rate of economic activity as well.
Claim 3: Reduction in VAT will reduce government expenditure on roads and hospitals
n NFP does not see any connection between VAT revenue and the expenditure to provide good roads and quality health services to our people. The statement by the FijiFirst party is totally flawed. NFP will be guided by a medium to long term infrastructure plan for our roads and hospitals.
n NFP will reduce wastage of government financing through efficient checks and balances and ensure the productive use of government revenue.
No place for racial and religious intolerance
The NFP refers to comments made by deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase during SODELPA’s campaign meetings, emphasising on recognition of Christian values, recognising Christianity as the predominant religion of our nation, dismissing Fiji as a secular state, and linking numbers on the ballot paper to the Holy Quran.
We regard Mr Qarase’s comments as reprehensible and the NFP condemns this in the strongest terms.
Laisenia Qarase
Mr Qarase is fanning the flames of racial and religious hatred. This is racial bigotry. He thinks those following Christianity (especially our iTaukei people) can never be equal to others. He is therefore saying those following or practicing other religious beliefs are subservient. This is preposterous and an insult to each and every citizen of our beloved nation.
Mr Qarase is re-opening old wounds and his comments are reminiscent of those dark days following the military coups of 1987 when racial and religious intolerance culminated into the Sunday ban and worse still, led to arson attacks on two temples, a mosque and the complete destruction of the Sikh temple in Lautoka in October 1989.
This scenario must never be allowed to be repeated and as one who led this country for over six years as prime minister, Mr Qarase should be the last person advocating religious supremacy in an effort to get votes for his party because short term benefits based on mudslinging, gutter politics and racism can be very painful as experienced in the past 27 years.
In a multiracial, multicultural and multi-religious country like Fiji, our politicians and those seeking the mandate of the people to assume leadership of a democracy must moderate their positions.
It is an absolute necessity that the peaceful co-existence of all our communities, especially the iTaukei and Indo-Fijian communities, is not shattered by racial utterances or remarks.
As a party born out of the struggle for dignity and justice of our ordinary people, we will not tolerate any racist remark or attack on any community in our nation.
Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum & Veena Bhatnagar
On Tuesday (August 5) during Radio Fiji talkback show Aaina, the show’s host Veena Bhatnagar and FijiFirst general secretary Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum accused prominent NFP candidate Bala Dass of an anti-Muslim campaign.
As a guest on the show NFP leader Biman Prasad insisted the NFP has always conducted a clean and issues based campaign for these elections and that both Mrs Bhatnagar and Mr Sayed-Khaiyum must provide evidence to prove that Mr Dass conducted a racial campaign against our Muslim community.
On the programme itself, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said Bala Dass remarked Fiji was run by Muslims. He said the comment was made at the Mariamman temple in Savusavu, Nadi last week.
The Savusavu meeting was held at the Shiva temple and not Mariamman temple as claimed by Mr Sayed-Khaiyum.
One of those present at the party’s meeting in Savusavu was Mr Faizal Koya.
I have spoken to both Mr Dass and My Koya and both have challenged Mrs Bhatnagar and Mr Sayed-Khaiyum to provide proof to back their accusation.
In the absence of such proof, I support Mr Dass’s decision to take legal action against Mr Sayed-Khaiyum, Mrs Bhatnagar and Fiji Broadcasting Corporation because we regard the allegation as defamatory.
Last week, the FijiFirst general secretary made similar allegations against
NFP supporters in Ba saying they had threatened taxi drivers driving taxis with FijiFirst stickers to remove them or else their fate would be worse than what happened in the year 2000.
When told by the NFP to report the matter to police should he have evidence,
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum kept quiet.
We believe FijiFirst, in an act of desperation, is resorting to gutter level campaign and mudslinging to win votes. This will not work.
Such bigoted and supremacist campaigns have surfaced after every coup in
Fiji and have worsened polarisation in our society. The coup makers must also take responsibility for this.
n The opinions expressed in this column are those of the National Federation Party. They are published by the Fiji Sun to enhance free and open debate ahead of the general elections.
Feedback: newsroom@fijisun.com.fj




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