NEWS

Sodelpa: Reclaiming Fiji

The moment of truth and justice is near. We must pull together as never before to repair the great economic, social, cultural and political damage inflicted on Fiji by military
16 Aug 2014 19:32

The moment of truth and justice is near. We must pull together as never before to repair the great economic, social, cultural and political damage inflicted on Fiji by military rule and dictatorship. United in our freedom we can finally become all we can be and take our place again with pride among the democratic family of nations.

Our agenda in government will be based on the needs of the people as expressed to our party and in this manifesto. As a pressing priority we must begin the task of creating the jobs and income opportunities that are desperately required to deal with the massive problem of growing poverty, unemployment and lost earnings.

When they are poor, a mother and father must battle each day to find the money to feed their children and themselves. They live in the shadow of hunger and want. Up to half of Fiji’s population could be living like that. Whatever the precise statistics, it must be accepted that hundreds of thousands of our people are trapped in poverty.

Their fight for survival becomes even grimmer when prices for food items have reportedly gone up by some 60 per cent and more since the 2006 coup.

SODELPA is not a miracle worker. We can, however, promise that we will give the poor real hope for better days when we rebuild and renew the economy and produce more jobs and income opportunities.

But time is not on our side. The need is immediate; people must be given help NOW to put food on the table.

SODELPA will continue price control on basic food items which will be VAT – free. A list of these items will be established at the beginning of a SODELPA government.

In addition we will allocate $50 million annually for a scheme to subsidise, and reduce, the cost of basic food items. The proposed subsidy on selected basic foods will mean that consumers will pay for these items at prices below the controlled prices. This policy measure is aimed at helping the low income earners to reduce daily living expenses.

Rights and Freedom

In all the years of oppressive military rule our rights and freedoms were removed, violated and severely limited. Fear has been abroad in the land. It is still there.

In 2009 the regime sealed their assault on our rights when they claimed to have abolished Fiji’s supreme law, the 1997 Constitution. They had promised to uphold it but broke that pledge. The rights in that Constitution – rights which belonged to us – were therefore removed.

Many people have been threatened, intimidated and unfairly treated. There has been persecution, physical abuse and the locking up of those considered to be against the regime; other citizens were savagely beaten. Three were brutalised so severely they died. Their names are Sakiusa Rabaka, who was just 19, NimiloteVerebasaga and Tevita Malasebe.

A notorious picture showed indigenous youths as they were forced to sit under the hot sun as a disciplinary measure. It was not clear what “crime” they had committed.

Unionists have been assaulted; pensioners victimised. Religious freedom was denied to the Methodist Church and some of its leaders were arrested.

Decrees which specifically denied legal rights, including those of the indigenous people, were imposed. Censorship was practiced to stop us from reading news of which the interim government did not approve.

Our legal entitlement to choose our own representatives to an elected parliament was aborted to be replaced by a dictatorship of two men. They run the show. We still have no say in the governance of our country.

Many of the human and civil rights contained in the 2013 Constitution the regime imposed on the country are weakened because they can be seriously limited by law. Bainimarama-Khaiyum gave these rights with one hand and took them away with the other.

 The opinions expressed in this column are those of the SODELPA. They are published by the Fiji Sun to enhance free and open debate ahead of the general elections.

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