Opinion

Analysis : Debate Intensity A Sign Election Is In Their minds

The intensity of debate in Parliament this week has racheted up the interest over next year’s General Election. Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Mereseini Vuniwaqa could not help
09 Feb 2017 11:00
Analysis : Debate Intensity A Sign Election Is In Their minds

The intensity of debate in Parliament this week has racheted up the interest over next year’s General Election.

Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Mereseini Vuniwaqa could not help but throw in the election campaign in her statement when she appealed to politicians on both sides to advocate against child abuse.

It was a genuine attempt to unmask a social evil that ranks low on most politicians’ campaign agenda. They tend to focus on the economy, jobs and ordinary bread and butter issues.

Yesterday, SODELPA MP Aseri Radrodro, nominated by the leader of Opposition and responding to the ministerial statement by Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, also could not help but mention next year’s general election.

He said with the election “around the corner” FijiFirst Government would be engaged in “all sorts of gimmick” to woo voters.

He was referring to Government policies and initiatives that have spearheaded its development programme.

It’s interesting that in previous sittings, National Federation Party leader and MP Biman Prasad, the designated economy spokesperson, would speak on behalf of the Opposition.

He also responded to the ministerial statement but in his capacity as NFP economy spokesperson.

The split in the role of the Opposition economy shadow minister could be the sign of the changing of the guard in the Opposition ranks.

Again this has come as the Opposition partners position themselves for the election.

Ro Teimumu will exit SODELPA and the Opposition after her Parliamentary term. She had personally approached Mr Prasad after the 2014 General Election to be the Opposition Finance (now economy) Shadow Minister without consulting her caucus.

It was not received well by the SODELPA Parliamentary caucus and set in motion a frosty working relationship between her and other MPs that:

 culminated in the exposure of the controversial Gaunavinaka Report

 the adoption of the amended party constitution with sweeping changes that mandated her stepping down as SODELPA leader

 Led to Sitiveni Rabuka’s election as her successor.

So Mr Radrodro, who other MPs thought was the logical choice for the Opposition economy spokesperson because of his chartered accounting background, yesterday spoke with authority and purpose.

It was evident he had switched on to election mode.

He said he could not reconcile the Government’s “supposed growth” achievements announced by Mr Sayed-Khaiyum with issues that people still grapple with on the ground.

He gave an example of some people and schools still using tents after Tropical Cyclone Winston.

He suggested that we focus more on job creations here than the seasonal worker scheme which we have no control with.

He wanted more joint ventures with overseas investors and advocated more local participation in business.

Mr Prasad said Mr Sayed-Khaiyum’s statement on sustained economic growth needed to be put into context.

He said while the Government was borrowing $5 billion to develop infrastructure, it would have to look for revenue to fund the other sectors. He said that was why the Government was raising taxes.

He said the Government made a big deal about the minimum wage. He claimed there was no national minimum wage and the Wages Council was still there.

He claimed one garment company paid its workers less than minimum wage.

“We need to look at the living wage,” he said. Workers, he said, should be able to work and live above poverty line.

He acknowledged that there had been some improvement in certain areas of the economy.

But he warned Government to be very careful about incentives it was offering.

He said some incentives had been hijacked by business people to make millions at the expense of the poor people.

In the SODELPA bench, Niko Nawaikula, Viliame Gavoka, Jiosefa Dulakiverata, Semesa Karavaki, Ro Kiniviliame Kiliraki, Salote Radrodro and Mr Radrodro kept the Government side busy with questions.

In the first sittings of Parliament for 2017, it’s a positive sign and keeps the Parliamentary tradition alive and the robustness of our democracy. It’s also a sign that the election is very much in the minds of the MPs.

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 



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