Fact Checking Mr Chaudhry

EDITORIAL-So the faltering efforts to revive the politics of sugar continue. The Fiji Labour Party-linked National Farmers Union held a march in Labasa on Saturday. Labour leader and National Farmers
29 May 2017 10:40
Fact Checking  Mr Chaudhry
Mahendra Chaudhry

EDITORIAL-So the faltering efforts to revive the politics of sugar continue. The Fiji Labour Party-linked National Farmers Union held a march in Labasa on Saturday. Labour leader and National Farmers Union general secretary Mahendra Chaudhry claimed 400 famers took part.

One of our journalists said there were about 100 and not all of those seemed to be farmers. We were not alone reporting only about 100. It’s clear Labour/National Farmers Union and its rival National Federation Party/Fiji Canegrowers Association are playing their old game of sugar politics.

Both see the cane belt vote as critical to their slim hopes of playing a seriously significant role in next year’s general elections.

This is why you will hear so much negativity from the Opposition side of the political divide when it comes to sugar. They will criticise anything if they think it gains them a vote. No matter how unviable what they propose might be.

Last week Mr Chaudhry’s National Farmers Union were demanding a minimum guaranteed cane price of $100 a tonne and $10 top up from the Government for their fourth cane payment. Earlier, this month the NFP-linked Fiji Cane Growers Association, had the NFP leader Mr Prasad sending a message: “Vote for us and we will rebuild and reopen Rakiraki’s Penang sugar mill.”

Are they for real?

The never-stay-down Mr Chaudhry, as always, lives in hope some of his public utterances will gain votes and not be scrutinised too closely. He said he was extremely pleased with the Labasa turn out and the resolve shown by the farmers. Privately, he must have been dismally disappointed with such meagre support in such a major cane farming area.

Undettered despite this setback, Mr Chaudhry said on Facebook:  “The Government and FSC should take heed of their legitimate demands. The Union will now mobilise farmers nationwide to secure their rights.”

Now for some fact checking.

The Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum has reiterated in Parliament that Mr Chaudhry and his party/union must talk on facts.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum, as always, has the figures and the facts. Mr Sayed-Khaiyum has already confirmed that there would be no deduction when farmers received their 4th Cane Payment and the Sugar Tribunal, as per the Master Award, had announced the 4th cane payment of $10.57. This was expected to take the total cane payment to $72.41 for the 2016 crop and as a result of this determination, total of approximately $14.57 million was to be paid out.

Government saw that out of this $14.57million nearly $6.7 million will be deducted from individual cane farmers for respective payments they have to make to iTaukei Land Trust Board, the Fiji Development Bank, Lands Department and the South Pacific Fertilisers.

Many suffered because of Cyclone Winston and Government decided with FSC that because of this Government will pick up payment of deductions of $6.7 million.

None of the farmers will have any deduction made from the 4th cane payment. Not by way of a loan but by way of a grant. This was to ensure there are enough funds for next cane season and enough funds for their planting and themselves.

Government recognised the fact that farmers from Rakiraki to Lautoka each took out a loan of $1000 from the Sugar Cane Growers Fund after Tropical Cyclone Winston. This amounted to more than $3 million. Government would also pay for it.

So Government stands firm that farmers in the North are not being neglected and Mr Sayed-Khaiyum has the figures to support it. Out of $6.7 million, $3.3 million went to the farmers supplying the Labasa mill, he said. So nearly half or almost half of that money went to farmers in Labasa.

A National Farmers Union petition claiming that none of the money has gone to Labasa farmers is completely and absolutely false, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum pointed out.

This is a fact that canefarmers would do well to heed. In fact look to a lot of fact checking in the months ahead. Old-style Opposition politicians like Mr Chaudhry will make their emotion-laden claims in their desperation to win votes in the canebelt, just as they did in times past.

But times have changed. The FijiFirst Government, as Mr Sayed-Khaiyum has done over the past few days, will calmly shoot down these claims with facts


Feedback: losirene.lacanivalu@fijisun.com.fj

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