Opposition Members Of Parliament Failed To Show Up At A National Budget Information Event

Opposition informed the organisers via text message at 1.50pm they would not attend the 1pm event.
30 Jul 2020 12:32
Opposition Members Of Parliament Failed To Show Up At A National Budget Information Event
SODELPA member and Opposition Leader Sitiveni Rabuka (left) and NFP’s Opposition member Biman Prasad outside Parliament on July 29, 2020. Photos: Kelera Sovasiga

Opposition did not show up to a 2020-2021 National Budget information event, which was organised for them, and did not tell civil servants of their no-show until 50 minutes later.

However, over the past three days, Opposition Leader Sitiveni Rabuka, National Federation Party leader Biman Prasad and their teams were singing a different tune.

They said in Parliament that Government needed to include them and hold summits to have a range of views on economic issues.

Yesterday, Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum revealed in Parliament that days before the Budget announcement, an event was organised, especially for the Opposition MPs.

He revealed that a team of civil servants, including Fiji Revenue and Customs Service (FRCS) staff, geared up to listen to Budget submissions and give their views. The Opposition office had told the organisers within Government that five of its MPs would attend the event at 1pm.

On the day of the event, at 1.50pm – 50 minutes later – Opposition told the organisers via a text message that they would not be attending.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the opposition was given time to come and give their viewpoints on the Budget.

“What really caught my attention was that the civil servants who were all geared up and there, actually could not believe it,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

“They were all geared up and had been working for many nights on the Budget, they had people from FRCS, the people from the Ministry of Economy…15 of them.

“And when I told them that the opposition is coming, they waited for 40 to 50 minutes and when I told them the opposition was not coming, there was a look of disgust on their faces.”

Intellectual dishonesty

With the Opposition caught out in their attempts to undermine the Budget, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said this showed intellectual dishonesty.

He said on one side figures were being criticised on the other, the same used by opposition members to suit their arguments.

He made reference to a Bollywood actor, Kader Khan. In one of the movies in the 1980s, Mr Khan portrayed the role of an opposition to the chief minister.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said he recalled this movie because this was what the reaction of the opposition was.

He said in the movie, Khan called up his chosen reporter and told him if the chief minister travels to a flood-stricken zone in a helicopter then the headline should read: “Minister travels by helicopter while people suffer”.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said Khan also told the reporter, if the minister travels by car, the headline should read: “Minister takes his time while suffering people await”.

He drew this analogy referring to NFP’s Mr Prasad and his preferred media.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said increasing incomes taxes, company taxes and cutting civil service pay was not the approach needed at a time when the world was reeling from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

careFIJI App

The house was told by Mr Sayed-Khaiyum that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had announced that 40 per cent of the nation had downloaded the COVID-19 app.

He said this was not the case in Fiji because the opposition was constantly trying to scare people that the app was not good.

He said what people did not realise was that when borders open, the tourists coming in would be looking at the nation’s ability to provide that health care and contact tracing was part of that.

Proactive approach

While no one knew if the borders would open or if there was going to be more waves of COVID-19, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the Budget was positioning Fiji to be ready for any scenario.

He said this was ensuring that the people who benefitted the most were Fijians who needed the ease.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said he thanked the many ordinary Fijians who contributed to the formulation of the Budget.

“We need to be proactive, we cannot react to situations, we cannot be caught with our pants down,” he said.

“If you look at all the measures that have been announced, first in respect of the unemployment benefit of $100 million that has been announced, in respect to the increase in social welfare, in respect to the Police for the law and order situation, in respect to the increase in agriculture, in respect to the capacity building in the civil service, all of these are not reacting but pre-positioning ourselves.”

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

Feedback:  shalveen.chand@fijisun.com.fj

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