Professor Wadan Narsey (24 August 2014)
There continues a pretense of national debates between Fiji First Party representatives and other party representatives, in which allegedly independent journalists from Fiji Sun, FBC and Fiji TV energetically grill opposition political party leaders and candidates, while sympathetically allowing Fiji First leaders all the leeway they want.
The latest was a one-sided grilling of Mr Mahendra Chaudhry by Ms Shammi Lochan, the latest bright spark for the Aina program, a worthy successor to Veena Bhatnagar who ruthlessly, but smoothly and suavely, previously grilled Professor Biman Prasad in a totally one-sided affair (she will go far in politics).
Two allegedly neutral media personalities, Matai Akauola and Veena Bhatnagar revealed their true colors by standing as candidates for Fiji First Party.
Journalists seem not to be aware that Mr Aiyaz Khaiyum (Attorney General and also Minister for Elections has publicly instructed them, nay exhorted them, to beyond the “he says this and he says that” type of superficial journalism, and ask more penetrating analytic questions.
It seems that our journalists suffer strange memory losses and get stuck for questions on their programs, with none willing to emulate the tenaciousness of a certain Riyaz Sayed Khaiyum who did a hilarious but penetrating interview with Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka, while both were trotting along the sea wall opposite the Pony Club in Laucala Bay. (It would seem that Riyaz is playing a somewhat opposite role these days, to people in power).
But if the pronouncements of some of our pro-Bainimarama journalists (like Jyoti Pratibha) are anything to go by, it is clear that professors of economics (like Professor Biman Prasad) have nothing of value to contribute to the debate on economic policy for Fiji compared to our knowledgeable journalists, then even unemployed professors with forty years of experience in Fiji, need not wait for any invitations to front media panel discussions with political candidates.
Let me therefore suggest some analytical questions that Peceli Rokotuivuna, Edwin Nand, Jo Tuwere, Nemani Delaibatiki, Jyoti Pratibha, Shammi Lochan, Mika Loga, Stanley Simpson can print and have before them, when Rear Admiral (retired) Bainimarama appears on their programs, to answer on his record since 2000, and particularly from 2006 as an un-elected self-imposed Prime Minister).
I also suggest that parties can print these questions, circulate it to their supporters who can ring in to ask questions of Fiji First Party.
(“he says this and that” statements are in black, and the analytic questions are in red):
1. Since we have been digging up the dirt on Chaudhry’s past, is it true that you were told by your intelligence about planning of the 2000 coup six months before, and also the exact date of the coup a week before, but you did nothing?
2. You say you did the 2006 coup on the grounds that there had been widespread corruption and electoral fraud under Qarase.
a. Since you have not found any evidence after eight years in government, were you being less than truthful?
b. Has there been any corruption in your government these last eight years and is that why you are not releasing any of the Auditor General’s Reports since 2006?
3. You said (in a Decree) that your own appointed Constituent Assembly would discuss and approve the Ghai Draft Constitution which followed all your decree requirements including immunity, yet you rejected the Yash Ghai Draft.
a. What parts of your decrees did the Commission not follow?
b. Since you could have asked for changes to the draft, did you not trust the People’s Constituent Assembly?
4. Your current Chief Justice, Anthony Gates had clearly ruled in 2001 that no person had the powers to abrogate a constitution
a. Who gave you or Iloilo the power to abrogate the 2009 Constitution?
b. So who gave you the powers to impose the 2013 Constitution?
c. Why did you not set up a Constituent Assembly for your own 2013 Constitution?
5. You say you believe in the separation of the judiciary from the Executive and the independence of the judiciary.
a. Why then did you throw out of court, the FNPF pensioners’ case which was challenging your unilateral reduction of pensions from 15% to 9%?
b. Don’t you believe in the separation of the judiciary from the Executive?
c. Do you not trust the judiciary you yourself appointed, to be independent and fair?
6. You say that your government is transparent and accountable.
a. Why then have you adamantly refused to release the Auditor General Reports since 2007?
b. Are you hiding serious corruption of your own?
7. You say your government is transparent and accountable.
a. Why then have you refused to reveal what salaries you were paid from 2010 to 2013, and why through a private accounting company?
b. Is it because your salaries then were much higher than what you have reported for the elections?
8. You say that you are fully accountable to the tax-payers.
a. Why then do you refuse to make public all the reports on the FNPF and large contracts involving tax-payers’ funds?
b. Why do you and your PS Finance refuse to answer public queries as to who is auditing the one billion dollar expenditure of the Fiji Roads Authority
c. What are the salaries of the top executives of the FRA
d. What are the profits being made by the companies contracting to the FRA?
9. You say that you are financially responsible.
a. Why then have you significantly escalated the Public Debt without the approval of an elected parliament?
b. Why do you present misleading statistics on Net Deficit as Perc. Of GDP which excludes the revenues from asset sales?
c. Can you tell us why Debt per Household has increased by more than 30% under you government?
10. You say often that you are here to help the poor.
a. Why then have you significantly worsened social justice and income distribution by reducing corporate tax and income tax at the higher levels by 33% (thereby giving more than $100 million extra to the rich)
b. And increased the tax burden on the poor while increasing VAT (which hurts the poor and the middle classes more) and which is now the most important source of government revenue.
11. You say that MIDA will independently protect the media.
a. But why do you still practice media censorship
b. Why do you extend the license for Fiji TV only on a six-monthly basis and
c. Why is the MIDA Chairman not responding to public questions about the refusal of newspapers to print critical letters?
12. You say that you will always protect the indigenous people, their land and qoliqoli rights, and their culture.
a. Why do you then undermine the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?
b. Who gave you the authority to abolish the Great Council of Chiefs which has always been part of Fiji’s Constitutions?
13. You often give speeches that say you believe in green sustainable growth.
a. Why is it then that large areas of mangroves have been cut all over Fiji and reclaimed, breaking all our environment laws and commitments?
b. Who exactly gave the approvals and why is no civil servant giving any answers?
14. You say that everyone is equal under your government.
a. Why do you then practice gross nepotism for your close family members
b. Why do you force civil servants to retire at age 55 but you and your brother stay on,
c. Why do you have differential treatment for convicted criminals
d. Why are you sending targeted persons to jail for misdemeanors while demanding and amnesty for yourself from 2000 to 2014 elections?
15. You say that the people of Fiji will know the value of your government by your deeds around the country.
a. Why then do you spend more than a million dollars a year on a foreign company Qorvis, when you have a Ministry of Information there to do your communication work?
16. You accused the Qarase Government of using the Agricultural Scam to buy votes just before the 2001 and 2006 elections.
a. Why are you yourself still using tax-payers funds just weeks before the elections to woo voters?
17. You have said that the elections will be free and fair.
a. Why then have you used ad hoc decrees at the last minute, to disqualify opposition party candidates from standing (merely because they have tried to educate themselves overseas), but you do not apply the same restrictions to your civil servants?
18. You proudly boast that your military government is the “first ever to do this and the first ever to do that” BUT
a. is it not true that the military did a coup in 1987 and stopped the NFP/Fiji Labor Party government of Dr. Bavadra, Jai Ram Ram Reddy and Mahendra Chaudhry after just one month in government?
b. is it not true that military soldiers did a coup in 2000 and stopped the FLP government of Mahendra Chaudhry from completing their term after just one year in government?
c. is it not true that in 2006, you and the military did a coup and stopped the SDL/FLP government of Qarase of completing their term after just 1 year?
d. is it not true that you have now had eight years in government, and in the first five years GDP was totally stagnant, employment went down, real incomes reduced by 30%, poverty increased by 50% and the sugar output collapsed by 50%?
e. is it not true that the good economic growth of the last three years is due almost entirely to the extraordinary increase of one billion dollars of capital expenditure being spent on roads etc in just 2 years (2013 and 2014), and some private investment encouraged by the elections about to be held and a return to an accountable parliamentary government?