Bula vinaka and a good afternoon my fellow Fijians.
Tropical Cyclone Winston has moved far to the west of our shores and is a lot weaker than it was when it hit Fiji. However, we are still experiencing heavy rain throughout our islands, and should remain on high alert for flooding in low-lying areas.
While the worst of the storm is behind us, Winston has left a terrible trail of destruction in its wake. In response, our relief effort is in full swing. We are spreading out all over the country, identifying areas of need and doing everything in our power to provide our people with relief supplies and assistance as fast as we can.
Our response is coordinated and involves our disaster management officials, the RFMF and the police. And I would like to pay tribute to our friends in the region and around the world, along with our local businesses and ordinary Fijians, who are rallying to our assistance in our hour of need. On behalf of the Fijian people, vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.
We’ve received an enormous amount of interest from Fijians here and abroad, and others who recognize our dire circumstances, wanting to provide assistance. We need to make sure that your donations go to the right people. Therefore, all donations must go through our National Disaster Management Office. From there, we can determine how best to deliver these funds where they are needed most and ensure that they are coordinated at a national level.
All overseas donations will be duty and VAT exempt. Donors simply need to obtain a letter from NDMO. So please, reach out to our National Coordinator to receive all the necessary approvals to avoid undue charges.
The need is great and it is also urgent. Every Government agency is working together to deliver aid where it is needed, speedily and efficiently. We cannot afford bureaucratic obstruction and delay. We also need to avoid duplication in the provision of services. So I ask all of the various non-government organisations, religious bodies and community groups who are involved in this effort to go through the NDMO to ensure we get this assistance to the people who need it most.
Unfortunately the recovery process will take time. Perhaps a long time. Almost no part of our nation has been left unscarred. And many of our rural and maritime areas bore the brunt of Winston’s fury. But we are working around the clock to address the needs of our people and whoever you are in Fiji, wherever you are in Fiji, we are doing our best to reach you.
We realise the desperate position that you are in. We realise how traumatic this is for you and your families. And we ask for your patience and understanding. But as Prime Minister, I also want you to know that we will not rest until we have reached you and given you the helping hand you so badly need and deserve.
We have already made a degree of progress in alleviating this crisis. We’ve identified downed power lines and have begun repairing our fallen towers. Power has been restored to some areas, but in others – including our Western Division – damage to our power network is extensive and repairs will take considerable time.
Our international airlines have resumed service, as well as on major domestic routes. Our tourism industry has weathered this storm and the vast majority of our hotels and tourism services are fully operational. Repairs to our schools are underway, because I believe it is important to get our students back to school as soon as possible.
Medical teams and assessment teams have been deployed throughout our islands to provide emergency health services, identify further needs and begin responding – including in our affected maritime areas. We also have also been distributing food rations wherever Fijians have demonstrated an urgent need for assistance.
The destruction caused by this cyclone has also put many Fijians in a tight spot financially. So the Ministry of Finance has met with the banking industry to develop assistance packages. Banks have given assurances that existing client’s loans can be restructured in light of these events. In addition, the Association of Banks in Fiji this Friday will release a new product that will allow Fijians to take out unsecured loans to repair their homes at interest rates below 5% over a five year term. These loans can be applied for over the next three months and final details will be released this Thursday.
FNPF is also making $1000 available to its members for immediate disaster relief, with an additional $5000 available for home repairs. For those who have experienced even greater damage, the FNPF will also offer greater assistance through the housing allocation fund so that you can rebuild your homes and put this disaster behind you as soon as possible.
In the coming days, I will also make an announcement regarding a specific package to assist those who have lost their homes or whose homes have been damaged and need repairs.
Many of our other sectors still require substantial assessment before we can implement appropriate responses. But right now, the priority is on restoring essential services, and supplying our people with sufficient food, water and shelter.
To keep everyone updated on Government’s recovery efforts, the Minister for National Disaster Management will be giving situation reports twice daily at 9:00 am and 4:00 pm. Please listen in because these reports will contain valuable information to get Fiji back on its feet.
My fellow Fijians, I promised you this would be a time of action. It has been and it will be. It is time for Fiji to fight back, a time to stand together as one people and rebuild our beloved country. Over the coming weeks, our resolve and tenacity will be sorely tested. But it is a challenge the Fijian people are more than capable of meeting.
I urge you all to do all you can to assist your fellow Fijians, follow Government’s instructions and put the needs of the less fortunate first during this recovery process. We have suffered a terrible blow and our hearts go out especially to those who have lost family members. But the Fijian spirit is alive and well and together, we will rebuild our great nation.
God bless you all and God bless Fiji. Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.
MEDIA RELEASE: GOVERNMENT EXPANDS COVERAGE OF IMPORTANT TELEVISED EVENTS WITH NEW DECREE
The Attorney-General and Minister for Communications, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, said that the Television (Cross-Carriage of Designated Events) Decree 2014 puts an end to the old system that allowed a single broadcaster to purchase exclusive rights for the coverage of important events. “Many Fijians – especially amongst the poor and marginalised – do not have access to subscription television or even to all three free-to-air television stations. They might only receive one or two stations depending on where they live or what kind of antenna they have,” the Attorney-General explained.
The Attorney-General said that the Bainimarama Government does not want those who cannot afford a subscription television service like SKY or who do not have access to all of the free-to-air channels to miss out on important programming. “This new law ends discrimination between viewers and ensures that more Fijians will be able to watch all these important events,” he said.
“Under the new law, everybody who has access to at least one free-to-air station – FBC, Fiji TV or Mai TV – will now be able to view coverage of the designated events,” he said. The Attorney-General said the law will apply to all different kinds of programming, but that the biggest impact will be on boosting the coverage of major sporting events. “The Bainimarama Government understands how much ordinary Fijians care about sports and we are pleased that this new law will give coverage of top sporting events to many people who have never had it before,” he said. He explained that under the Decree free-to-air television broadcasters must share the cost of the rights to the designated events. The amount each has to pay is in direct proportion to its share of the market.
“We will be buying the rights to these events as a nation, rather than as individual companies. This means that all Fijians now have a right to see all these events,” he said. “Countries such as Australia, India, and Singapore have similar legislation, which has proven to be an effective way to maintain fair market conduct and effective competition in their broadcast industries, as well as to ensure the availability of a comprehensive range of quality television services,” he said. The Attorney-General said that the market share of each of Fiji’s free-to-air television stations has been based on an independent viewership and listenership survey conducted by Clarus Research Group, an internationally-respected survey research firm based in Washington, D.C.
The survey will be made public and posted on Fijian Government’s website – www.fiji.gov.fj – and the Department of Communication’s website – www.communications.gov.fj.
The members of the Electoral Commission that will supervise the 2014 general election have been announced.
The Commission is made up of seven prominent citizens from various walks of life headed by its Chair, leading legal practitioner Chen Bunn Young, who’s a former President of the Fiji Law Society.
The other members are academic Professor Vijay Naidu of USP, the tourism industry leader and marketing expert, James Sowane, accountant and financial advisor Jenny Seeto, the filmmaker and media specialist, Larry Thomas, electoral expert and priest, Father David Arms, and the educationalist and civil society leader, Alisi Daurewa.
The Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Elections, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, said each member of the Commission brings a unique perspective and set of skills to the task of supervising the first genuine democratic election in Fiji’s history.
“All of these outstanding individuals are credible, apolitical and together, will bring integrity to the Commission’s work. They will also make their individual contributions, whether it’s high- level legal expertise in the case of Chen Bunn Young, marketing expertise in the case of James Sowane, financial expertise in the case of Jenny Seeto, existing electoral expertise in the case of Father Arms, communications expertise in the case of Larry Thomas and the broad educational a social expertise of Professor Naidu and Alisi Daurewa”.
“I want to thank them all for accepting their roles on the Commission, which is a vital component of the Bainimarama Government’s plan to hold a free and fair election to the very highest international standards”, he said.
Under the terms of the 2013 Constitution, the Electoral Commission is responsible for the registration of voters and the conduct of free and fair elections.
It is also responsible for voter education, the registration of candidates for election, the settlement of electoral disputes and monitoring and enforcing compliance with any written law governing elections and political parties.
Under the Constitution, the Chair of the Commission needs to either be a judge or a legal practitioner who is able to become a judge, a provision fulfilled by Chen Bunn Young, a senior Lautoka- based solicitor and barrister.
In a related development, the Elections Office has announced that it will soon be seeking applications for 34 key posts in the Office. Within those categories are a total of 230 positions. They include the Deputy Supervisor of Elections, the Director of Electoral Procedures, the Director of Corporate Services and the Director of Communications.
Another 160 staff will be recruited in a second phase later in the year and an additional 14,000 throughout Fiji for the day of the election itself.
The Reserve Bank Board agreed to keep the Overnight Policy Rate (OPR) at 0.5 percent following its monthly Board meeting on 28 November.
Full article: Press Release No.38 – MONETARY POLICY STANCE REMAINS UNCHANGED (PDF)
Following its monthly meeting held on 30 May, 2013, the Reserve Bank of Fiji Board decided to maintain its current accommodative monetary policy stance, with the Overnight Policy Rate (OPR) remaining unchanged at 0.5 percent.
Full article: MONETARY POLICY STANCE REMAINS UNCHANGED.PDF
The International Monetary Fund has downgraded the global growth forecast for 2013 to 3.3 percent, from 3.5 percent growth anticipated earlier in January.
The overwhelmingly positive response to the Draft Constitution and the process of public consultation has prompted the Government to extend the deadline for submissions until the end of the month. The existing extended deadline of April 26th has been moved to April 30th – covering an extra weekend and two more business days. It gives the Government’s legal team more time to hold public meetings in other parts of the country and to conduct more talkback radio sessions. The Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, said the program of public consultation – which includes Nadi and Sigatoka on Monday, will be extended to Taveuni and Savusavu later this week and Kadavu, the Yasawas and other parts of the country at dates to be announced.
“The existing provisions of the Draft have been warmly accepted but, of course, people are asking for clarification on some aspects and we want to engage with them personally,” PM Bainimarama said. The Prime Minister said the public meetings that had already been held in Suva, Labasa, Lautoka and Ba had been a great success. “When people have the provisions explained to them, it’s clear that a great many are satisfied with the document. But as we’ve said all along, we are open to suggestions about how it can be improved.”
The Prime Minister said that while he would have preferred a longer consultation process, time was of the essence. “We need to get the Constitution finalized as soon as possible. So it’s a balancing act between this process and our absolute need to meet the election deadline of September next year. We have 17 months at the most to process the public’s submissions on the Constitution, implement the document, organize the mechanics of the election itself, conduct public education and awareness of the electoral system and begin the political phase,” he said.
The PM said the Government was delighted with the level of public interest being shown in the consultation process. Despite the claims of some politicians, the decision to take the Draft document direct to the country has been a great success. The meetings – conducted by the Attorney General and his team are being well attended and conducted in a spirit of cooperative nation-building.
“The quality of the questions and the submissions also demonstrate that ordinary citizens are not only engaged with the process but have given our constitutional future a lot of thought. I commend them for their interest, their ideas and their desire to move forward and I urge everyone to take advantage of the extended deadline for submissions,” he said.
Submissions on the Draft Constitution will now be accepted up until the close of business on Tuesday, April 30th.