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SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, June 21) – Interim Cabinet Minister Lak Ram Vayeshnoi says the 2006 coup was a "Godsend" and army commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama "a man of vision".

Vayeshnoi, the interim Minister of Youth, Sports, Employment Opportunities and Productivity, made the speech as chief guest at the Republic of Fiji Military Forces Engineers Regiment Trade Trainees Graduation Parade today.

Before explaining reasons for the December 5 takeover of the Laisenia Qarase-led Government, Vayeshnoi said the graduates would like to know the challenges that face them and the country.

"The economy under the previous administration was in a state of serious decline with public debt doubling in a space of 5 short years," he said.

"Where it took the Alliance, Labour and the SVT governments 30 years to accumulate a public debt of FJ$1.2 billion [US$753 million] as of November 1999, it required the SDL government a mere 5 years to double this figure to close to FJ$2.3 billion [US$1.44 billion].

During this time, racist and divisive policies, numerous instances of corruption and corrupt practices and little respect for the rule of law - all of which were an anathema for investment and economic growth.

According to an international agency report on Fiji for 2005, rampant corruption saw almost one third of every dollar being unaccounted for. It was for this reason that the events of 5th December were a Godsend for many of our peoples, especially the ordinary person, who were continuously penalised by one form of taxation or penalty under the previous administration.

It was a case of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer!"

[PIR editor’s note: According to PIR archives, an Australian economist in November last year questioned a new Fiji tax scheme that was to be implemented by the Qarase administration for 2007. This new scheme would have increased poverty levels in the country if enacted.]

Vayeshnoi then spoke of the ills of corruption, quoting Lee Kwan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore, Monseñor Luis Bambarén - the head of the Peruvian Bishops Conference, and Jack Straw, British Home Secretary.

He said that as a result of the actions taken by the military on December, "our streets are much safer, instances of home invasions have all but finished, serious crime is on the decline and fraud is being uncovered on a daily basis by FICAC".

"The economy is being resuscitated by the sound fiscal management policies of the interim administration and as a result exports for the 1st quarter up 10 percent for the same period last year.

Much of the credit of the quick recovery of the economy and the sense of collectiveness and inclusiveness must be given to the military commander who I see as a man of vision, of steadfast principles and of great honesty and integrity."

Vayeshnoi said the Commander "effectively removed all vestiges of racial discrimination in this country, [and today it moves on] steadily and unburdened by racial or ethnic considerations," he said.

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