Fiji PM Criticized For Saying Development Should Primarily Benefit Supporters

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Opposition MPs call on Bainimarama to treat everyone equally

By Siteri Sauvakacolo

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Oct. 28, 2014) – Itaukei Affairs Shadow Minister and member of the Opposition, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, said development funds for Fijians come from all taxpayers as well as foreign donors and they have equal rights for their tax dollars to be used for their wellbeing.

He made the statement in response to comments made by Prime Minister Rear Admiral (Ret) Voreqe Bainimarama that he was a bit worried about continuing with development projects in the Northern Division because some voters didn't vote for the FijiFirst party in the recent general election.

While addressing government officials and some villagers at Naulumatua House in Nabouwalu, Bua, on Saturday, Rear Admiral (Ret) Bainimarama said people in some parts of the Northern Division didn't want developments to take place in their respective settings, prompting them to vote for SODELPA.

Ratu Naiqama, in a statement yesterday, called on foreign aid donors to take heed of the stated position of the Prime Minister and be sure to secure guarantees that the funds they give to Fiji for the benefit of all people are not used primarily to benefit only FijiFirst supporters.

The Cakaudrove chief said foreign countries would do well to tread cautiously when re-establishing relations with the Government.

"The Opposition will be following up in Parliament on this extraordinary threat from the Prime Minister," Ratu Naiqama said.

[PIR editor’s note: Radio New Zealand International reported that ‘Fiji's opposition leader says the Prime Minister giving priority to his supporters in carrying out developments would amount to a breach of the constitution. … The Fiji Sun reports Frank Bainimarama as saying it is only fair the government looks after its supporters first as without them his FijiFirst party would not be in power. … Ro Teimumu Kepa says Mr Bainimarama putting his voters' interests ahead of all others is creating two classes of citizens, against equality provisions of the constitution. … She says she wants to know how Mr Bainimarama would have information on who voted for him, as no numbers or names were printed on ballot papers. … Ro Teimumu says development funds come from all taxpayers of Fiji and foreign donors, and are not the personal funds of Mr Bainimarama to do with as he pleases.’]

He also called on the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum to take appropriate action against the Prime Minister for allegedly breaching sections 1 (a), (d), (e) and (f) of the Constitution, covering Common and equal citizenry, and section 26 of the Bill of Rights (1), (2) and (3) covering Right to equality and freedom from discrimination.

Former prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry has labelled the statement by the PM as 'political blackmail'.

"It is the duty of the government to serve all the people and not discriminate between those who may have supported you or those who may have not.

"This is a very irresponsible statement and I only hope that he is not serious about it. Our policy was very spread across the board- it applies across all the political divide.

Former PM Sitiveni Rabuka declined to comment on the issue as he hadn't read the statements.

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