Fiji's NFP tries to overcome election cynicism
Fiji's National Federation Party says it's trying to instil confidence in people to vote in the upcoming election.
Fiji's National Federation Party says it's trying to instill confidence in people to vote in the upcoming election.
The party launched its manifesto this week with a focus on lowering the high cost of living and growing the economy.
The NFP's leader Biman Prasad says an NFP government would lower the sales tax, bring in a master lease system for indigenous agricultural land and a review of the constitution after the September 17th polls.
But he told Sally Round there are hurdles to overcome in getting people to vote at all.
BIMAN PRASAD: We are concerned that not only I think, the apathy but also the fear and the perception that the election process is being manipulated by the Government, and the control of the media and the way in which in some cases Government resources is being perceived to be used by the FijiFirst party to promote its campaign. All this creates a sense of cynicism about the credibility of the elections and whether it is going to be entirely free and fair. What I've said to the Government, is look we have a constitution that you have imposed, we've all decided to fight the election under this constitution because we all want democracy, please let go the controls on the media, please let go the controls on the Election Commission and indeed I think the Election Commission has really become a compliant commission and as I've said they seem to be in hiding. I want to suggest to the Election Commission and the Government to leave the election process with the Election Commission. The Supervisor of Elections should be reporting to the Election Commission and not the Election Commission reporting to the supervisor of the election because it appears that the Election Commission has taken a back seat and that is not good for the perception of the people because the Election Commission should be at the forefront in determining all the processes of the election going forward.
SALLY ROUND: So on your travels around the country during this campaigning period are people telling you, 'oh we're not interested in voting'?
BP: There are some people who are saying that and that is also a big fear factor I think I have consistently talked about this as soon as I became the leader on 29th of March that people should not fear their own government but unfortunately there exists a great sense of fear right across the country, right across the different groups of people, business community, some elements of the business community are very very fearful. Farmers are fearful, and there is an element of fear that has been built over the last six or seven years and we are trying to change that and we're trying to go to the people to tell them exactly what is the real situation, what has happened to the cost of living which has probably become the highest ever in the history of this country. The highest levels of unemployment where 12,000 graduates are now looking for jobs, never ever have we had this situation in this country. 33,000 people registering as of the 30th May at the national employment centre looking for jobs. In our manifesto, it provides a very good platform for the short term for the medium term and the long term economic and political prosperity of this country. In the short term we have announced definite policy about how we're going to reduce the high cost of living, for example we're going to reduce the value added tax from 15 to ten percent. We're also going to look at the high import duties on certain food items and other costs that have been imposed on small businesses, reforms right across the economy so that we can kickstart a real sustainable growth. If we have a very credible election, a credible stable Government formed after the election, in the next four years we could be injecting into Fiji an estimated billion dollars from grants, from our donors, and development partners and indeed foreign direct investment into this country and our ambition is to grow the economy at more than five percent beyond 2015 and that kind of growth will in the medium term address the painful issue of high unemployment in this country.
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