Letters to the Editor | Saturday, November 25, 2023

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Taniela Rainibogi during one of his lifts at the Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands. Picture: Meli Laddpeter

Golden Rainibogi

WEIGHTLIFTER Taniela Rainibogi has become an overnight sensation at the Pacific Games after securing three gold medals for Fiji.

His victories came at a time when our country needed it the most after a slow start in Solomon Islands in terms of the medal count, winning with a lift of 157kg in the snatch event, 192kg in the clean & jerk event and securing his third with a 357kg total lift.

Being Fiji’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony, Taniela fully understood what he needed to do in order to bring glory to his country.

What I like the most about Taniela is his champion mentality as in his post-lift interview, he stated that he does not have time to celebrate the win as his focus is to train harder in order to qualify for the Paris Olympics in 2024.

You have the nation’s support my friend!

Vinaka va’levu for your efforts.

RAYNAV CHAND, Nakasi, Nausori

Reinstating the GCC

AS clear as crystal to my memory, that reinstated institution has only served and benefited our chiefs, politicians and the elites as it has been materialised from the beginning.

The common indigenous who I ought to be, the real institution, are still suffering from the murky affairs that the predecessors played their dirty part in Fiji’s history.

As we (commoners) are reaping what you (chiefs and politicians) sowed, we the commoners are yet to see the light or benefit from that institution nor have we reaped a sweet fruit that the GCC has sowed in all its years of existence.

In the history of that institution, records have it that the amount of political interference, uplifting sermons, cascade of empowerment, promises of rescuing and lifting indigenous out of poverty, proclamation of assisting indigenous through utilisation of land etc, but the sad reality is many indigenous Fijians today are still living under the poverty line.

Wake up GCC, what will be your purpose and fundamental functions to the modern and struggling indigenous Fijians today!

“To handle yourself, use your head, to handle others, use your heart” – Eleanor Roosevelt.


Travel expenditure

FIJIFIRST spent $74m in travel (FT 23/11) the Deputy PM Prof Biman Prasad informed Parliament.

Between 2014 and 2022 they spent $50.4m on domestic travel and in the same period spent $24m on overseas travel.

These are figures from the Ministry of Finance.

The figures are mind-blowing.

Is that some kind of world record!

Any idea how much the post-coup regime spent from 2006 to 2013 on travel?

I am reminded here of the saying “Make hay while the sun shines”.

The FijiFirst mob was clearly doing that big time.

RAJEND NAIDU, Sydney, Australia

Rubbish joke

THE measly $40 fine on those two companies for dumping rubbish somewhere in the West definitely takes the joke of the year title.

So they are better off risking a $40 fine than paying contractors thousands to collect and cart to the landfill.

Collection, transportation and dumpsite fee may in fact add up to at least 25 times more than that $40.

If we are serious about the environment, climate change, etc, then our fines should serve as a deterrent, not as a joke.

Dumping rubbish attracting a $40 fine is actually a rubbish joke.

Seriously, very seriously, a rubbish joke, and no one should be laughing.


Improving education

FOR the umpteenth time since independence, the Ministry of Education is wondering how to reduce the dropout rate and looking for “creative and innovative methods of keeping children engaged in classrooms”.

I’d have thought the answer was obvious: teach them in a language they understand, rather than one that is foreign to most of them.

This is of course what already happens in all advanced nations in the world, children acquire basic education in their mother tongue.

Readers who are native speakers of English may care to ponder how much they would have learned at school had the medium of education been French or German or Chinese, and how keen they would have been to go to school every day.

Yet the recent educational “summit” did not even consider medium of education an important topic.

Seems to me the Ministry of Education is sadly lacking in people capable of thinking outside the kateni.


Name and shame

NAMING and shaming the perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence against women could discourage and denounce this shameful behaviour.

Just a thought!

WISE MUAVONO, Balawa, Lautoka

Travelling allowance

TRAVELLING allowances have been reduced but even the minimum allowance of $850.00 is still too much when everything is being paid for.

If everybody in Fiji is said to be equal, the travelling allowances should be the same for everybody.


MPs’ allowances

THE side benefitting for 16 years is sulking about reduction of allowances.

There is noise about when things change for positivity?

I am surprised!

RAYNAV CHAND, Nakasi, Nausori

Fiji made

I ALWAYS support the “buy Fiji Made” initiative even when cost of the locally-produced product is more than the imported ones.

Imagine how much I could have saved all these years if I had just bought the cheaper items.

No wonder my pocket complains of always being empty.


WISE MUAVONO, Balawa, Lautoka

Silent killer

FIFTY lives lost annually to prostrate cancer affecting males is quite high as described by Fiji Cancer Society nurse Karolina Tamani (FT 21/11).

With lots of awareness programs in place, there is a need now to activate more screening programs to diagnose this killer disease.

Prevention remains paramount with healthy lifestyle for your wellbeing.

TAHIR ALI, Hamilton, New Zealand

This year

I THINK when we look back at this year, it will be remembered for road accidents and the deceptive pyramid scheme known as Ebay Shop Online Recruitment.


Ageing is a disability

WE have to accept that ageing is also a form of disability.

Remember during our very young days, we loved to run around to shops more than 10 times without complaining.

In our twenties, we men flex our muscles and can take punches or a hard hitting tackle during a rugby match.

In our 40’s we begin to complain of back pain, sore knees and shoulders and having blurred vision.

In our 60’s onwards, we had our new found friend, known as Mr Cane aka Titiko and lucky if you we get away from prostate cancer, diabetes, hypertension or stroke along the way.

Stay healthy and well folks!

JIOJI MASIVESI, Votualevu, Nadi

Discipline — a culture

DISCIPLINE is an intricate human behaviour

To say discipline is obeying rules

Or code of behaviour is too simplistic

The essence of discipline begins at home

It needs to be instilled and nurtured from childhood

Parents need to set rules and standards for themselves

To be able to govern and direct the behaviour of their children

Discipline recognizes consequences of action and inaction

From the consequences one can perceive the nature of discipline

Every action or inaction results in some form of discipline

Discipline helps us to learn and grow as humans It’s a building -block of our personality

Tragedy challenges discipline

Discipline teaches us hope to cope with adversity

It shapes and balances our thoughts and emotions

So that we maintain our equilibrium

Good leaders inspire others to become naturally disciplined

Effective leaders act as role models

And their actions and performance are infectious

Luring them to emulate and absorb their behaviour

Thereby imbibing discipline in their lives

Lack of discipline can have adverse impacts on the nation

Which may result in social disharmony, intolerance

Corruption, lack of ethics, nepotism, crime, reliance on cigarettes

Alcohol and drugs

Leading to deterioration of human behaviour

Discipline implies respect for everybody

It instills a quality in a person to show respect

Treating people with dignity and humility

Peer pressure leads one towards indiscipline

This is evident in every society

Persons with vulnerable minds get easily swayed by their peers

Even a disciplined person can slip into this quagmire

There is a mistaken belief that physical punishment

Would correct the inappropriate or disobedient behaviour

Physical punishment is a weird concept

Frequently misconstrued in terms of discipline

Can we exact discipline?

Can we appeal for discipline?

Can we demand discipline?

Can we instil discipline through love?

Can we instil discipline through fear?

Would love alone nurture discipline?

Would multi-pronged approach help foster discipline?

We need to reflect on these soul-searching questions

To find a positive pathway to attaining discipline

There is a perceptible difference between punishment and discipline

Punishment focuses on making a child suffer for breaking rules

Discipline focuses on teaching a child to make a better choice next time

Let’s spread discipline as a shared culture

Which defines a disciplined human being

BHAGWANJI BHINDI, Laucala Beach Estate, Nasinu

Utter confusion

THIS week has been a confusing one.

During the parliamentary sitting, the Opposition complained about the usage of Standing Order 51 and for this, I think they deserve a standing ovation.

Then the travel allowance issue came.

One thinks the motion arrived on Fiji time.

Though, the Opposition thinks otherwise.

I am altogether confused as to why in a small country which needs to keep public debt in check and has a minimum wage rate of $4 an hour, why do individuals who get well paid need travelling allowance at all?


Road accidents

WITH the amount of reckless vehicular accidents and road fatalities happening around the country, I am now considering a bulldozer as my mode of transportation, purely for safety reasons.

And no, be rest assured that I won’t be bulldozing any farms.


Nadi Town traffic issue

THE new traffic arrangement in Nadi Town made effective a few years ago on trial basis appears to have failed to achieve the desired result of decongesting the roads.

Rather, I believe it has greatly inconvenienced the commuters who now face overcrowding of vehicles caused by the creation of one way.

The main street from Westpac to Nadi bridge for example, has been made one way which makes no sense to me.

In my view, this change was not needed after you had put the traffic lights to take care and allow traffic on various lanes to flow smoothly.

Congestion will not be addressed unless and until you have opened more bypass roads and bridges.

Unfortunately, we don’t hear of any plans that is going to change things for the better as far as our town’s traffic woes are concerned.

Having said that, I think it is fair to say that we remove the new arrangement and return to the old one as soon as possible.

Please give it a thought.


Rental cars

RECENTLY, there have been several letter writers in this column expressing their disappointment regarding rental car companies.

Most of the writers were concerned about the quality of cars provided to them.

It is indeed alarming to note that rental car companies often offer vehicles that are nearly 15 years old.

When people come from overseas and pay over $100 per day for rental cars, they expect a comfortable ride, not cars that rattle or have other issues.

It is high time for the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to change regulations that would prevent old cars from being used as rental cars.

Perhaps vehicles that are more than five years old should not be allowed for use as rentals.

Let’s hope the LTA takes swift action on this matter.


What is FLP’s plan?

I REFER to Fiji Labour Party’s (FLP) press release “taking from the poor and giving to the rich”.

This is not the first time the FLP has criticised the 2023-2024 Budget.

Inflation is a worldwide problem, and no government worldwide has been able to solve the problem of inflation.

What they have done is to simply play with monetary policy by increasing interest rates with the hopes that the high cost of borrowing will curtail demand which in turn will suppress demand and when demand falls, prices fall, simple economics.

Recent data in UK, US and Canada does show that inflation has started to come down, Inflation data released in Canada recently shows Canadian inflation is down from a high of 9 per cent two years ago to a low of 3.1 per cent, but food inflation is still high only down slightly from 5.8 per cent to 5.1 per cent year over year.

Lowering high food prices has been a tough cookie to crack for governments worldwide.

To date, the FLP has not presented a concentrate plan as to which specific measures they would implement to bring down the cost of food, what will they do to reduce public debt and what they will do to grow the economy.

I think they know there are tough choices to make within the fiscal space Fiji currently finds itself in.

They talk about the growing public debt, will the FLP reduce the size of the civil service to bring expenditure under control?

Will the FLP slash expenditure on infrastructure to control spending which will impact much needed infrastructure that has been severely neglected?

Fiji needs infrastructure investments (IT, roads, bridges, communications, water, and power grid etc that provides a base for investors to leverage off.

Will the FLP decrease VAT back to 9 per cent decreasing Government’s revenue and increasing the deficit.

Will the FLP impose heavy tax on the so-called rich and corporations (according to the Fiscal Review Report there are not that many rich people in Fiji) and chase away investors that are crucial for economic growth?

Really, what is their plan to reduce food inflation, reduce public debt and grow the economy.

No budgets are ever perfect as it will never satisfy everyone but the 2023-2024 Budget is sensible in that it slows down the rate of increase of the budget deficit, starts to set the course to bring down public debt, protects the most vulnerable in society by increasing social assistance and maintaining zero rated VAT on basket of goods with measures to increase Government revenue to pay for increases in social assistance and infrastructure development.

A balanced approach.

It sends a message of confidence to investors that Government is serious about getting its fiscal house in order because no investor will invest in a country that is heading towards a fiscal disaster.

Look at Argentina, once an economic powerhouse today has inflation running at 100 per cent and the Government is literally printing money to stay afloat.

Only by growing the economy and providing good paying jobs and diversifying the economy will Fiji be able to solve its long term fiscal and
economic problem, the 2023-2024 budget is a good start.

SANJAY PRASAD, Vancouver, Nadi

The officer in boots

THE 26-year-old law enforcement officer, Sunny Deol, is no stranger to football fans.

A rising football star in his own right and former Nadroga and current Navua and Suva Futsal district rep, Sunny will don the Fiji Police Force jumper against Army when the two sides battle for supremacy during the Vodafone Ratu Sukuna Soccer Tournament scheduled for next Wednesday.

Sunny is a humble player and law-abiding citizen.

He is skilful and has made a mark in district soccer.

Named after Sunny Deol who is a legendary Bollywood actor, film director and producer, Sunny shared his humble beginnings, coming from a farming background.

He shared that his family worked until it was dark, after which they would come home, had dinner, and found time to study before sleeping.

Sunny’s passion for soccer started at an early age when he attended and represented Tuva Primary School and Nadroga Arya College.

He has never looked back and has become a household name when it comes to Futsal or 11-a-side soccer.

He will play a critical role for police when they face Army in the annual clash.

All the best, Sunny Deol!


Fines and penalties

FINES and penalties should be punitive in nature, that is, are intended to punish and/or deter certain activities or behaviour.

Fines should hit offenders hard on their mind, body, soul and pockets.

Based on the above, do you think the measly fine of $40 imposed by the Lautoka City Council on each of the two traders who illegally dumped rubbish in Ambaca deter them from re-offending?


Next time they will find a new spot to dump rubbish.

If the council was restrained by the existing level of fines, they could have at least named the offenders for the public to do the rest.

Compare the above with a pensioner from New Zealand who was fined $3400 by Biosecurity in Australia for failing to declare that she was carrying a chicken sandwich with her.

The horrendous fine, which she had to pay, affected her not only mentally but also her community back in New Zealand so much so that a generous entrepreneur felt sorry and reimbursed her.

Back in Fiji, one would find that fines and penalties imposed by the Government and its agencies are ridiculously low and need an urgent review.

In most cases, the only action required (with some exceptions), is amendments to relevant regulations with corresponding amendments to the fines and penalties table.

There is no need to go through the laborious and time-consuming process of amending Principle Acts.


Name change

I HAVE been told that the Lautoka City Council wants to sell the naming rights of Churchill Park.

After all the failed projects such as the night market, coffee market, swimming pool, Churchill Park upgrade where the ground nor the lights are up to standard, LCC wants to sell naming rights of Churchill Park.

Hon minister can the people have the local government elections please so the ratepayers can have a say in what they want and what they don’t want.

Gone are FijiFirst days where things were shoved to the people telling us what was good and what was bad.

Now it’s our choice.


Stewart St hazard

THERE is an electrical wire that is wrapped around the lamp post at Stewart St in Suva with one end still attached to the timber wooden cross piece at the top of the lamp post.

The other end is convolved around the lamp post with the attachments and coiled at about three feet from the pavement level.

This may be live and dangerous and the people who use the street are exposed to great risks.

There are no administration controls or written signage placed where the hazard is.

The EFL website advisory states that treat all exposed wire as live wire.

I believe in the EFL Act it states that any person who tampers with or adjusts any installation or part thereof to cause or to be likely to cause danger to human life or limb or damage to any other property commits an offence and is liable upon conviction to a fine prescribed by regulations or to a term of imprisonment.

However, I wonder who has caused the breach in this instance.


Travel allowance

FINANCE Minister Prof Biman Prasad was very quick to point out that the FijiFirst government had spent $74m on overseas and local travel between 2014 and 2022.

This amounts to around $8m a year on average, rather high for a poor nation such as ours.

However, many of us would like to know how much has Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and his team paid themselves from December as they too have travelled extensively over the past 11 months.

Can the minister provide the amounts paid to each of them, please, so we can have a fair idea of their spending.

And minister, when will you publish the accounts of the Girmit celebration and conference, overdue now by more than five months?

ABNESH PERMAL, Valelevu, Nasinu

Overseas allowances

SO Honourable Manoa Kamikamica and few other MPs/ministers had already reduced their travelling allowances even before they were passed in Parliament sitting this week on reduced travelling allowances.

While other MPs and members of the Opposition argued and perhaps rejected them because they were greedy and self-serving preying on taxpayers’ hard earned money.

I remember that movie, Only fools and horses.

Thank you Mr Sweet and other selfless ministers/MPs.

JIOJI O TORONIBAU, Navetau, Tunuloa

MPs’ allowances

FIRST and foremost I would like to thank the Coalition Government and in a special way the Minister of Finance Biman Prasad for listening to the voice of the people rather than the Opposition.

As far as the move by the Coalition Government is concerned regarding the slash in daily overseas allowances for MPs which is long overdue according to Deputy Prime Minister Manoa Kamikamica, I am bitterly disappointed by the Opposition’s responses especially by Inia Seruiratu and Jone Usamate.

Mr Seruiratu in his response regarding the matter said, “Now you come here to make sure you look good? It’s illogical, doesn’t make sense.” (FT 23/11)

I would like to remind the Leader of the Opposition Inia Seruiratu that during a challenging time where many Fijians are struggling to cope with the rise in cost of living and heavy national debt, the move is very much logical and for us ordinary Fijians it does make sense.

Mr Usamate in trying to justify the highly paid overseas allowances which was introduced by the FijiFirst government said, “Sometimes you buy some coffee or lunch because that’s where the benefit comes from and personal relationships created over time, that’s why all these allowances are there.” (FT 23/11)

This response by the Opposition member is pathetic and ridiculous especially coming from a member of Parliament.

What benefit and personal relationship is he chanting about when buying coffee or lunch for over $2000 daily?

Now with many members of the Opposition present abstained from voting the motion to slash MPs’ perks, I am not surprised that they are continuing on the legacy of the FijiFirst party when they were in power, them first and people later.

Fijians should be aware not to vote for this kind of self-serving politicians.


Carbon emissions

THE Paris Agreement of 2015 set the target of a 42% reduction in global carbon emissions by the end of the decade.

However, according to the headlines in The Fiji Times on 24/11, pages 36 and 37, “The world fails to cut emissions”.

It appears that little has changed in the past eight years since the Paris Agreement.

Despite numerous high-level meetings of world leaders, impactful speeches, and agreements reached, there seems to be minimal progress.

These gatherings appear to be occasions where world leaders convene, deliver eloquent speeches written by others, stay in luxurious hotels, and then return to their respective countries with no tangible efforts made to address climate change.

Another such meeting is scheduled for December.

May God bless the Pacific Island countries that endure the full impact of climate change.


FNPF pension issue

PLEASE allow me to respond to Mr Eremodo Kalivetau, FNPF PRO and Communications staff member who wrote on “Pension duration” in this open column (FT 23/11) replying to a letter by former high school principal, Dewan Chand (FT17/11), a fellow retiree and FNPF pensioner.

Mr Kalivetau clarifies the lifetime nature of pensions but among the FNPF products offered to pensioners weren’t their higher pensions terminated within a specific period?

I strongly object to his statement that “the fund reiterates its commitments to the strategic decision made in 2012 to restructure the pension scheme … to ensure the sustainability of the fund for the benefit of current and future pensioners”.

The reforms undertaken in 2011-2012 were by decrees promulgated by a military-backed regime that was deemed to be illegal by the Fiji Court of Appeal (April 9, 2009), and not a democratically elected government.

The same government also passed decree 51 to prevent any class action by affected pensioners from seeking redress in any court of law.

Like Mr Chand, I would like to see this decree removed so that affected pensioners can seek legal adjudication on the matter.

In his national budget address, Professor Biman Prasad stated that the abrupt reduction of pensions in 2012 was illegal.

This acknowledgment was received most positively by pensioners.

Mr Kalivetau’s statement regarding the Fund’s commitment to the restructure of the pension scheme evidently means that he and the current FNPF board support what was a breach of obligations by the Fund to pensioners at that time, and what was illegal, immoral, and detrimental to pensioners who had in good faith paid their provident fund dues throughout their working lives.

All FNPF members and pensioners want the Fund to thrive and be sustainable but not by unilaterally breaching its agreed obligations to pensioners.


Why at pensioners’ expense?

IN his reply to Mr Dewan Chand, Mr Eremodo Kalivetau PRO and Communications staff of FNPF, says the measure was taken to address the inherent challenges and ensure the sustainability of the fund for the benefit of current and future members.

He further says the objective was to safeguard the financial health of the Fund in the long term.

My question to the honourable gentleman is why at the expense of these pensioners and FNPF is healthy financially now, it should be reinstated.

FNPF is funding everywhere lavishly.