Link: Pacific Islands Report
Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Political Parties Form Democratic Alliance In Fiji
UFDF denounces government actions, ‘hypocrisy’

By Reginald Chandar

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Jan. 20, 2013) – Fiji's major political parties today said the current government was being hypocritical when demanding "transparency and accountability from everyone except itself."

The leaders on Friday had asked the Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and the Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama to disclose all incomes and assets, including all properties acquired since coming into power in 2006.

They also questioned why the audited accounts of the Prime Minister's Flood and Cyclone Relief Fund were not published for the information of the people and donors.

They also questioned why the Prime Minister was blocking the audit and publishing of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) Regimental Funds and why government accounts and finances, and the Auditor General’s reports have not been published since 2008 as required under the Finance Management Act.

"The government tends to denounce previous governments as being corrupt but at least under these governments, Cabinet salaries were always a matter of public information (not secret) and handled by the Treasury, not a private accounting firm.

The United Front for a Democratic Fiji (UFDF) which comprises the Fiji Labour Party (FLP), National Federation Party (NFP), Soqosoqo Duavata Lewenivanua (SDL), United Peoples Party (UPP), Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions (FICTU) in a joint statement accused Sayed-Khaiyum of dodging issues they raised demanding accountability from Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama and himself.

The UFDF said Bainimarama and Sayed-Khaiyum hold high government office and are required by law to maintain transparency and accountability in the management of public funds and taxpayers’ monies.

They claimed Sayed-Khaiyum was being evasive by claiming that government accountability was not the issue.

"It is very much the issue. The regime is demanding transparency and accountability from everyone else except itself. Isn’t this the height of hypocrisy?" the statement said. "The principles of transparency and accountability, as important aspects of good governance, apply equally to all persons holding high public office whether they are officials of political parties or holding executive government positions.

"Indeed, these principles of good governance are even more important in the case of those in executive government positions such as the PM and the AG as they are responsible for the management of public funds or taxpayers’ monies."

But the Bainimarama Government this afternoon issued a statement saying the issues raised by the UFDF have already been answered. The statement said the release by the UFDF goes against the address by the President to disengage from petty politics and to focus on contributing positively in the formulation and adoption of a new Constitution for the betterment of all Fijians.

"In terms of Government transparency and accountability, these questions have already been addressed and as stated, further laws are also being developed to ensure even greater standards of accountability and transparency for all. Amongst these laws include the Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures) Decree 2013 ("Decree"). Suffice to say, previous governments which have consisted of or were supported by the members of the so-called UFDF, have failed to do so."

"In their rush to personalize matters and engage in petty politics, the release by the so-called UFDF contains a number of factual inaccuracies and anomalies - one of which is that the salaries of all cabinet ministers are in fact paid and processed by the Ministry of Finance and not by any private entity," the statement said.

"The Bainimarama Government does not and will not engage in political bickering, which of course these political parties are used to and which they have been practicing for years. The Bainimarama Government is focused on development and introducing systems, processes and laws that will ensure transparency, accountability, prosperity for all Fijians and true democracy. Accordingly, Government will no longer respond to this already discredited UFDF."

"The release by UFDF also demonstrates how they relish and thrive in such political bickering without having a principled approach. It is quite apparent that in their desperation to not comply with the Decree, they are now clutching at straws."

The new Political Parties Decree 2013 which came into effect on Friday requires all existing parties to have 5,000 financial members - up from less than 200 - within the next month or be de-registered and there is also a restriction on union leaders and other public officers from founding political parties or being members.

[PIR editor's note: In addition, Sayed-Khaiyum said in an interview that the assets of de-registered parties will be turned over to the government. Sayed-Khaiyum also claimed that, if the proposed 5,000 members were to pay a dollar each, the parties could finance the FJ$5005 registration fee without problems.]

The Attorney General earlier stated that the new decree has introduced accountability and transparency for funding and accounts of political parties and sets out a modern and transparent process for the registration and conduct of political parties.

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