Politics

NFP accuses PM of “blame game” on sugar

The National Federation Party says that the Fiji First Government alone has politicised the sugar industry with nepotism in appointments which have adversely affected Fiji’s sugar industry. NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad made this comment yesterday in a press briefing while responding to the Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama’s statement during the public meeting with Sugar Cane Growers […]

Salote Qalubau

July 30, 2016 10:15 am

The National Federation Party says that the Fiji First Government alone has politicised the sugar industry with nepotism in appointments which have adversely affected Fiji’s sugar industry.

National Federation Party leader Proffesor Biman Prasad during the press conferene today. (Luke Nacei/Newswire)
National Federation Party leader Professor Biman Prasad during the press conference yesterday. (Luke Nacei/Newswire)

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad made this comment yesterday in a press briefing while responding to the Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama’s statement during the public meeting with Sugar Cane Growers at Penang Sangam in Rakiraki last Saturday.

The PM had said that those spreading misinformation in the sugar industry had caused a lot of misunderstanding.

BAINIMARAMA: “I know there’s been a lot of talk about not enough being done for sugar cane, especially in the wake of the two new bills that are now before a standing committee of Parliament. Certain Opposition politicians and former politicians have been spreading a lot of misinformation about what is in these bills.”

He assured those present at the meeting that the bill would not deprive sugarcane farmers of their rights.

BAINIMARAMA: “I will always be straight with you. If something cannot be done, I will tell you so. I have and will be honest with you always. And I can assure you that these bills will not adversely affect you as individual cane farmers. And remember that your rights will always be protected under the Constitution.”

“Unfortunately, I have to say to you today that a lot of the comments that have been made by people like Mahendra Chaudhry, Biman Prasad and others are completely false. As usual, they are trying to politicize the sugar cane industry. And they are trying to use you for their own political gain. “

Dr Prasad said the Prime Minister, his military regime and Fiji First government officials needed to face the facts that they had failed to revive the sugar industry.

PRASAD: “Mr Bainimarama forgets the interim government formed a month after the December 2006 military coup tinkered with the Sugar Cane Growers Council on the pretext of reforming the sugar industry.The painful result of those reforms, the subsequent dissolution of the SCGC (Sugar Cane Growers Council) and destruction of the last vestiges of democracy is testimony to the huge decline of the industry under the Bainimarama Government, both as a military regime and Fiji First Government.

He said the number of active growers since the coup has significantly reduced by 5,764 farmers which reflected in a decline in cane production from 3.22 million tonnes in 2006 (pre-coup) to 1.84 million tonnes last season.

PRASAD: “With the destruction caused by TC Winston, this year’s crop will be reduced further. So will the sugar production. This is the reality. The only improvement has been in TCTS (tonnes of cane to tonnes of sugar)  from 10.4 in 2006 to 8.3 last year. But this cannot be maintained this year.”

Mr Prasad added that the PM was not doing any favours for Sugar cane growers by increasing the size of his appointed Council to include one representative from each of the eight cane growing districts.

PRASAD: “This is making the SCGC (Sugarcane Growers Council) more draconian and dictatorial. And worse still, a toothless tiger or completely subservient to the Fiji First Government.Currently, the undemocratic Council comprises of 9 appointees including 6 from the three Cane Producers Associations, two Divisional Commissioners (North and West) and a representative of the Sugar Ministry.”

“The new proposed SCGC will therefore have a total of 17 Members who will all be beholden to the PM because they are his appointees. Even if the 6 representatives of the Cane Producers Association disagree with any proposal, they will be outnumbered and outvoted.”

He said it would be easy to change the Master Award and that the Prime Minister was deceiving farmers by saying the award can only be changed if both the Council and FSC agree to the changes.

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