Fiji Labour Party - Activities Report: 1999-2000

published August  2001

ACTIVITIES REPORT 1999 - 2001

Delegates Conference 27 July 2001 - Tavua

We last met on 13th August 1999 in Lautoka in circumstances totally different from today. The Fiji Labour Party was then in power, leading a Peoples Coalition government. We had been in office for 3 months, having scored a stunning victory in the May 1999 general elections.

Our Coalition partners were PANU and Fijian Association Party. After the elections, we invited the 3 VLV members, two independent general elector members and the sole Rotuman elected member to join the government. With their acceptance, the Peoples Coalition ranks swelled to 58 in a House of 71.

The composition of the House of Representatives was as follows:

Government

Fiji Labour Party 37
Fijian Association Party 11
Party of National Unity 4
VLV 3
Independents 3 58

Opposition

SVT 8
NVTLP 1
UGP 2
Independents 2 13
71

The Government

The government settled in well and very early in its term it moved to action its manifesto promises to the electorate. Its major achievement in the first twelve months were:

removal of VAT and Customs duty on basic food items (10 - 22%)
reduction in electricity charges (16.5%)
reduction in water rates (10%)
reduction in international phone call charges (10%)
housing interest rate on Housing Authority loans reduced from 11% to 6% for low income earners (upto $6500 pa)
substantial increases in allocations for Welfare payments

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All these measures were aimed at providing relief to the poor. We proved that our commitment to help the poor was genuine. As a government, we substantially increased budget allocations for welfare, poverty alleviation, education, health and rural development.

We pushed through important legislation, among them, Code of Conduct, Freedom of Information, Affirmative Action and Sustainable Development Bills.

Government Finances

Our management and control of public finances showed us as a government determined to weed out inefficiency, wastage and corruption which were rampant in the SVT government. We saved some $23 million by scrapping the purchase of computer hardware and software for the Y2K, Finance Management Information System and Accrual Accounting which were approved by the Rabuka administration.

At year's end (1999) we had brought down the projected deficit by $50 million - and it looked as if a small surplus would materialise. By the end of the first quarter in 2000, a budget surplus of $47 million had accumulated.

The Economy

The following table of key indicators shows how the economy had excelled under the Peoples Coalition government

1998SVT Govt 1999PC Govt 2000Qarase regime 2001projected
Government RevenueCustoms and Excise Inland Revenue $1013 m$228 m$496 m $1201 m$250 m$541 m $1047 m$220 m$502 m $ 960 m$212 m$498 m
Government Expenditure $1029 m $982 M $920 m $1010 m
Gross Domestic Product 1.4% 9.6% -9.3% na
Inflation Rate 8.1% 0.2% 3% 5%
Total Exports $1013 m $1201 m $1047 m $960 m
Sugar ExportsGarment Exports $244 m$301 m $263 m$322 m $236 m$278 m $220 m$230 m
Tourism Earnings $483 m $559 m $434 m Na
Tourist Arrivals 371,342 409,955 294,070 300,000
Hotel Turnover $269 m $315 m $254 m na
Performance of FID/USD 50 51 43 41

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Investment

Investment levels had risen dramatically, particularly in the tourism sector where new hotel projects worth some $300 million were ready to take off. Construction industry was buzzing with activity as builders complained of a shortage of skilled workers.

All our export sectors were doing extremely well with substantial increases over 1998 figures - sugar $20 m ($263 m) Garment $21 m ($322 m) Tourism $76 m ($559 m).

Agricultural production had risen by 19% and there were signs of further improvement in agriculture. Several small and medium sized businesses had mushroomed while the existing ones were expanding.

GDP had increased a whopping 9.6% over the 1.4% increase the previous year. Inflation was down to 0.2% from a high of 8.1% in 1998. Over 6500 new jobs had been created in the informal sector with an estimated 3000 new jobs in the subsistence sector.

Taking the Government to the People

The Labour led PCG Cabinet was meeting in different locations throughout the country instead of having all its meetings in the capital city of Suva. It is our way of doing things by engaging the people. The holding of these meetings in different locations provided Cabinet ministers the opportunity to have first hand knowledge of how people lived; what difficulties they faced, which, in turn, showed how development priorities needed to be re arranged.

In scheduling cabinet meetings, the Prime Minister gave priority to economically depressed areas. As a result, the first three locations chosen were in the provinces of Nadroga/Navosa, Serua and Namosi.

The visits proved popular with the people. Many had not seen cabinet ministers or prime minister in the previous administrations visit their remote villages. All our Cabinet ministers were working with vigour and determination to deliver to the people what we had promised them in our manifesto.

The First Labour Budget

The first ever Labour Budget for the nation was presented on 5 November, 1999. Budget 2000 was extremely well received by all sections of the community, including the Opposition.

The budget strategy was to create new jobs, instil investor confidence, provide relief to the poor, upgrade health and education and boost agriculture and the export sectors of the economy.

The performance of public owned enterprises came under specific scrutiny. The emphasis was on profitability, attained through productivity gains, elimination of wastage and extravagance and adherence to rigid standards of work discipline. One of the objectives was to bring down the charges for public utilities - water, telecommunications and electricity.
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Rural development was also brought under focus, with particular emphasis on land development and the electrification of rural areas. The government had made a $3 million grant available for this to the FEA which was to make a matching contribution, raising the total resources to $6 million.

Land and ALTA

We took early action to resolve the thorny problem of expiring agricultural leases under ALTA. Our efforts to engage the NLTB in constructive dialogue were not successful because of the intransigent attitude of its senior management who had already publicly pronounced that 80% of the landowners wanted their land back.

NLTB also demanded that ALTA be scrapped or all native land be exempt from its purview. New leases on native land that may be given would be under the Native Land Trust Act. NLTB had also engaged in indiscriminate eviction of Indian tenants, refusing to renew or grant new leases. In the very few instances where it was prepared to do so, it wanted to separate the residential and agricultural lots under different leases thus requiring the lessees to incur heavy financial burdens.

The tenants did not feel secure under the arrangements proposed by the NLTB and chose not to seek new leases. This was having adverse effect on the sugar industry with many vacated farms reverting to bush.

Discussions with NLTB culminated in the government making a comprehensive written submission to the Board, outlining in detail its proposals for amendments to ALTA but with a clear view that ALTA would have to be retained to provide security to both the landowners and the tenant community. It was the government's view that amendments to ALTA, proposed in its submission would have sufficiently assured the landowners that their interests were accommodated. The government submission was presented to the full Board of NLTB on 2nd September, 1999 in Labasa.

Following discussions on the submission, it was agreed to continue dialogue. A subcommittee of three from each side was appointed to examine the NLTB and government proposals with a view to narrow down the differences for further negotiations.

The subcommittee comprised: NLTB - Ratu Josefa Iloili, Ratu Timoci Vesikula (Board members), Maika Qarikau (General Manager): Government - Ratu Mosese Volavola (Minister for Lands) Mr Poseci Bune (Minister for Agriculture) and Mr Anand Singh (Attorney General).

The subcommittee had three meetings before the coup of May 19, 2000.

Meanwhile, government had to deal with the plight of evicted farmers who were being thrown off their farms without compensation of any sort and without a place to go to. The resettlement arrangements made by the Rabuka administration were unacceptable and harsh as it would have required them to settle in areas far removed from their domicile, and without any means of earning a livelihood.

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Resettlement Grant

The Ministry of Lands and the ALTA Resettlement Unit proposed a cash grant of $28,000 to each family being evicted and who were without any other means of earning a livelihood.

A Farming Assistance Scheme of upto $10,000 worth of assistance in kind (farm inputs, land preparation costs, farm implements) etc; was also established for incoming Fijian cane growers who were taking over the farms from evicted Indian tenants. The government had provided $20 million in its Budget 2000 for resettlement grant and farming assistance payments.

The resettlement grant was uplifted by some 250 evicted farmers by the end of 2000 when the Qarase regime discontinued it. Payments under the farming assistance scheme have been continued in the 2001 Budget.

Terrorist Takeover of Parliament

The Labour-led People's Coalition Government was celebrating its one year in office on 19 May, 2000 when terrorists led by failed businessman George Speight took over Parliament at gunpoint.

Dr Baba was on the floor speaking on the Social Justice Bill when special forces men stormed in, handcuffed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and 43 members of the People's Coalition Government and took them prisoners. Five members were not in Parliament that day and escaped being taken in-Education Minister Pratap Chand, Labour Minister Ratu Tevita Momoedonu and backbenchers Krishna Datt, Haroon Ali Shah and Jag Narayan Sharma.

At a media conference in Parliament at 1pm that day, George Speight announced himself President and half an hour later appointed FAP MP Ratu Timoci Silatolu as prime minister. Describing the takeover as a civilian coup, he said he had overthrown the Chaudhry Government to protect the rights of the indigenous people of Fiji. He claimed to have the support of the army and the police and hoped to announce his government shortly.

Soon after the takeover in Parliament, an orchestrated campaign of violence broke out in the streets of Suva. A majority of Indian shops throughout the city were torched, smashed, looted and ransacked among them the Yatulau Holdings building in Rodwell Rd. Total damage was later estimated at $30 million. While the rioting shocked the people of Fiji, what astounded them more was the complete lack of Police attempts to stop the rioters. Police Commissioner Isikia Savua was nowhere to be seen until almost three hours later when the rioting was almost over. There was no sign of the police riot squad nor did the military come to the assistance of the people.

That same afternoon terrorist attacks began on Indian farmers living in the rural settlement of Muaniweni in Tailevu. George Speight and his main band of rebels come from this area.. This terror campaign against Indians in the Tailevu spread to the settlement of Dawasamu and other areas in Tailevu in the intervening weeks and months.

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In Suva, President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, just returned from a week-long birthday celebration tour of Lau, announced a state of Emergency and took over executive control. He made it clear he would not negotiate with terrorists.

International reaction to the storming of parliament and the hostage taking was swift and angry. Both Australia and New Zealand announced they wanted the Chaudhry government back. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clarke denounced Speight as a failed businessman, crook and fraud who was to have appeared in court that day to answer to charges of fraud.

Although there was initial optimism among Government House and the diplomatic corp that the coup would be over Friday evening or at the least Saturday, the hostage crisis dragged on with neither the police nor the army taking any strong steps to intervene in the crisis.

In Parliament Prime Minister Chaudhry refused to capitulate to the demands of the terrorisits despite strong pressure tactics and a threat to his life. On Saturday night, he and his son Rajendra were beaten by thugs. Chaudhry was brought back into the room unconscious and had to be placed on oxygen overnight and sedatives over the next few days.

In July, the crisis escalated when rebel forces took over the army camp and the police post in Labasa and the town of Korovou taking several soldiers hostage. Various other police posts in the Tailevu/Naitasiri area.

Over the next few months, even after the release of the hostages, terrorist attacks on rural Indian settlements in the Tailevu area continued. Violence also broke out in the rural areas outside Labasa after the rebels took over the town. The terrified residents who often hid in bushes all night to escape the rebels, received no help or protection from either the army or the police until late August.

Terrorists also took under seige the Monasavu hydro power station in early July causing massive disruptions to power supplies throughout the country for more than a month.

Speight and his conspirators were arrested on July 26 at the Kalabo camp soon after curfew hours. They were later moved to a prison camp in Nukulau Island, charged with treason and are awaiting trial scheduled to begin on August 31.

Meanwhile, another attempt was made by elements associated with the rebels to takeover control with a mutiny at the army headquarters in Nabua on November 2. Commander Bainimarama was their target but loyal troops fought off the attack and the army rounded up the rebel elements. Eight soldiers including some loyalists were killed in the rebellion and many others were wounded. Rebel soldiers are awaiting court martial.

Police investigations are continuing into those who instigated the crisis. Several businessmen implicated in financing the coup and the destabilisation campaign preceding it and politicians who planned the coup are still at large. Police investigations are extremely slow.and of concern. They are working on a deadline of March, 2002.


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Members of Parliament taken hostage by terrorists on May 19, 2000:

1. Mahendra Chaudhry- Prime Minister
2. Rajendra Chaudhry-(PM's Private secretary)
3. Dr. Tupeni Baba -Deputy Prime Minister
4. Shiu Sharan Sharma
5. Ganeshwar Chand
6. Isireli Vuibau
7. Dr. Gunasagaran Gounder
8. Manoa Bale
9. Lavinia Padarath
10. Ratu Mosese Volavola
11. Anand Singh
12. Anup Kumar
13. Gyanendra Prasad
14. Leo Smith
15. Amjad Ali
16. Vinod Maharaj
17. Muthu Swamy
18. Pradhuman Raniga
19. Latif Subedar
20. Joeli Kalou
21. Ponipate Lesavua
22. Akinisi Koroitamana
23. Meli Bogileka
24. Rev. Eloni Goneyali
25. Adi Koila Nailatikau
26. Jioji Uluinakauvadra
27. Poseci Bune
28. William Aull
29. Marieta Rigamoto
30 Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi
31. Prince Gopal Lakshman
32. Suruj Nand
33. Krishna Chand Sharma
34 John Ali
35. Ragho Nand
36. Anand Babla
37. Ami Chand
38. Gaffar Ahmed
39. Pravin Singh
40. Jag Narayan Sharma
41. Michael Columbus
42. Nareish Kumar
43. Deo Narayan


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The following timeline shows the main events as they unfolded over the next 56 days of the hostage crisis:

May 19: armed takeover of Parliament. Prime Minister Chaudhry and 42 other members of the People's Coalition Government taken hostage. Among them five women. Several lady senators kept in on Friday were released the next evening. Rioting in Suva. President Mara declares state of emergency and imposes an all night curfew
May 20: Prime Minister Chaudhry and Rajendra beaten up because PM refused to resign from office. During the day Speight swore in his new cabinet with Jope Seniloli as President. PCG Senators taken in were released later in the evening.
May 21: Nine hostages released early hours of Sunday morning. Suruj Nand, Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi, Krishna Chand Sharma, John Ali, Ragho Nand, Anand Babla, Ami Chand, Pravin Singh, Gaffar Ahmed after they signed a paper resigning their seats in Parliament.
May 23: Rebels release two more hostages: Michael Columbus and Nareish Kumar.
The Great Council of Chiefs meets in the army barracks. After heated debate it agrees to give support to Ratu Mara but calls for a new government to be installed. .
May 25: Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon and UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello visited the hostages in parliament and spoke to Chaudhry. They also had a meeting with Ratu Mara and the GCC before leaving Fiji.
Speight rejects the GCC resolutions and calls for Mara to step down from office.
May 27: Ratu Mara appoints Ratu Tevita Momoedonu acting PM and uses him to prorogue Parliament and dismiss the Chaudhry government.
May 28: TV station trashed by the rebels.
May 29: Threats to Ratu Mara's life. He and his family are taken to a naval ship and he is forced to step down as President. Army Commander Frank Bainimarama takes over executive control of the country and imposes martial law after abrogating the Constitution. .
June: cane farmers announce a harvest boycott in protest at imprisonment of their leader Mahendra Chaudhry .
June7: Fiji suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth
June 11: attempt by Ben Padarath to stage a protest march from Lautoka to Suva called off under pressure from army
June 24: Release of hostages hopeful as a break through is announced in negotiations between army and rebels
June 25: Four female hostages freed after release of Adi Ema Tagicakibau earlier to attend her sister's funeral. Lavinia Padarath, Adi Koila Nailatikau and Akanisi Koroitamana and Marieta Rigamoto
July 4: Interim cabinet headed by Laisenia Qarase sworn in
July 7: Landowners take over Monasavu Hydro station and cause major disruptions to power supply all over the country
July 9: Maunikau Accord signed which would allow release of hostages. Rebels given immunity from prosecution.
July12: 9 hostages were released: Anand Singh, Leo Smith, Bill Aull, Anup Kumar, Vinod Maharaj, Pradhuman Raniga, Shiu Sharan Sharma and Prince Gopal Lakshman
July 13: Prime Minister Chaudhry and 18 other hostages released after being held at gunpoint for 56 days. Rebels return guns to the army and walk out free.
July 26: Speight, his security adviser Ilisoni Ligairi and his main accomplices arrested in a raid at the Kalabo camp and later transferred to the island prison of Nukulau. The terrorists face treason charges and are still awaiting trial.
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On the second day of his release, Saturday July 15 the Prime Minister called a Press conference and asked for the reinstatement of his government. The following week July 22 he called a Peoples Coalition Government caucus meeting at Sorokoba Village in Ba to discuss future strategies. Various committees such as the legal committee, the media committee and the indigenous peoples committee were formed to continue the work of the People's Coalition.

Within a week of hostages being released, acting President Ratu Josefa Iloilo swore in the ministers of the Laisenia Qarase interim administration.

Two weeks after his release Prime Minister Chaudhry left on an international tour to bolster support from friendly overseas governments for the return of democracy and the People's Coalition Government. His tour took in Australia, New Zealand, India, the united kingdom, the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, the European Union capital Brussels, the United Nations, Canada and the US State Department - the message was always the same: the international community must take a firm stand against terrorist overthrow of democratically elected governments if it is genuine in its desire to promote democracy and human rights and stamp out racism.

His overseas campaign against the overthrow of democracy in Fiji saw a hardening of attitudes against the illegal authorities in Fiji. Australia, New Zealand and the United States suspended all aid except humanitarian aid from Fiji as well as military co-operation and assistance programmes. The EU also suspended all development cooperation assistance under the Cotonou Agreement.

The CMAG group meeting in New York suspended Fiji from all Commonwealth Councils and appointed a Special envoy Justice Pius Langa to Fiji to monitor the situation here and help resolve the crisis. His specific mandate is to hasten the restoration of democracy and promote national unity.

On a regional basis, Australia, New Zealand and the Forum Island Countries responded to the crisis in Fiji and violence in the Solomon Islands with the Biketawa Declaration which sets out procedures to be followed by the Forum in such cases.

None of these overseas countries has recognised the Qarase regime particularly after the Appeals Court of Fiji ruled that the overthrow of the Constitution was illegal, that parliament had only been prorogued by Ratu Mara for 6 months and not dismissed and that the Chaudhry Government had not been lawfully dismissed. Ratu Josefa Ilioli's manipulation of constitutional provisions to appoint Tevita Momoedonu prime minister for 24 hours in order to dismiss Prime Minister Chaudhry and dissolve Parliament made Fiji a laughing stock in the international community. ,

They approved Ratu Josefa Iloilo's decision, however, to call fresh general elections in search of a political solution to the crisis.

On his return to Fiji in October, Prime Minister Chaudhry visited evicted cane farmers in the North and the West. In his submission to Justice Langa, Chaudhry made a special case for eviced farmers. He took Justice Langa on a tour of the Valelevu refuge camp in Dreketi and the West so that he could talk to the farmers affected and see their problems for himself.
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The leader has also made a point of visiting a number of constituencies since his return to Fiji talking to people, sharing in their suffering and finding out about their problems.

Legal Action

The party has also initiated several court actions in its fight for the restoration of democracy and the People's Coalition Government. An action was filed by several MPs in the Lautoka High Court but before the case could be heard, it was overtaken by an action filed on behalf of a farmer at the Lautoka Refugee camp, Chandrika Prasad, by the Human Rights Commission.

Lautoka High Court judge, Justice Anthony Gates delivered a landmark decision on the case declaring illegal the abrogation of the Constitution by the army and the dissolution of Parliament. Justice Gates asked for Parliament to be summoned and for President to appoint a Prime Minister. He declared the Laisenia Qarase regime illegal.

Undermining the PCG and FLP

While the Prime Minister and his government colleagues were held hostage, a group within the FLP began making overtures to the SVT and other parties in opposition, including the rebel FAP faction, to form a government of National Unity with a Fijian as Prime Minister. The prime movers behind this were Navin Maharaj (former Secretary General of FLP) and Dalpat Rathod (Party Treasurer). Some FLP MPs who were not taken hostage or who had been freed after only a day's detention - were also drafted in by Maharaj and Rathod. A number of businessmen were reported to have initiated this move.

Instead of demanding the freeing of hostages and the reinstatement of the People's Coalition government, these elements were supposedly negotiating the release of those held hostage by doing business with the very people who were largely responsible for organising and financing the terrorist take-over of Parliament on May 19.

They had absolutely no mandate from any constituent arm of the Party to engage in any negotiations which would undermine the Fiji Labour Party and the People's Coalition government. It is since established that Navin Maharaj, Dalpat Rathod and a number of businessmen, among them those who had financed the terrorists, were responsible for promoting the initiative.

This was done despite objections from Party President Jokapeci Koroi and Vice President S N Sharma. Unfortunately, high degree salesmanship of the idea led people to believe that all was being done to secure the release of the hostages whereas the game plan was to instal a government which would be hand-picked by the business community to serve their interests.

But all this was being done in a vacuum with the instigators of the scheme having no idea of what was actually in the minds of the terrorists and the military. They were simply not interested in a GNU or in reconvening parliament or saving the Constitution. They wanted their own government installed and eventually this is what transpired - a combination of Speight's and military's nominees comprised the interim administration after the military had abrogated the Constitution and assumed executive control.

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The tragedy of it all was that by then those who were supposedly representing our interest had committed the FLP and the rest of the civil society to push for GNU. By the time the Prime Minister and government members were released from detention on 13 July 2001, word had gone in various submissions by the FLP to the international community that they should support the GNU concept to reconvene parliament and restore democracy.

Early in 2001, Dr Tupeni Baba, vice president and some others with him began their assault on the Party Leader Mahendra Chaudhry. This came about soon after Justice Gates judgement on 15 November 2000, upholding that the 1997 Constitution hade not been abrogated; members elected to parliament in 1999 remained MPs and parliament should be recalled by the President.

Once again, Navin Maharaj spearheaded the move to undermine the Party leadership and split the FLP. Dr Baba was promoted as the Leader who could assemble a GNU under him. Baba began clandestine meetings with SVT, Nationalists, and others to persuade them to accept him as Leader of GNU. They encouraged him but all along their mission was to use Baba to split the FLP. They succeeded but Baba failed. The FLP was split and Baba was dumped by them. Baba then moved to form his own political party with his followers, Haroon Ali Shah, Dalpat Rathod, Isireli Vuibau, Vinod Maharaj and some others.

National Council

The National Council of the Party is the governing body in between each Annual Delegates Conference. The Council is responsible for policy formulation on matters referred to it.

The Council was last elected on 13 August, 1999 in the Delegates Conference held in Lautoka.

Ex - offcio Members
TITLE NAME

President Ms Jokapeci Koroi
Vice President Prof Tupeni Baba
Krishna Datt
Sachida Nand SharmaAtu Bain
Secretary General Mahendra P Chaudhry
Assistant Secretary General Muthu Swamy
Treasurer Dalpat Rathod







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TITLE NAME
RURAL REPRESENTATIVES

Navua/Serua/Namosi Vivek Sharma
Ra Marika Silimaibau
Vijendra Lal Seth
Krishna C Sharma
Lautoka South Ashok Kumar
Lautoka North Param Sivam
Nadi South Parma Nand
Nadi East Vinod Moopnar
Nadroga/Navosa Ravendra Maharaj
Hari Narayan Singh
Tavua Baij Nath Singh
Vikram Maharaj
Ba North Gita Prasad
K P Basdeo (Substitute)
Ba West Shree Chand Badlu
Ba East Shegran Nair
Tailevu Daya Ram (Deceased)
Labasa Suruj Prasad
Lateef Subedar
Dewan Chand
Kamal Deo
Surendra Lal

URBAN REPRESENTATIVES

Lautoka L P Maharaj
Daniel Urai
Mateyawa Waqabaca
Anand Singh
Nadi Suresh Verma
Pradhuman Raniga (Substitute)
Ba Ms M K Sahu Khan
Krishna Nand Maharaj
Pradeep Rattan (Substitute)
Nasinu Hari Kewel Singh
Hikmat Singh Verma (Substitute)
Joseph Dhanpalan
Kamlesh Arya
Samabula/Suva Chandar Dutt
Dhani Ram (Substitute)
Tamavua/Suva Pratap Chand
Elizabeth Dass (Substitute)
Lami/Suva Michael Columbus
Nausori N S Yadav
Agni Deo Singh (Substitute)
Nadroga/Navosa Permal Gounder
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Women's Representatives YouthRepresentatives AdvisoryCapacity

Ms Sushila Ramesh Rajendra P Chaudhry Edward Crocker
Ms Faga Semisi Maikeli Lalabalavu Felix Anthony
Reena Devi Kumar (Substitute) John Soqeta
Ratu Meli Waqa


The National Council met 4 times during the period under review. It dealt with several matters requiring attention following the May 19 coup. Among those it dealt with in two of its meetings was the issue of Party discipline - this is reported on elsewhere in detail.

A special Council meeting held in Ba on 12th May 2001 after hearing detailed reports decided that the FLP should prepare for the 2001 general elections and participate should elections be called. It also agreed that the Party should retain its manifesto of 1999 and revise it only in areas deemed essential.

Party Discipline

The Party faced serious problems of discipline over the leadership issue. Dr Baba and his team of agitators were constantly in the media in defiance of the decisions of the Management Board and the National Council not to engage in media publicity detrimental to the solidarity of the Party.

The Council then decided to move against the recalcitrant elements and authorised the setting up of a disciplinary committee to investigate the entire matter and report its findings to the Council.

The Management Board appointed Party President Mrs Jokapeci Koroi, Felix Anthony and David Eyre as members of the Disciplinary Committee. The Committee reported to the Council meeting of 10 June 2001 with the following recommendation:

Expulsion from Party: Dr Tupeni Baba,
Haroon Ali Shah
Dalpat Rathod
Isireli Vuibau

It also recommended that vice President Krishna Datt and Management Board member Pratap Chand be censured. The Council approved the Committees recommendations in its meeting of 10 June, 2001.

Others to be expelled from the Party were Ratu Mosese Volavola and Tomasi Tokalauvere for joining another political party.


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New Labour Unity Party (NLUP)

Following the expulsion of Dr Baba and his associates, they registered the NLUP, a political party in opposition to the Fiji Labour Party. The symbol registered for the renegade party is a fully grown coconut palm. The Party and its symbol were registered by the Supervisor of Elections despite our objections.

Management Board

The Management Board elected at the last Delegates conference comprised the following and met 11 times during the period under review.

Management Board
The Board comprised the following:

President Ms Jokapeci Koroi
Vice President Prof Tupeni Baba
Krishna Datt
Sachida Nand SharmaAtu Bain
Secretary General Mahendra P Chaudhry
Assistant Secretary General Muthu Swamy
Treasurer Dalpat Rathod
Members Shiu Sharan Sharma
Pratap Chand
David Eyre

The Board discussed and decided on issues requiring urgent decisions. A special meeting of the Management Board was convened to discuss the best way forward to restore democracy, following the stalemate after the Fiji Court of Appeal decision upholding the judgement of Justice Gates.

The Party Leader and Prime Minister convened the meeting to obtain the views of members on a possible dissolution of parliament to pave the way for the general elections.

Party Solidarity

Our solidarity as a political party was put to severe test over the issue of party leadership. Personal ambition of some people was the driving force behind the ugly manouver for leadership. In the process, Party principles were abandoned, party decision making machinery ignored and enemies became allies overnight.

Unfortunate as it was, we have overcome the assault on our solidarity with some beneficial effects in that the Party has purged itself of elements who seek public office not to serve the people but to advance their own personal agendas.
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Serving the Constituency

In my visits to various parts of the country, a common complaint from supporters and well wishers of the Party is that their MPs do not keep in touch with them, do not visit their areas to keep them informed of events, particularly since May 19.

There is much justification in their complaint. There are some MPs who do their constituency work and are appreciated for it but by and large the criticism is well placed. The party will have to deal with this problem and one way of doing it is for the Secretariat to be made responsible to organise constituency activity. A percentage of constituency allowance paid to members will have to be paid to the Party for this work to be undertaken effectively. A recommendation to this effect is to be put to the National Council for a decision.

As we prepare for the 2001 general elections, it is worth reiterating that promises made by candidates to their voters should be kept. Once elected, MPs should have the decency to fulfill their obligations to the people. In many of the cane belt constituencies, it is the National Farmers Union which is carrying our MPs. The National Council will have to take a hard line on this issue if the Party is to retain its popularity and credibility.

Finances

Audited financial statements show that payments totalling $ 44,558.18c made while Mr Dalpat Rathod took charge of Party finances after the May 19 coup are not supported by recepits or other forms of acquittals. This amount included $1300 cash stated to be withdrawn for meetings.

Financial records were taken over by the Secretary-General when Mr Rathod was proceeding overseas for some three months. The unsubstantiated payments were then discovered and Mr. Rathod was written to thrice to produce the acquittals but had failed to do so to this date.

Funds Collected Overseas. - The Secretary General was presented donations totalling $82,394.88 in functions held in his honour as Prime Minister in Canada and the United States during his visit to these countries last September. The moneys were donated to enable the Party to pay for legal costs in relation to its Court challenge on the abrogation of the Constitution. A separate financial statement has been prepared to account for this money.

I wish to record the Party's appreciation and gratitude to the members of the Prime Minister's Welcoming Committee in Vancouver and the Canada-Fiji organisations in Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto. Our appreciation and gratitude also go to the Fiji-American Civil Rights Association in Sacramento and Hayward, California.

Obituary : It is with deep regret that I record the death of Brother Muthu Swamy who passed away on 13 May, 2001 in Ba. The day before he had attended the FLP National Council meeting.

Bro. Swamy was an untiring and committed FLP stalwart. He was elected to the House of Representatives in a by-election in 1998 which he won convincingly. Victory in this by-election was turning point for us as we rose in popularity and swept the polls in 1999. Bro Swamy also played a key role in the NFU victories in the 1998 and 2001 Sugar cane Growers Council elections.
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I pay tribute to Bro Swamy and his contribution to the FLP and NFU. May his soul rest in peace.

Finally, I would like to extend my personal thanks to Party President Jokapeci Koroi for her untiring efforts to keep us together. She has given much of her time and energy to the Party and deserves our gratitude.

I wish to record my appreciation and gratitude to the thousands of our supporters and activists throughout the nation. They have stood by us and will do so in future if we stay on course. They make up the FLP.

To members of my staff Dipika and Rakesh my thanks and appreciation for their hard work and loyalty.

Secretary General,
Mahendra Chaudhry

 

People's Coalition Government - Fiji Islands
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Last update: August 27, 2001