By David Robie in Auckland
Opposition National Federation Party leader Professor Biman Prasad is confident there will be a change of government in Fiji this year and his party will be part of the new line-up giving the people a genuine choice for an optimistic future.
“The people of Fiji are fed up with the lies and propaganda that they have seen with this government,” he told listeners today on Pacific Media Network’s Radio 531pi.
“Why we are very optimistic is that we feel that the people are going to make a definite choice [in the general election] to reject this government that has been in power for the past 15 years.”
The current FijiFirst government has been in power since then military commander Voreqe Bainimarama seized power in a coup in 2006 and was then elected to office in a return to democracy in 2014.
Economist Professor Prasad said that his NFP partnership with the People’s Alliance Party (PAP), formed last year and led by former 1987 coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka, was committed to bringing back a “sense of good governance” to Fiji with transparency and accountability.
Responding to public discussions about democracy, he told Pacific Days host Ma’a Brian Sagala that Fiji was “far, far away from a genuine democracy”.
“We have articulated this very well over the last three or four years,” he said.
His interview with PMN today had a very different and more informative tone compared to a hostile “ambush” discussion yesterday with Radio Tarana’s host Pawan Rekha Prasad, who kept insisting on an NFP party manifesto when the election writs have not yet been issued and campaigning has yet to start.
Professor Prasad eventually walked out of that interview, complaining that he was not being “listened to”.
He later told Fijivillage that it was a set-up and a plan to try to “discredit him”.
Professor Prasad also spoke to a media briefing yesterday that included Indian Newslink editor Venkat Rahman and Māori and Pacific journalists at the Whānau Community Hub when he commented about plans for the “first 100 days” if elected.
Asked by Sagala what the major election issues would be, Professor Prasad said: “The situation in Fiji with respect to the economy, with respect to poverty levels, with respect to health issues, education, infrastructure, and the contraction of the economy — that we even had before the covid pandemic — has been of serious concern to the people.”
He said Fijians “want a choice in the next election”.
“They want to see the last of the current government in Fiji and we in the NFP and the People’s Alliance, and the partnership agreement that we have signed, provide a definite distinction and choice for the people.”
Issues for the election
These issues would be the ones that NFP would be taking into the election. A date has yet to be set, but the election writs are due on April 26 with the ballot to be set between July 9 and January 2023.
Professor Prasad said the mood at the recent NFP convention when people gathered again after two years of the pandemic was confident.
“We had a sense of exuberance, and a sense of optimism. Everyone is looking ahead to the election and a change of government,” he said.
Asked by Sagala what would the partnership do if successful in the election, Professor Prasad said a coalition was only possible after the election. But the partnership agreement between the NFP and PAP would be a good basis for forming a coalition.
However, Professor Prasad also pointed to the 2018 NFP manifesto as a good indicator.
Asked about a recent “heated exchange” in a parliamentary debate about the Fiji Investment Bill and a claim by Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum that the partnership was a “naked grab for power at any cost”, Professor Prasad said:
‘Ironical and hypocritical’
“This is ironical and the height of hypocrisy when coming from a man who himself with Frank Bainimarama nakedly grabbed power together in 2006 through the barrel of a gun.
“And they stayed in power with the support of the military from 2006 to 2014 when we had an election under an imposed constitution by them.
“So it is quite ironical and hypocritical of the de facto prime minister or leader of the FijiFirst party to say that this partnership is about a naked grab for power.
“Far from it, this partnership gives a clear choice, an alternative for the people of Fiji, and they have been looking for one.
“This partnership is the alternative.”
The Professor Biman Prasad interview on Radio 531pi’s Pacific Days.