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“Rabuka rewriting history and economics” (14/10/2017)


Rabuka rewriting history and economics

Sitiveni Rabuka, since becoming Leader of SODELPA, has made many accurate statements about the disastrous impact of the Bainimarama Government on indigenous Fijians and on Fiji (which I do not comment on here).

I have always had a soft spot for Rabuka after our (NFP/SVT) collaboration in parliament in the 1990s when we peacefully brought in the 1997 Constitution, unanimously approved by the Fiji parliament.  Even though the collaboration also resulted in the total historical demise of the NFP from parliament in the 1999 election, SVT’s loss of government, and Rabuka traumatically going “from hero to zero” (in his own words to me).

Today, however, I am horrified to read Rabuka’s statements on the SODELPA website on the NBF disaster and the long-term impact, statements which can only be described as “false” or “lies” or “propaganda” easily recognized by any economics student or anyone with common sense.

Rabuka’s lies

The SODELPA website quotes Rabuka saying: “When the issue of NBF was brought to my attention as the then Prime Minister, I responded immediately to minimise any further risk to the financial sector and to the economy as a whole, rather than sweeping the matter under the carpet”.

This is a blatant lie.  I have previously posted on my website that there was a whistle blower working at the senior levels in the National Bank of Fiji, who wrote to Prime Minister Rabuka in 1992, detailing all the corruption and nepotism at the NBF.

The Fiji public knows very well that the rot at NBF started when Rabuka sent in his soldiers with guns to remove the General Manager then, and replace him with Makrava who then proceeded to destroy the NBF from within. Far from responding “immediately” Rabuka allowed all the rot to set in because many of them were his supporters.

Rabuka never instituted a full inquiry into the most costly financial disaster that Fiji had ever faced despite many public calls.

In the end the taxpayers lost around $200 million to indemnify the depositors. In other words, bad borrowers ran off with at least that sum of money (I say at least because interest was frozen on bad debts).

[Multiply $200 million by 2.1 if you want to convert 1996 dollar values to today’s prices, i.e. more than $400 million in today’s money].

Quoting Lionel Yee

Rabuka proudly quotes (and reiterates) Lionel Yee who allegedly praised Rabuka for “taking the bull by the horns and getting the job done…  in the end the bank was saved… and the saved bank got bigger and better managed, and you should be happy to take the credit because it could have really collapsed…  the bank was saved to become Colonial National Bank and then onto the bank of South Pacific ! A Pacific Bank”.

Hullo.  The NBF was not saved. It was destroyed.

All that happened was that the bad debts were separated out into the “Bad Bank” called the “Asset Management Bank” which was required to recover all the bad debts. It did recover a bit, but most of the bad debtors got away scot free (some running business in Australia today using their ill-gotten gains) while some were made bankrupt (a great PhD to be written here).

The few good debtors remained as the “Good Bank” and became the Colonial National Bank.

For Rabuka to twist these “extraordinary” comments by Lionel Yee (more on him below) to imply that the bankrupt NBF became a great financial success under Rabuka’s leadership is simply false and pathetic.

I remind that taxpayers had to fork out hundreds of millions of dollars to cover the savings of the depositors in the NBF (thereby effectively increasing Fiji’s Public Debt).

If Rabuka’s financial genius is to be believed, ANY bankrupt company can separate out all the debtors the company cannot pay and get the Government and taxpayers to pay them, while he keeps all the good debtors to continue his business.  Would not life be hunky dory for all bankrupt businesses?

Why on earth would the sensible people in SODELPA allow their leader to put such outrageous statements  on their website, showing clearly that he should never be trusted with taxpayers’ money. I suspect that this would not happen under the leadership of the humble and sensible Ro Temumu Kepa.

Some websites (like Fijileaks) have already listed Rabuka’s other shady dealings while Prime Minister costing Fiji taxpayers even more millions.

Unfortunately there are other websites which are publishing (and hence propagating) Rabuka’s false statements without any qualification or challenge.

Lionel Yee’s Strange Comments (if accurately quoted by Rabuka)

Who knows why Lionel Yee would have made those outrageous statements probably made before the 1999 Elections. Who knows what powerful people expected had the SVT and Rabuka won.

But let us also remember that Lionel Yee was the CEO of FNPF when around 1998 it tendered the massive inflated price of $253 million (at least $100 million in excess) for government shares in the super monopolistic ATH (which then proceeded to rip-off customers over the next two decades to recoup that huge investment).

With only 2 tenders (the other was by Cable and Wireless amounting to less than $160 million) Lionel Yee worked “closely” with Finance Minister James Ah Koy in what was a “managed” sale between FNPF and the SVT Minister of Finance) so that the NBF disaster could be paid for by the SVT Government and taxpayers.

Lionel Yee was also the CEO of FNPF when pension rate changes were being brought in around 1998, when in Parliament I had argued that the rates should be brought down immediately from the existing 25% to 15%, not gradually by 1 percentage point per year- as the Board controlled by the SVT government decided.

Then in 2011 when the Bainimarama Government attacked the FNPF pension rates breaking all contracts with pensioners, Lionel Yee remained publicly quiet, leaving the struggles to poor pensioners like the late David Burness, Ross Macdonald, lawyer Shaista Shameem and a certain economist who spent months preparing the pensioners’ case (without any payment) while on his sabbatical in Japan, only to be questioned by the CID for “sedition” when he returned to Fiji.

One pensioner, Rick Rickman still has the file for Case HBC 183 of 2011 in which he was the applicant and the respondents were FNPF Board, The Republic of Fiji, and the Attorney General of Fiji.. Bainimarama’s Decree 51 ensured the case was never heard although it still must be “in the system”.

Why did Lionel Yee remain quiet when the FNPF was being raided by the Bainimarama Government? I suspect that with the accelerated FNPF payments for senior FNPF managers, Yee would have had a phenomenal sum in his own personal FNPF account when he retired, and after more than ten years of pensions, would have received his entire final balance two or three times over. The reduction of pension rates would not have been important for him any more.

Note that Lionel Yee was one of the few board members of ATH companies who managed to continue their board membership even after the 2006 Bainimarama coup.

Why does SODELPA allow this?

There is no need to ask why Rabuka is making these false statements on the SODELPA website since it is clear that he is simply trying to go from “zero to hero” again.

But why is the rest of the SODELPA leadership allowing their current leader to falsify  the history of the disastrous impact of the old SVT Party on Fiji? SODELPA is not SVT is it?

Why is the SODELPA leadership allowing their new elected political leader to display that he has a pathetic knowledge of economics and finance and should NEVER again be given authority over taxpayers’  billions, let along a child’s piggy bank?

How on earth can Rabuka claim on the SODELPA website that under his leadership SODELPA will “practice sound economic management to free Fiji from the current unsustainable debt level” – which Rabuka himself helped to grow unnecessarily by more than $200 million dollars twenty years ago?

Sadly, even ordinary voters opposed to the Bainimarama Government will understand that Rabuka’s criticisms of Bainimarama and Khaiyum is “the pot calling the kettles black”, however black (or blacker) the kettles may be!

Post-script for the 2018 Elections

For sure, voters, candidates and political parties in the 2018 Elections will have no lack of material in pointing out which histories are being rewritten by current and former Prime Ministers, all for sordid political gain.

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