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35+ years of activism & feminism in Fiji

Published

16 September 2021

Author

Fiji Women's Rights Movement

Themes

Darker days for democracy in Fiji- The NGOCHR alarmed at Government’s Reaction to HIES Report and Immediate Firing of CEO of Fiji Bureau of Statistics

Darker days for democracy in Fiji- The NGOCHR alarmed at Government’s Reaction to HIES Report and Immediate Firing of CEO of Fiji Bureau of Statistics

16/09/2021

The NGO Coalition on Human Rights (NGOCHR) is deeply troubled by the actions of the government over the release of the 2019-2020 Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) report.              

The Fiji Bureau of Statistics is the country’s primary source of social and economic statistics, crucial for public policy and decision making. Like the government, civil society organisations (CSOs) rely on a timely supply of data to inform the work that we do.

Earlier this week, the findings of the HIES report highlighted high poverty incidence by location, ethnicity and religious background, unemployment, children being deprived of basic necessities and education. From the work that the Coalition member organisations do, we know that every individual, family and community context is different and to be most effective in responding to the issues they face, we need contextually relevant disaggregated data and information. The HIES report did just that with a sample size from our population.

The HIES report has since been heavily criticised by the Minister for Economy and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum in a press conference on Tuesday night (14/09/2021), questioning the validity of the data.  Additionally, the Minister for Economy has gone further stating that the report cannot be relied upon as there were huge integrity issues. The outcome of this press conference is the sudden dismissal of the Chief Executive Officer Fiji Bureau of Statistics Kemueli Naiqama, effective from 15 September.

The Coalition was shocked to hear about the unfair dismissal, instant termination and the reported ‘escorting' of the CEO yesterday afternoon.

The Fiji Bureau of Statistics is mandated by law to carry out national statistical surveys. A significant part of this work is for the Bureau to collaborate with all government departments and other agencies in the collection, compilation, analysis and publication of statistical records of administration. Therefore, it is quite odd for the Minister for Economy and Attorney-General to not only interfere, but also criticise the data presented in the report when the work of the Bureau is a collective effort by all government departments and agencies.

Mr Naiqama’s termination is also draconian and reminiscent of an autocratic and dictatorial regime with no right of reply nor fairness being exhibited in this sudden action issued by the acting Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Economy.

These actions add to and again mark even darker days for democracy in Fiji.

Ends

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The Members of the NGOCHR include the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre (FWCC), Fiji Women's Rights Movement (FWRM), Citizens' Constitutional Forum (CCF), femLINKpacific, Social and Economic Enhancement Programme (SEEP) and Diverse Voices and Action for Equality Fiji (DIVA). Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) and Haus of Khameleon (HoK) are observers.