Good afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen of the media, thank you for being here today. 

I also wish to say Good afternoon to everyone tuning in from around Fiji, and around the world, “Ni Sa Bula Vinaka, Namaste.

Like the Prime Minister and other Member of the Peoples' Coalition Government, I have been receiving your good wishes and warm welcome over the last few weeks since Christmas eve when we were elected, then sworn in by His Excellency, the President.

Some may be tired of seeing the welcome and positive responses the Peoples' Coalition Government has been receiving, but to me, they are an expression of hope and thanksgiving, for the change after sixteen long years of fear and dictatorship.

On Saturday 21 January, the Secretary General of the Fiji First Party, Mr Khaiyum held a press conference after a meeting of the Opposition Caucus. He was flanked by some of the 26 FFP MPs and spoke at length for over an hour on various matters.

This government will always continue to respect the Constitution and follow the rule of law.

It is unfortunate that Mr Khaiyum is not the Shadow Attorney-General, and perhaps Hon Faiyaz Koya should have stepped forward, rather than being forced to flank a non-MP who lost his parliamentary seat having breached the law in attending a meeting of the Constitutional Offices Commission while being an MP and party official of the FijiFirst Party. 

No one has commented on the fact that the former Prime Minister and current Leader of Opposition made a gaffe in saying Mr Khaiyum would remain on the COC and lead FFP's efforts outside of Parliament, when later Mr Khaiyum had to resign to be able to remain GS of the FFP.

It is unfortunate that the FijiFirst have refused the hand of friendship offered across the floor of Parliament by the Honorable Prime Minister, and instead chose to go down the road of a combative relationship, that nitpicks and does not unite the nation. 

On Saturday, Mr Khaiyum attempted to lecture the nation on the “rule of law” and the 2013 Constitution.

I encourage Mr Khaiyum to file a constitutional redress application to prove his accusation that the Peoples' Coalition Government had continuously breached the 2013 Constitution since coming into power. 

It is all very well to spout political rhetoric, and point fingers, but in my view, the Mr Khaiyum's accusations hold no water. 

Mr Khaiyum is playing political games, exaggerating half-truths to mislead the public and attempting to pressure the Commander RFMF to  invoke his powers under Section 131 of the 2013 Constitution.

Mr Khaiyum made wild allegations based on unnamed “sources” which is no better than “gossip”.

This fear-mongering was designed to disempower our citizens, weaken investor confidence, incite instability and create anxiety.

I remind Mr Khaiyum, that Government belongs to the people (it is not the property of the two-man Government that ruled by fear since 2006). 

Under the 2013 Constitution, the people decide their government. It is the peoples' choice, and they chose the People's Coalition Government. 

FijiFirst gained only 42 percent of the vote in the recent elections not enough to govern outright, while 58 percent of voters chose opposition parties. 

Mr Khaiyum mentioned that the meeting of the FFP Caucus on Saturday discussed their strategy. However, we are of the view that the FFP strategy appears to be one of intimidation, destabilization, and unsubstantiated allegations. 

I confirm my oath, sworn on the 24 December 2022, that I will continue to uphold the 2013 Constitution and at all times legally advise government, the PM and cabinet accordingly.

The amendment of the Constitution is clear. I am aware of the requirements for amendment contained in Section 160 of the Constitution.

It is now almost ten years since the Constitution was promulgated by Decree, so it makes sense that a review should take place, and the provisions for its amendment followed to improve it. 

It appears Mr Khaiyum complained about the possible amendment, and that is his prerogative as the General Secretary of the Opposition Party to do so. But I will swiftly correct any lies or half-truths in his attempt to cause fear, anxiety and instability in the nation. 

In terms of the use of the word 'fundamental', it is worth noting that there are a number of fundamental breaches of the Constitution under the FFP regime, which Mr Khaiyum chooses to conveniently forget, while making baseless allegations against the Coalition Government. There is a saying that “those in glass houses should not throw stones.”

That is not to justify any breaches by future governments, or the Coalition Government, but I advise him to have a sense of proportion in his criticisms of Government. 

Regarding the Constitutional Offices Commission Mr Khaiyum claims the Coalition Government unlawfully removed the members of the Constitutional Offices Commission.

The fact is the Commissioners were asked to resign, they did and new ones were appointed. No one needs legal authority to ask someone to do something voluntarily. Those seats on the COC are not the property of the FFP, or Mr Khaiyum, and no law was broken.

On Separation of Powers, Mr Khaiyum tries to lecture the nation on the doctrine of the separation of powers, it is worth noting that our Constitution mandates the Chief Justice to act as Head of State in the absence of the President for any reason.

It is trite law that the Executive or the PM and Cabinet are elected from our House of Representatives or Parliament, and in effect, have the majority vote to decide on legislation enacted by Parliament. 

Further, the President is elected from Parliament, he or she would be nominated by the Prime Minister or Leader of Opposition and then the nominee with majority of votes, is elected as the President, and swears his Oath before the Chief Justice.

In similar manner, Constitutional Officers are appointed by the President on the advice of the Constitutional Offices Commission, the majority of whose members are nominated by the Prime Minister. 

The Chief Justice is appointed by the President on the advice of the Judicial Services Commission, which includes the Attorney General.

So already, our system of Government, based loosely on the Westminster system, does not have the pure separation of powers as is envisaged for example in the Constitution of the U.S.A.

I wish to advise Mr Khaiyum, that Government is well aware of this doctrine and will respect it. If he is aware of any breaches, then Mr Khaiyum needs to take it to Court.

On the allegation that the Peoples Coalition Government is defraying religious freedom, Mr Khaiyum is blind to the practice under FFP where often prayers were offered in government events and meetings.

While the Constitution protects religious freedom, it does not tell us how, and when to pray. 

On 'Fijian' as common name, again, Mr Khaiyum is playing with half-truths to mislead the people when it comes to his petty complaint that the Ministry of Information facebook page, is now called Fiji Government. Frankly, there is nothing grammatically incorrect about that.

The fact is, no law was broken by this re-naming. The Constitution does not say everything related to the Government must be called “Fijian” neither does it require all officials to call citizens “Fijian” when they speak. Further, the Constitution enshrines freedom of speech. We are the Republic of Fiji, not the Republic of Fijians. Constitutionally Fiji is home to all Fijians.

In China, the official Government website is “The State Council, Peoples Republic of China.”

In the U.S.A, it is USA Gov, U.S. Government.

In Australia and Britain, it is “Australian Government” and British Government. There is no “English Government” as the former AG claims. 

The fact is that there is no right or wrong way to describe or title or name a government facebook page, or website. It is the prerogative of Government. In the transition from the FFP to the Coalition Government, a decision has been made to call Government Page 'Fiji Government.'

Regarding the use of vernacular languages in Parliament. Mr Khaiyum was very agitated in his complaint on the announcement by the Prime Minister that Hindi and Vosa Vakaviti can be used in Parliament. He spoke at great length about this – over 500 words in fact.

After 16 years of watching Mr Khaiyum, it is striking that some things never change. He pretends not to know the truth or facts, and instead puts forward his own version of the facts.

While the PM did say this, and it is a priority, to resurrect and recognize the status of the mother language of our two communities, what is wrong with it?

The fact is, the ruling party has the majority of votes in Parliament. As FFP did from 2014-2018 and they decided to amend the Standing Orders, because they had the numbers, and they decided to amend so many laws, fast-tracked under Standing Order 51, without consulting the people. 

That is the fact. While we do have the doctrine of the Separation of Powers, our Executive Governments, since 1970, have been elected through the legislature. 

It is therefore clear that the Prime Minister commands the majority of votes in Parliament. If the Prime Minister has the mandate to change the languages spoken in Parliament, to recognize the fact that the majority of our people have their own mother language which is not English, and do not speak English daily, then they have the right to understand what is being said in Parliament!

While the legal process will take place in Parliament with the Standing Orders Committee, we can understand that the Government has the mandate to make certain changes.

Mr Khaiyum still thinks he is in control. 

His allegation that the PM's view or intention is unconstitutional, is plainly 'crying wolf', and Mr Khaiyum should stop with his lies and exaggerations. 

On the Constitutional Offices, Independent Commissions, it is trite fact that Commissioners must have the confidence of the executive.

Since 2006, when Commissioners, CEOs and Permanent Secretaries, various civil servants, Police Commissioner, statutory boards and government company boards were removed wholesale, the boards have been totally lopsided.

On the Fiji National Provident Fund Board, workers representatives were removed, and the Fund became a piggy bank for the FijiFirst. Yet the voice of workers was totally removed and silenced, as to how their funds are administered and invested.

We can talk about fairness. The 1970 and 1997 Constitutions allowed the Leader of Opposition to also nominate members of Independent Commissions. 

However since 2006 and under the 2013 Constitution, only the FFP nominees are recommended by the Constitutional Offices Commission to the President. 

That is the fact of the matter. Since 2006, almost all Boards and Commissions were the cronies of Mr Khaiyum. I will wait on Mr Khaiyum to provide evidence of his claims, and urge him to file constitutional redress rather than make press conferences.

On the issue of the Commissioner of Police, Mr Khaiyum complains that the Minister for Home Affairs called on the Commissioner of Police to resign, as he had no confidence in him. 

As an elected official, and Cabinet Minister assigned with ministerial responsibility for the Police Act, that is the prerogative of the Minister. It is common sense that the Minister must have confidence in the officials who implement the laws in his ministerial assignment.

However unlike FFP, which removed a number of Police Commissioners including Commissioner Groenwald, and other senior officials like the Solicitor General and Government Statistician arbitrarily, the Minister for Home Affairs has referred the matter to the right body, the Constitutional Offices Commission. 

That is all I will say on the matter which is now before the COC.

On the Role of the Public Service Commission. Mr Khaiyum tried to say the PM should not consult the Public Service Commission when it comes to appointment of Ambassadors.

Unlike the FijiFirst Government where only one man made the decisions, the Coalition Government is consultative, and it is the PM's prerogative to consult the PSC, as the expert body established to oversee the public service. 

Mr Khaiyum should stop with allegations that what the Prime Minister or the People's Coalition Government is doing, is in breach of the Constitution. He should leave the governing to the elected Government and focus on his role as GS. He should let the elected Opposition MPs do their job. 

Regarding Complaints before the COC, Mr Khaiyum waded into a complaint that is now before the COC.

As it is before the COC, I will only caution Mr Khaiyum, as a former member of the COC, to let the COC do its job. 

Unlike the FFP Government, the People's Coalition Government is following due process, and not sending armed personnel to escort and remove properly appointed officials from their office, which was a hallmark of their style of leadership over the last 16 years. 

If constitutional redress applications are to be filed, Mr Khaiyum is at liberty to do so. Until then, I urge him  to leave the COC to perform its role given he abandoned it, in his failure to understand the laws he forced on the people of Fiji. 

On my meeting with the Chief Justice, it is unfortunate that Mr Khaiyum had made various wild allegations about my meeting with the Chief Justice. I will not elaborate on the meeting, given it was confidential and will not comment further on the gossip being peddled by Mr Khaiyum, to destabilize the Government and incite instability.

Regarding Air Terminal Services, as usual, Mr Khaiyum has again made wild allegations.

It is well known that Mr Khaiyum controlled the majority of statutory bodies and government companies through their boards over the last 16 years, and he had actively issued instructions, removed and appointed board members willy-nilly. 

The Minister for Tourism had issued a public statement on this matter.

The fact is, Government owns majority shares in ATS, and appoints the Board. Mr Khaiyum refused to recognize the ATS Board members appointed by the employees, who also own shares in ATS.

The fact is, Government sets the policy for the companies it owns, through the Boards. It is for the Boards to implement that policy – just as they did throughout the last 16 years.

The Minister will work within the legal framework on the issue of reemployment.
We recognize the critical role of both ATS and Fiji Airways. Mr Khaiyum should cease his baseless allegations in trying to incite instability in these entities.

On the issue of the Audit of Capital Gains Tax Exemptions, this is the prerogative of the elected Government through the Ministry of Finance.

Mr Khaiyum, please let the Government do its job. Tomorrow is just one month since we were sworn in as the new government.

On the matter of Statutory Boards, Ministers have powers to appoint and remove certain boards just as he did with the Housing Authority Board recently, he asked them to resign before the end of their term, and they did and he appointed a new Board.

Mr Khaiyum also raised the issue of the new Chair of the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation holding a press conference. He seems to have particular animosity on this issue. Other Board Chairs have had press conferences and there's nothing wrong with it.

I wish to clarify that the FBC Chairman had resigned from The People's Alliance before his appointment. 

Regarding the appointment of Acting Permanent Secretaries, there is no requirement for advertisement of an acting appointment. That is basic employment practice.

On any other policy matter, the People's Coalition Government will carry out extensive consultations, before Cabinet approval is sought for the drafting of legislation, which will then again undergo consultations, and ultimately, the financial implications will be considered, whether provision can be made in the budget.  This includes the Land Claims Tribunal.

Regarding the re-deployment of Funds within the 2022-2023 Budget,
Mr Khaiyum waded again into the governance prerogatives of the People's Coalition Government. 

What is clear from Mr Khaiyum's press conference his contempt for anyone who has a view contrary to his own. For the last 16 years, Mr Khaiyum professes to be the only person who knows anything about governing this country. The people of Fiji are the best judge of that.

On the subject of Scholarships, I urge Mr Khaiyum to wait for the process and design, of the new system for tertiary scholarships, before shooting off with wild accusations.

On the issue of the Laucala Island Hangar construction, this has been explained by Deputy Prime Minister Hon Manoa Kamikamica. So I will say no more about that.

About retirement age, Mr Khaiyum does not have the full facts. The matter was decided by Cabinet at its meeting last week. Thereafter, the Circular was issued, and the regulations amended.

It is clear that having lost the election, the Fiji-First Strategy is to create uncertainty, instability and to undermine the rule of law and democracy, and the will of the people expressed in the 2022 general elections.

To conclude, I want to reiterate the commitment of the People's Coalition Government to abide by the Rule of Law, and uphold the Constitution of the Republic of Fiji.