The Blame Game

The Blame Game

By Yellow Bucket
Thursday 21/03/2024
Photo: File

As we reviewed last week’s parliamentary debate we were a bit overwhelmed by the variety of issues raised and the challenges facing the Government in moving to solve what is a tidal wave of problems facing Fiji.

As expected the issue of drug abuse was top of the agenda but this was one of many. What also struck YB was the desperate need for both sides of parliament to get past the “blame game” and the desperate need for a combined initiative involving both sides of the house to focus on solving issues rather than inflaming them.

The Prime Minister said once again, in a charitable moment, that his government was keen to seek opinion from all sides but there is saying and then there is doing and to be honest it does appear that Government’s “skin” is thinning when it comes to open debate and criticism.

The same can be said for the opposition who are trapped by their past. It is difficult to take Premila Kumar and Praveen Bala seriously when they complain about the appointment of political cronies when FijiFirst was notorious for doing just that. They need somehow to extract themselves from their past by acknowledging mistakes and trying to move the debate on to discussing the future. Not an easy task.

The Drug issue is a classic example of this. As Filimoni Vosarogo pointed out in his address, leaning on his experience as a prosecutor, the recent discovery of tonnes of methamphetamine (meth) in Nadi is the end product of years of development. International drug cartels are notorious for testing smuggling routes with small amounts that steadily increase when they see they can get away with it. Fiji provides a convenient pathway to the most lucrative drug markets in the world, Australia and New Zealand, and so it is a logical target. Corrupt as it is, the illicit drug trade is still a business, and no Cartel is going to risk shipments of the scale found in Nadi unless they were confident threats from the legal authorities had been “mitigated.” The former FijiFirst government, now in opposition, needs to put its hand up and acknowledge responsibility.

The other fact that we must come to terms with is that the “drug issue” needs to be addressed at two levels, foreign and domestic. The Nadi drug bust actually presented a limited threat to the people of Fiji. It was on its way to Australia and New Zealand. Of course, now that it is parked in Fiji, it presents a threat if the leakage of drug exhibits continues from our police stations.

The domestic problem is a different issue and needs to be addressed by authorities separately. As our Acting Police Commissioner has pointed out, a lot of this meth is in fact manufactured locally and not imported or in the case of drugs like ketamine allegedly stolen from health facilities. This experimentation into new drugs is a real worry. We haven’t seen the rise of opioids YET as has been seen in the USA, but this can only be a matter of time. The difficulty with opioids is that they come in the form of tiny pills that are easy to smuggle but have a devastating effect.

Frightening stuff, action on this front is long overdue but it needs to be a national effort that focuses not just on policing but must include education and healthcare. Talk of a Narcotics Bureau is encouraging but fails to address the other critical areas. Where this should start is in Parliament with a genuine cross parliamentary effort to park the blame game and produce genuine community driven solutions.

While on the subject of “frightening stuff” the revelation by the Minister of Health of a doubling of new HIV AIDS cases in the last year was very disturbing. YB understands HIV has popped up once again as a major health issue. According to the Minister we rank second in the Asia Pacific region for increasing HIV numbers. To add to this the “drug problem” is escalating the spread via sharing of needles and unsafe sex. As Kalesi Volatabu revealed on Straight Talk this includes the mind blowing new “Bluetooth” practice that involves one person getting high and then sharing the high by extracting and sharing blood !! An extraordinary but guaranteed way of spreading HIV, amongst other diseases.

But in the scheme of things, as disturbing as all this is, HIV remains a minor issue in comparison with accelerating non communicable diseases, led by diabetes, where we rank NUMBER 1 in the world.

The problem with diabetes is that the disease progressively destroys the body resulting in amputations, blindness, and kidney failure. Here is another disturbing number shared on World Kidney Day, 1 in 7 Fijians suffer from acute kidney conditions. 1 IN 7!!!!!! Recently a CWM based Doctor revealed to YB that one of the reasons for a critical shortage of beds is an explosion in pregnant mothers seeking C sections, once again because of diabetes.

The hard fact to be faced by the people of Fiji is that all of this is self inflicted and so entirely preventable…. STOP EATING SUGAR, TAKING DRUGS AND WEAR A CONDOM. These simple messages may seem obvious but they’re clearly not getting through. Aggressive innovative public health education programs, not handing out leaflets at health centres, need to happen NOW !

The sad fact however is that while critical public health education can prevent future escalation of these problems, thousands of Fijians are already victims of these diseases and while HIV can be controlled with anti-retroviral drugs, advanced diabetes cannot be reversed.

So, there is little wonder our health facilities are staggering. The Australian Government’s announcement of a $10 million upgrade to CWM is welcome news and the Fiji Government have been bursting to share the news for some time. BUT what was lost in the excitement is that the first stage is drawing up a master plan, so don’t expect action any time soon particularly when you have both Fijian and Australian bureaucrats hard at work! There is talk of immediate work planned to fix our emergency operating theatres which will be welcome, but we will see how long that takes. As we discussed in our last column, implementation is not a strong point.

We need urgent visible action and speaking of that, YB was thrilled to hear about a community initiative taken to fix a critical issue at CWM. We won’t reveal details as we don’t want to derail this worthy project by tangling it up in a battle with bureaucrats but let’s just say a significant amount of money has been raised, contract ready to be awarded….. oh what is that hold the phone ……. They have apparently been told they can’t proceed because Government “plans” to do this themselves!! COME ON!

These are all huge and complex issues that not only need cross parliamentary support but also extensive community support and involvement. Use the expertise around us…..welcome the support……If community groups want to own a project step aside let them do it, as long as it meets required standards, and if you are politically savvy, claim some of the credit!.

For more Yellow Bucket opinion pieces click: HERE

Opinion Note

Long time fijivillage users may remember the Yellow Bucket opinion column that ran in the years leading up to the 2006 coup. Well following the repeal of the MIDA Act we are delighted to announce that YB is back!

The Yellow Bucket is something of a Communications Fiji Ltd institution…. Yes it exists…. A real Yellow Bucket that the CFL team and visitors gather around after work to drink grog and discuss the day. Legend has it that every Fiji Prime Minister has at some stage enjoyed a bilo from the bucket.

The YB column ran from 2003 to early 2007 when it was shut down under extreme pressure from the military government. Later the MIDA Act specifically forbade any use of nom de plums or pseudonyms requiring every published article to have a named author.

So why the pseudonym. The YB column was and will continue to be a product of group thinking and discussion, so it would be impossible and a little unfair to attribute it to a single author.

It will continue to provide fact-based opinion offering context to the complex and constantly unfolding story, that is our home Fiji. We stress, FACT BASED…. No rush to judgement here ….. Our aim will be to run weekly but that could change depending on the situation.

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