Issue of bipartisanship

Arvind Mani, Nadi | Monday, March 12, 2018
Bipartisanship has become a relic of a long dead past, something that old men talk about with a wan smile of good days long past when Jai Ram Reddy and Rabuka wanted to work together for the good of the country. But that was then.

I believe the days we live in are incredibly partisan. FijiFirst and SODELPA or NFP look at one another as strangers and enemies. This was brought home to me in a stark manner when Professor Biman Prasad's health motion was defeated.

I am an unabashed admirer of the Government of the day. It has done an absolutely sterling job in improving Fiji's economy and other positive things too numerous to mention here. But I must say that the medical care in Fiji leaves a lot to be desired. I occasionally go to Nadi Hospital to see a relative admitted there and I ask myself, do I want to be admitted here if something happens to me? It is not clean, it smells and is not very reassuring.

When Prof Prasad suggested that a bipartisan committee is needed to make improvements, why not agree to it? He may have some good ideas.

Bipartisanship for its own sake is meaningless and even anti-democratic, dulling the edges of political debate and muting opposition. I believe it is valuable only if it produces actual policy progress. Thus the central question to ask about the value of a potential bipartisan initiative on the state of medical services in Fiji is whether such an initiative could actually produce a better policy.

The Minister for Health has said that Prof Prasad's motion has no merit and that the ministry has already invested in developing a National Health Strategic Plan and reviewed the public health and medical services plan through collaboration with the stakeholders. She said the comprehensive plan covered the targeted areas to provide a robust service delivery through the enhancement of the public health system and programs.

That is all fine and dandy. But the wheels of bureaucracy move slowly. And sometimes come to a grinding halt. I do not know (nor do I care to) who the stakeholders are but I get a little nervous when the relatives of the patients are asked to bring Panadol or bedsheets from home. I can take a quick walk through the Nadi Hospital and make a list of obvious problems that prompt, inexpensive commonsense actions can take care of. They will enhance the appearance of the hospital. I am sure it won't be necessary to have the National Health Strategic Plan to implement these basic changes.

I believe the hospitals have been in a state of disrepair long before this government came into power but the Opposition is too quick to blame Fiji First for the issues that have never been addressed by the previous governments.

The Opposition Whip, Salote Radrodro said that Dr Mahendra Reddy should be ashamed of himself for standing up and talking about dredging when there was flooding in the country.

She said, "Your policies are not working so it's a waste of taxpayers' money." How ridiculous is that? Dr Reddy was appointed the Minister of Waterways just some months ago. Does Radrodro think Dr Reddy has a magic wand to prevent the flooding? What did the previous governments do to alleviate the problem?

I don't think there will be true bipartisanship until we, the common man and woman, start "mixing it up". I believe Fijians have sorted themselves by ideology and don't spend time trying to know and respect each other even though our PM talks about it all the time.

It's only when we know each other and stop seeing each other as the enemy can we get things done.

And there is a lot to be done: global warming, health care, poverty alleviation and so on. We need people to come together and not bicker.

But that will only happen when we start "mixing it up" again.

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