Fiji Time: 7:07 PM on Monday 19 March

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A-G discusses scholarships, MP salaries

Manasa Kalouniviti
Saturday, May 13, 2017

THE Attorney-General and Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, says there is no discrimination in the allocation of Toppers scholarships, stating yesterday the allocations were made on the basis of the needs of the nation.

He made the comment in response to a question from a University of the South Pacific (USP) student during budget consultations.

The student questioned why there was inequality in the allocation of scholarships in that only some fields were considered and some other fields were not.

The student had also stated under the 2013 Constitution there was an equality provision to ensure no discrimination.

The A-G told the student the equality provisions under the Constitution did not apply to what he just mentioned.

"The equality provisions are regarding the unfair discrimination of individuals and its based on characteristics listed in Section 26(2) of the Constitution on things like gender, pregnancy, ethnicity, religion etc.

"Yes, there is a skewered allocation in the Toppers for more science-based subjects.

"The Toppers has been allocated on the basis of our needs as a nation. We don't have enough marine biologists, we don't have enough foresters or doctors or nurses or counsellors."

Another student from the floor said his question was based on an article by this newspaper on Tuesday, April 18, whereby a student from Sigatoka had asked the A-G about the ministers' salaries.

"And you gave a very interesting answer. You said, 'The reason why the ministers' salaries are high is that corruption is more likely to occur if public officials are being paid less than what they deserved'. You guys have cars, bodyguards and the only thing you have to do is get into the car, you don't have to worry about going anywhere.

"But what I'm asking today is how reasonable is the ministers' salaries and the precedent that you set, by the time we become 30 or 40 the PM then will probably be getting $1 million or $2m a year."

The A-G immediately said: "Don't believe everything you read in The Fiji Times, that's one of the first thing I want to say to you."

And amidst the reaction from the crowd he added: "I'm telling you a fact, because there's a lot of misreporting and they have a propensity to do that. And it was not in Sigatoka, it was in Nadi at Shree Vivekanand College."

He said in the previous Parliament, MPs were being paid $16,000 and $12,000 a year.

"The efficiency of the parliamentary system was very, very low."

"It was obviously considered very little by those people, so there was a scam in place and what the people did was they would actually have very long sitting hours in the sector committees, there was no restriction.

"You'll actually have MPs picking up $50k, $60k and $70k just from sitting allowances, they would drag the committee hearings for two years.

He said a classic example of this was for the Family Law Act where the committee sat for two years.

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