IN 2010, the FNPF announced a review of pension provisions which when implemented in 2012 led to pensions being reduced by up to 51.13 per cent causing severe financial hardship and distress to pensioners. In fact, a number were pushed below the poverty level.
What happened to these pensioners was a cruel and bitter experience.
Many believe that in proceeding with its changes, the FNPF:
* did not recognise the binding obligations that existed between pensioners and FNPF for payment of pensions. This had been recognised by FNPF when pensions were first reduced in 1995;
* claimed without any proven financial justification that the level of pensions being paid in 2012 by FNPF was unsustainable;
* did not implement the provisions of the FNPF Act Cap 219, Section 10 that if the FNPF is short of funds to pay pensions the government would provide these and government should be paid back as soon as practicable;
* would not enter into any discussion concerning the FNPF pension buffer reserve and why this had not been credited with interest since 1975 that would have provided some $860m for the payment of pensions;
* did not understand that the FNPF financial model was designed to provide for a steady and reasonable reduction in pension rates to ensure the long term stability of the fund. The reduction in maximum pensions from 25 per cent to 15 per cent in 1995 was the first step in this process;
* failed to either respond, or have the courtesy to acknowledge, the many emails, faxes and letters forwarded by aggrieved pensioners to FNPF protesting at the changes;
* ignored their consultant’s advice (promontory) to honour existing pension contracts by allocating sufficient assets to provide for the continued payment of pensions at the then existing levels;
* would not engage in any meaningful dialogue either publicly or in private to enable pensioners to have a fair hearing and question the merit of FNPF claims; and
* may not have understood that the changes when implemented would create financial hardship and distress for many elderly pensioners that has sadly proven correct.
Pensioners were also denied natural justice and the right to seek redress regarding the changes through the courts by Decree No 51 of 2011 that provided that there could be no court challenge to the changes and which has stalled a case brought by aggrieved pensioner David Burness .
Readers should refer to fijipensioners.com for further financial details and comment.
Click here: SubmissionAug2014FinalAtt
It is reasonable to suggest that affected pensioners will expect the new incoming democratically elected government to have a commission of enquiry into the FNPF, with terms of reference and power to enquire into the FNPF and to restore pensions to previous levels, and investigate the utilisation of the Pension Buffer Reserve.
RG McDonald, Pensioner, Suva
Mr Aiyaz Khaiyum advises NGOs like Citizens Constitutional Forum to not play “Mickey Mouse games” before the elections (Fiji Sun, 5 August 2014). The public should consider that:
(a) The Bainimarama Government has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers money encouraging the voter registration of Fiji citizens living overseas so that they can have a say in electing some candidate for the parliament, even if they have Permanent Residency of and presumably some commitment to other countries.
(b) Civil servants, even if they have been out of the country for the last two years “on government business”, may still be eligible as candidates for the elections, and may even belong to political parties, according to the Permanent Secretary of the PSC.
(c) BUT an ordinary Fiji citizen, like Ms Makareta Waqavonovono, a former Legal Aid and committed senior Fiji government official, who has been overseas for more than 18 months out of the last two years, is declared legally ineligible to be a candidate by a sudden last minute change of the law on the 31st of July 2014, just a month before the elections, after Ms Waqavonovono has already been announced as a candidate by the National Federation Party.
The moribund Fiji Law Society or one of its members, might want to ask the general question if laws are being changed to suit a specific circumstance or individual.
But more specifically, the public can ask why Ms Makareta Waqavonovono, a former senior civil servant, has been overseas for the last two years.
First, she has been guilty of bringing great credit to Fiji by working for AusAID and the Australian Government, arguably the most important donor to Fiji.
Second, she has been using her valuable legal skills in the Solomon Islands, a valuable member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group which Fiji often takes pride in helping, by providing much needed skilled human resources, similar to those possessed by Ms Waqavonovono.
Third, Ms Waqavonovono apparently has had the unpatriotic desire to waste her time and money by studying overseas (in Australia) and acquiring further educational qualifications that will undoubtedly be of great benefit to Fiji.
But with this latest decree by Mr Aiyaz Khaiyum (Attorney General and, apparently without any conflict of interest, also the General Secretary of the Fiji First Party), Ms Waqavonovono has been banned from offering to voters, the use of her extensive legal experience in the Fiji Parliament, the most important public service arena there is, superior even to the Government..
Anyone with common sense knows who exactly is playing “Mickey Mouse” games in Fiji with the elections and our people’s lives.
Professor Wadan Narsey
Dear Mr Raj
I sent a Letter to you on the 3 July 2014, requesting your response to a number of matters concerning the development of the media industry but you responded to only one query- that you had requested the media to give you their general editorial policy. You have refused to respond to the other queries directed to you as Chairman of the Media Development Industry (MIDA).
Nor have you asked the media why they did not print my previous letter on the salaries for Bainimarama and Khaiyum for the years 2010 to 2013. This question has been publicly raised by not just taxpayers and voters, but no less than Mr Mahendra Chaudhry a former elected Prime Minister of Fiji, and also Bainimarama’s own former Minister of Finance who one would expect to have a clue or two, on this particular issue.
While we wait for the media to respond to what you had asked them, I wish to ask you again to respond publicly to the following questions which all media are still interested in despite your previous refusal to respond. As a “level playing field” is an essential part of the development of a free, fair, competitive and transparent media industry, could you please inform the public what is your position on the continuing biases in the media industry itself:
(1) tax-payers advertisement funds being channelled by the Bainimarama Government only to Fiji Sun with The Fiji Times being totally denied.
(2) outright subsidies given to FBC via government budget and government guarantees of loans from FDB, with no such subsidies given to either Fiji TV or the other radio broadcasters, Communications Fiji Ltd.
(3) the clearly intimidating renewal of the license for Fiji TV on a six monthly basis, while FBC TV suffers from no such restriction
(4) While Fiji TV’s accounts are available to the shareholders, FBC accounts are not available at all to the taxpayers who supposedly own FBC.
(4A) Mai TV’s “scoop” at obtaining rights to the broadcast of FIFA World Cup (a legitimate entrepreneurial transaction admired in the business world) being forcibly shared by decree amongst the other broadcasters, on financial terms dictated by the Bainimarama Government rather than negotiated amongst themselves as a market transaction.
(5) have you queried Fiji TV and the owners Fijian Holdings Limited why respected senior journalist and administrator Mr Anish Chand was sacked from Fiji TV on this year’s World Press Freedom day (as was related to you during the World Press Freedom Day panel at USP).
Given that you have personally made many public pronouncements that you want MIDA to be accountable to the Fiji public, I would be grateful if
(a) you would request the media to print this Letter to the Editor,
(b) so that the public and the media can also note that these questions have been posed to you, and can wait eagerly for your usual interesting response.
Professor Wadan Narsey
USP Scholarship termination and basic human right to political activity
In recent years the Bainimarama Government has been proclaiming proudly that by lowering the voting age to 18 they are strongly encouraging young people to be involved in the politics and governance of the country.
A necessary corollary of that must be that young people (including students) not just vote but be involved with political parties, policy issues and campaigning with voters to get their views across.
Indeed, the world over, students are at the forefront of political activity, and often radical activities, such as opposing wars, opposing racism, protecting the environment, and even being the youth arms of political parties.
The Bainimarama Government might even be hoping that the frequently and selectively maligned “old politicians” will be replaced by fresh young politicians, with fresh ideas.
The media has reported (FT 28 May 2014) that a student’s scholarship at USP has been terminated by the Tertiary Scholarship and Loans Board because he had been allegedly associating himself “in political agendas” (according to the letter from Secretary to the TSLB, Ms Tofinga).
The letter from TSLB made a number of other puzzling allegations implicating USP and the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs:
2. “and as per clause five of your award letter, you are required to abide by your institute’s rules and regulations” (i.e. presumably USP’s rules and regulations)
3. “the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs has zero tolerance for behaviour contravening those aspects” and the “MTA reserves the right to terminate your scholarship if a report is received from your institute” (i.e. presumably from USP).
Click here to read the full letter :
The University of the South Pacific has been built since it inception in 1968, by thousands of academic and administrative staff.
A few of us who have spent our entire working lives at USP, have an abiding interest in USP’s continued development, and a larger social responsibility to raise issues of concern to the regional member governments and the taxpayers, especially when academic excellence is under threat, despite the many successful and prominent signings of agreements.
It is a matter of serious concern when USP management, for its own unknown motives, refuses to do its utmost to retain extremely valuable and experienced regional academics and administrative staff, especially when there is high turnover of expatriate staff. On the contrary, the University management and senior members of the governing body appear to be doing all they can to encourage their departure from USP.
Recently, one of the more dynamic academics, Professor Biman Prasad resigned from USP, unsuccessful in his application to the position of Deputy President (Deputy Vice Chancellor).
He had also previously resigned as Dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics, in total frustration with the lack of cooperation from USP management. He had been the only Dean (out of 3) at the professorial level, and the most dynamic Dean at that. He was a committed lecturer and a good professional colleague to senior and junior staff alike, with the ability to galvanize them in collective academic work.
Click on the following link for the full letter:
Creeping totalitarianism at USP: an open letter to USP Council and Member Governments
When individuals do not resist small steps taken by dictators to limit their freedom, the restrictions become stronger, until one day, totalitarianism becomes the norm for the whole group.
It is especially hard to counter this when the dictators are friends one has known for more than three decades, working together to build the same institution.
USP stakeholders need to inquire if this is happening at The University of the South Pacific, deeply undermining not just its ethics, transparency, accountability and good governance, but also undermining all the universal principles which have characterized great universities over the centuries (see link below to Masefield).
While many organisations, like the FNPF, include protection of “whistle-blowers” in order to tackle internal governance problems, we all know it is extremely difficult for vulnerable individuals to “blow the whistle” on those in positions of absolute authority.
USP management recently warned all staff that they: “must never communicate directly with the members of the University’s Executive Committee or Council over any matter. A breach of these requirements may amount to … “gross misconduct” and may give rise to disciplinary action (including possibly, in serious cases, dismissal).” (my emphases).
I remind that USP is NOT a private company, “owned” by the Vice Chancellor, or Council Chairman, or even the Executive Committee of Council. USP is a “public company” whose real governing body is the entire USP Council, acting on behalf of the tax-payers of the region.
Yet USP management has today virtually become the owner rather than the employees. Moreover, the governing structure is such that USP Council may now be systematically denied information which could throw USP Management in bad light, especially if the USP Vice Chancellor and sometimes the Chair of Council have a vested interest in such matters. Continue reading
According to news reports Mr Aiyaz Khaiyum is reported to be justifying his remaining as Minister for Elections while also being General Secretary to the proposed Fiji First Party by claiming that Rabuka in 1999 and Qarase in 2001 and 2006 were also in a similar position.
While it might raise some eyebrows a teensy weensy bit to see Khaiyum justifying his behaviour today by referring to similar behaviour by previously maligned “old politicians”, there are some profound differences, other than age and maturity.
Rabuka and Qarase were lawfully elected Members of Parliament, Ministers and Prime Ministers while Khaiyum holds all his ministerial positions courtesy of Rear Admiral Bainimarama’s illegal military coup and an unelected government.
Rabuka’s and Qarase’s governments annually published all the Auditor General Reports on their respective governments’ revenue collection, expenditure and public debt borrowing, thereby showing their willingness to be accountable to the voters (and taxpayers) of Fiji.
In contrast, Bainimarama and Khaiyum, arrogantly refuse to release the Auditor General Reports, showing their utter contempt for the basic principle of accountability of all Ministers (including the Minister for Elections) to tax-payers for the last eight years (two normal terms of government), and also suggesting to voters with any active brain cells, that this government has a lot to hide.
There is therefore a mountain of difference between an elected accountable Minister of Elections holding a political party position, and an unelected and unaccountable Minister such as Mr Khaiyum.
Even more so when the same Minister for Elections (Khaiyum) is also the source of a totally unreasonable and unpopular Electoral Decree and Constitution, which has been unilaterally imposed on the voters of Fiji, supposedly setting the election rules, but which apparently cannot be applied to Bainimarama’s yet- to-be-registered Party, its yet-to-be-confirmed Party Leader, and yet-to-be-confirmed Secretary General Khaiyum. Khaiyum also has appointed his own personal choice of Supervisor of Elections who does not have the slightest chance of being called “old” anything.
This is like the manager of a street fighter insisting on being the referee of a boxing match with the opponents having to follow all the Queensberry rules set by the manager himself, with the rules not applying to his own street fighter.
Professor Wadan Narsey
A handicap that you gave yourself, by giving one individual too much power, the handicap of the resulting lack of transparency, cronyism and corruption. It is all around you Frank, you MUST be able to see it.
Those that want you to continue in power are appalled that you ignore it. Those that want to replace you are rubbing their hands in glee.
There is no doubt that you will get many supporters willing to sign when your Blue Bus travels the country, but on polling day Frank it could well be a different story unless you put your own house in order.
You created these problems Frank and there are still a great many people who are waiting to see if you are big enough to sort it out.
Time to stop listening to bullshit Frank, time to sit down with the men you trusted in 2006 (some of who you have discarded) and listen to what they have to say, chances are you might not like to hear it, but it could help you win the forthcoming election.
Everyone now knows who is presently making all the rules in Fiji Frank, and it is not you.