Counsel for David Burness, Dr Shaista Shameem, says that the advertisements placed by Fiji National Provident Fund in the newspapers in four (4) parts over the past four (4) weekends have utterly failed to convince her client and others in the multiple action against the FNPF and the Fiji Government that the intended cuts to their FNPF pensions are based on sound principles of integrity and good faith. David Burness is taking the FNPF and Government to court in response to proposed cuts to his pension.
Dr Shaista Shameem said the FNPF advertisements show that the proposals put forward by FNPF are politically or personally motivated since the pensioners selected for the proposed reductions are handpicked. The reductions will apply only to select pensioners who are being deliberately targeted for reasons best known to FNPF and Government.
She said that in the most recent advertisement published in the Fiji Times of Saturday September 3rd , the FNPF describes the pensions awarded to her clients as a ‘windfall’ when it was nothing of the sort. A ‘windfall’ is like an unexpected gift, which the FNPF pension never was, since it was always awarded on the basis of proper calculation at the time of retirement, says Dr Shameem. The FNPF advertisement was therefore deliberately misleading. She says FNPF needs to get its act together on the terminology it uses in public advertisements because, in using certain words without knowing what they mean, it is misrepresenting the issue to the people of Fiji.
Dr Shameem says that FNPF advertisements were not able to provide a single lawful reason or shred of evidence why the pensions of some pensioners should be reduced. FNPF has therefore failed to convince her clients that such proposed reductions are legitimate. All it has done is to instil a deep sense of fear in a small group of pensioners that FNPF and Government can target anyone they like for discriminatory treatment just because they, seemingly, have the power to do so in the present political climate. This shows arbitrary action, and lack of good faith on the part of FNPF and the Government towards elderly people in Fiji who have earned the right to their pensions. Such fear and insecurity faced by pensioners will have a domino effect on the rest of the adult population, most of whom are members of the FNPF.
Dr Shameem says that the FNPF advertisements placed in the newspapers over the past four weeks will be referred to in the David Burness and other court actions as an example of deceptive and misleading conduct on the part of FNPF and Government. FNPF and Government have clearly opened the door to even more public criticism of their proposals by such advertising. By direction of the Ministry of Information, the media have not been able to publish press statements from David Burness to provide the alternative view.
FNPF and Government lawyers told the Court last week that they will make another effort to strike out the Burness action. However, Dr Shameem says her client and all his supporters are ready with their legal arguments to prevent any attempt to strike out Mr Burness’ application for human rights protection on this issue of national significance.