Traditionally Christmas is a time of giving but the priorities of the Attorney-General in the past few days have strongly suggested that whatever everyone else in Fiji is doing at least one member of the Cabinet is focussed on taking.
“We have written to [One Hundred Sands Ltd] to show cause as to why we should not cancel the licence that we gave to them [in 2012] and they have to respond. There are obviously a number of other milestones they did not achieve so we hope to hear from them by 4pm this [Friday] afternoon,” Khaiyum told FBC this week.
Sadly FBC did not think to ask Sayed-Khaiyum what the difference was between this December 2014 ultimatum and the October 2013 ultimatum in which Sayed-Khaiyum announced,"Today (October 3), I have written to the chairman asking him to show clear cause why government should not cancel the licence."
Or the difference with the ultimatum given even earlier in 2013 – barely a year after the ground-breaking ceremony.
“They have been given until the end of May to come through," the Attorney-General told the Fiji Times in an April 2013 article headlined ‘Deadline for Casino’.
That the One Hundred Sands Ltd deal is dead in the water is obvious to all but the desperate Attorney-General. Not only is there no development and none of the 1900 jobs promised in the construction phase, the fiction of the casino is not even hiding behind a functioning website.
Like the parrot in the famous Monty Python sketch, the casino project is dead. It has ceased to exist. It’s passed on! This casino is no more! It has ceased to be! The project’s expired and gone to meet its maker! One Hundred Sands is a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace!
Except in the mind of one person … (perhaps two. because we know that Aunty Nur’s Suva company did much of the corporate filings for One Hundred Sands Ltd) who, by his actions, is still clinging to the promises of the hundreds of millions.
Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has been the lead government figure at the centre of the controversial Denarau sandpit pretending to be a $290 million casino and convention centre since the controversial project was announced in November 2010, with Larry Claunch’s One Hundred Sands Ltd announced as the exclusive licensee in December 2011.
Although it was prime minister Frank Bainimarama who officiated the ground-breaking in April 2012, all along this project was the baby of, and driven by, Sayed-Khaiyum, as the Ministry of Tourism, with all licences and approvals fast-tracked by Sayed-Khaiyum, the Attorney-General.
[In much the very same way that the Television (Cross-Carriage of Designated Events) Decree 2014 was the baby of, and driven by, Sayed-Khaiyum’s empire-within-an-empire megalomania.]
So it was Sayed-Khaiyum who beat over the head anybody from within civic society that dared criticise the casino licence (and the Television Decree 2014).
Like Hassan Khan from the Fiji Council of Social Services (FCOSS) who said the ground-breaking ceremony was nothing short of the introduction of ‘a social cancer’.
Khan pointed out (perhaps naively) that under the terms of the military government’s National Charter for Peace, Progress and Change civic society groups were promised a consultation and social impact study on the casino project – neither of which occurred.
‘A publicity stunt’ said the Attorney-General of Khan, dismissively, in April 2012.
It was Sayed-Khaiyum that announced in June 2013 the regime of penalty payments: USD100,000 per month starting that October for each month of delay. Proving once again that Sayed-Khaiyum has a lead touch when it comes to business, it’s believed only one months’ worth of fines have been paid. And more than 14 months (or USD1.4m) remain overdue.
And still the 15-year exclusive casino licence has not been cancelled …
Yet the license that the people of Fiji desperately care about – Fiji TV’s six-month licence – ticks closer and closer to expiry. Taking into account the public holidays on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day there are as few as six working days before December 31, when the country’s most popular TV station could be forced to go off air.
Fiji TV is no dead parrot – but Sayed-Khaiyum very much wishes it were and is doing his best to make it thus.