According to communications seen by Fiji Leaks one of the key conditions set by the IRB for a resumption of the $3.3m annual development grant is the appointment of an external director – former FASANOC president Vidhya Lakhan is the name proposed by the IRB – to a full-time paid position within the FRU structure to monitor the use of the IRB’s grant money and have signing authority for the disbursement of any IRB funds if funding is restarted.
Such an appointment would only have teeth if Lakhan was to have director status within the FRU – the ability to attend and vote at board level – but this would require the FRU’s constitution to be rewritten – a truly drastic step – to create a 10th board position.
Or one of the current board members from either of the two names nominated by the FRU’s Trustees (their current nominees are believed to be the current acting CEO Dr Berlin Kafoa and supermarket tycoon Baljeet Singh) or Frank Bainimarama's Nominee (currently the FRU chairman and permanent secretary Finance Filimone Waqabaca) will have to stand down to facilitate the IRB’s demand.
It would be inconceivable that the duly elected FRU directors, Daniel Whippy, Dr Esther Williams, Mosese Taga, Carl Ngamoki-Cameron, Filimone Vatuvoka, and Napolioni Batimala would make way for Lakhan.
Lakhan retired as president of FASANOC last year after almost 35 years with the national Olympic committee, which includes the FRU as a member body, but continues to serve as the president of the Pacific Games Council which runs the South Pacific Games.
The link that may see Lakhan parachuted into Rugby House is through the International Olympic Committee, which welcomes back rugby as a full medal sport for men and women at the Rio Olympics for the first time since 1924. IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset has made no bones about the significance of the Olympics to the future growth of rugby beyond the games traditional powers in Europe and SANZAR: ‘I think the Olympics needs rugby because we have new and smaller countries that could come in and compete for gold medals, like Fiji for example. They don’t feature highly in the Olympic movement but they are currently World Champions in sevens rugby,’ he said in a 2008 interview.
It would have been through the now overlapping strands of the IRB and Olympic movement that the IRB decided on Lakhan as an honest and independent broker who can handle the local politics of such a delicate situation without losing sight of the need to protect the integrity of the IRB’s development funding.
Whether the FRU will ever admit that, after almost three years of leadership following the Bainimarama-approved coup of 2011, and provided firstly by land force commander Mosese Tikoitoga and now Bainimarama’s handpicked nominee Waqabaca, that the financial situation within Rugby House is as troubling, opaque and unstable as the IRB alleges, remains to be seen.
The first step would be to tell all of Fiji rugby’s stakeholders including nervous fans everything that the IRB is demanding the FRU do to put the situation right, and then let the FRU’s stakeholders – principally the provincial unions – debate how best to put right all that has gone wrong since the Bainimarama-approved leadership took over before the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
The Fiji Rugby Union has been playing fast and loose with the truth in Rugby House’s response to the weekend confirmation of the Fiji Leaks story that the International Rugby Board is suspending more than F$3 million worth of annual development funding because of fears about governance issues, and concerns over the FRU’s long-term sustainability.
Because Fiji Leaks can report that behind the attack on New Zealand journalist Michael Field that has diverted local media attention from asking the hard questions of Fiji rugby’s military overlords, there is a major bombshell demand that the IRB is making of the FRU, which the FRU has not yet revealed to anxious rugby fans, and may lead to a major constitutional row over who runs rugby in Fiji.
PREFERRED CHOICE: Vidhya Lakhan for Rugby House
Carl Ngamoki-Cameron - one of the directors, who will most likely refuse to lick wounds, and make way for Lakhan
IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset has made no bones about the importance of Olympics and rugby connection
Mosese Tikoitoga kicked FRU into financial mess, aided by Bainimarama and his 2006 coupsters
Michael Field attacked to hide attention from media scrutiny