DUM MARO DUM: COVID, WHAT COVID? FFP Donor ANIL GOHIL throws 50th Birthday Party for his WIFE at the Grand Pacific Hotel with no social distancing etc. FTUC was DENIED peaceful march permit due to COVID
FERTILE BREEDING GROUND FOR COVID: Scientists say indoor events more likely to spread the coronavrius. Birthday guests with no social distancing
ASHWIN RAJ on USA: "The US Human Rights RECORD is hardly worthy of emulation but Fiji does not occupy an indomitable moral plateau with the compulsion to ritualistically produce a report on them every year...."
Fijileaks: Raj had set out with our current Founding Editor-in-Chief and others in opposing coups and the gross racial discrimination in Fiji but along the way, sadly, sold his soul for few pieces of silver, jumping ship. He is, we are told, a pleasant bloke but flawed individual when it comes to issues of human rights violations in Bainimarama's Fiji. We suspect that like Aiyaz Khaiyum, his experiences of the maltreatment of Indo-Fijians has made him blind to the wider human rights issues in Fiji
BALD MORAL COMPASS: Aiyaz Khaiyum's 2013 Constitution of Fiji prohibits the FHRC from investigating cases filed by individuals and organizations relating to the 2006 coup and the 2009 abrogation of the 1997 constitution. If he had any MORAL PLATEAU (whatever it means), he would never have applied to lead the FHRC. By applying, and then accepting the directorship, he is basically COMPLICIT in protecting the 2006 coup abusers and the 2009 abrogators of 1997 Constitution
Fijileaks to Raj: Can you explain in SIMPLE ENGLISH, please!
Marist Old Boys Association President appears in court for allegedly assaulting student
The President of the Marist Old Boys Association who allegedly assaulted a 17-year-old Marist student has been released on bail by Suva Magistrate Liyanage Wickramasekara.
Esika Manulevu has been charged with one count of assault causing actual bodily harm. The alleged incident occurred on the 31st of last month. Manulevu has been released on a bail bond of $2000 and has been ordered not to reoffend. He has also been ordered not to interfere with state witnesses and not to have any contact with the victim. The case will be called on 12th May. Source: Fijivillage News, 9 April 2021
BLIND TO BUTURAKI OF STUDENT: WE are still waiting for ASHWIN RAJ to break familiar human rights wind on the brutal assault on this 17-year-old Marist student by the President of the Marist Brothers Old Boys Club
SILENT VOICES: Where is Education Minister Rosy Akbar and Fiji Police Force? Are they waiting for signal from ex Marist Old Boy Bainimarama? Sources to the boy's family say he might lose sight in his left eye and there is immense Fijian traditional pressure for them to reconcile
Fijileaks: CHARGE THE BRUTUAL AND VIOLENT ASSAILANT
RAJ THE 'REPEAT OFFENDER': Since 2016, the United States Human Rights Reports on Fiji (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020) have cited his failure to stand up to those in FFP government or individuals aligned to FFP. We don't understand why everyone in Fiji and abroad have gone beserk now!
Fijileaks to US Embassy Fiji: In case you are not aware, Bainimarama's newly appointed Special Enjoy to the Pacific Islands, RATU INOKE KUBUABOLA, is none other than a former Violent, Racist, Coupist THUG. We wonder if he has paid back the bill for his medical treatment in US
FIJI 2020 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT AND MAJOR OMISSION IN REPORT: US Embassy in Suva failed to inform WASHINGTON that ASHWIN RAJ is not qualified in Law nor in Journalism to head FHRC or be chair of MIDA
Fijileaks: Although he was appointed Director in February 2016, the Fiji Human Rights Commission had not submitted its annual financial reports since 2008. The 2016 Financial Report was listed for submission to the Auditor-General's Office by 20 December 2020. ASHWIN RAJ, when will Fiji's taxpayers (who are paying a hefty undeserved salary to you) see
the 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 FHRADC Financial Reports? INFORM US! Also, we are not interested in Bainimarama's Climate Change propaganda. We are interested in Change in Climate of Fear, Intimidation, Corruption and Dictatorship, as contained in the 2020 US FHR Report
"To increase respect for human rights by security forces, the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission (FHRADC), international organizations, and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) conducted a number of human rights training courses with law enforcers" -
FIJI 2020 Human Rights Report; Fijileaks: Factual Reporting!
DAVID versus GOLIATH DUEL with the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Gruebel should remind Raj of the October 1983 Invasion of Grenada
"Many governments that profess to respect human rights in principle may in fact secretly order or tacitly condone violations or abuses. Consequently, the reports look beyond statements of policy or intent to examine what a government actually did to protect human rights and promote accountability, including the extent to which it investigated, brought to trial, or punished those responsible for any violations or abuses." The US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken
Since the inception of Country Human Rights Reports on Fiji, the US has never consulted the FHRC or whichever Government has been in power. The Fiji 2020 Human Rights Report is NO exception. Aside from gnomic RAJ, the Fiji Sun has gone barking mad, pointing out that neither any of its journalists were approached by the US Embassy in Suva. Understandably, for the Embassy must have concluded that these pro FFP journalists will be biased or even outright spies for FFP government. Throughout Fiji's post Independence history, all embassies and high commissions have fraternised with Fiji journalists to
"read" and 'report' back on Fiji. Our current Founding Editor-in-Chief was among the many journalists regularly consulted in the 1980s
The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association; however, the government restricted these freedoms in some cases.
Freedom of Peaceful AssemblyThe constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly but allows the government to limit this right in the interests of national security, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, and the orderly conduct of elections. The constitution also allows the government to limit freedom of assembly to protect the rights of others and imposes restrictions on public officials’ rights to freedom of assembly.
The POA allows authorities to use whatever force necessary to prohibit or disperse public and private meetings after “due warning,” in order to preserve public order.
Although event organizers said authorities were sometimes very slow to issue permits, they granted permits for public rallies in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community and the 16 Days of Activism against Domestic Violence Campaign. Authorities, however, denied permits for public-service unions and the political opposition to protest.
Executive members of the Fijian Teachers Association (FTA), an affiliate member of FTUC, claimed police harassed and threatened them with “further action” over plans to hold a march during an Asian Development Bank (ADB) summit to be hosted by Fiji from May 1-5, and also if they failed to turn up for meetings at the police office. The Ministry of Education also threatened teachers with further reprisals, including legal action, if they participated in a planned May 3 nationwide strike (see section 7, below).
On June 17, police detained the president of the Fiji National Farmers Union (NFU), Surendra Lal, for questioning regarding alleged incitement and threatening to disrupt the harvesting of sugar cane. After two days Lal was released without being charged. According to an NFU statement, the detention came when growers were protesting low cane payments, a low forecast price for sugar, and the imposition of cane-cartage weight restrictions for trucks, which the union claimed would significantly add to transport costs.
Freedom of Association
The constitution provides for freedom of association but limits this right in the interests of national security, public order, and morality and also for the orderly conduct of elections. The government generally did not restrict membership in NGOs, professional associations, and other private organizations.
On May 2, police raided the FTUC’s headquarters without a warrant and confiscated documents, laptops, and other equipment belonging to the union.
Fijileaks: The 2021 Report next March will highlight the following - denial of march permit application to the FTUC
Fijileaks to ASHWIN RAJ: Before issuing "Gnomic" Response, go take a lesson from the United States on How to File Fiji Human Rights Report. Better still, provide us with an uptodate account of FHRC Annual Reports
I am honored to release the 45th annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to placing human rights at the center of our foreign policy. The cause of human rights, freedom, and dignity is close to the American heart. As President Biden emphasized, “We must start with diplomacy rooted in America’s most cherished democratic values: defending freedom, championing opportunity, upholding universal rights, respecting the rule of law, and treating every person with dignity.” Transparency and accountability are integral to this process. By documenting the status of human rights around the world each year, the U.S. Department of State provides objective and comprehensive information to Congress, civil society, academics, activists, and people everywhere – all of whom have roles to play in promoting human rights and accountability for rights abuses and violations.
The 2020 report reflects the unique challenges that nations had to confront as the COVID-19 virus spread throughout the world. The pandemic impacted not only individuals’ health, but their abilities to safely enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms. Some governments used the crisis as a pretext to restrict rights and consolidate authoritarian rule. Other governments relied on democratic values and processes, including a free press, transparency, and accountability, to inform and protect their citizens. Women and children faced heightened risk as the prevalence of gender-based and domestic violence increased due to lockdowns and the loss of traditional social protections. Other marginalized populations, including older persons, persons with disabilities, and LGBTQI+ persons, experienced particular vulnerability.
Human rights are interdependent, and the deprivation of one right can cause the broader fabric of a society to fray. Despite potential risks to their health or threats of arrest or other repercussions, people around the world demanded that governments respect their human rights and inherent dignity. From Hong Kong to Belarus, from Nigeria to Venezuela, people assembled in the streets. (Fijileaks: Except in Fiji where application to march peacefully have been consistently refused). They called for governmental protection of their human rights and fundamental freedoms, safeguards for free and fair elections, and an end to discrimination.
Too many people continued to suffer under brutal conditions in 2020. In China, government authorities committed genocide against Uyghurs, who are predominantly Muslim, and crimes against humanity including imprisonment, torture, enforced sterilization, and persecution against Uyghurs and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups. Assad’s atrocities against the people of Syria continued unabated, and this year marks ten years of their struggles to live in dignity and freedom. The war in Yemen has driven millions to extreme humanitarian need, preventing them from exercising many of their basic rights. The Russian government has targeted political dissidents and peaceful protestors, while official corruption remained rampant. The corruption of Nicolas Maduro increased the dire humanitarian crisis of the Venezuelan people.
In Nicaragua, the corrupt Ortega regime passed increasingly repressive laws that limit severely the ability of opposition political groups, civil society, and independent media to operate. Meanwhile in Cuba, government restrictions continued to suppress the freedoms of expression, association, religion or belief, and movement. State-sanctioned violence in Zimbabwe against civil society activists, labor leaders, and opposition members continued a culture of impunity, and LGBTQI+ persons continued to be vulnerable to violence, discrimination, and harassment due to criminalization and stigma associated with same-sex sexual conduct. In Turkmenistan, citizens criticizing the government faced possible arrest for treason, and the whereabouts of more than 100 political prisoners remain unknown.
These and other ongoing rights abuses cause untold damage well beyond the borders of any single country; unchecked human rights abuses anywhere can contribute to a sense of impunity everywhere. That is precisely why this Administration has placed human rights front and center in its foreign policy. Recognizing that there is work to be done at home, we are also striving to live up to our highest ideals and principles and are committed to working toward a fairer and more just society in the United States. We all have work to do, and we must use every tool available to foster a more peaceful and just world.
Antony J. Blinken
Secretary of State
This report is submitted to the Congress by the Department of State pursuant to Sections 116(d) and 502B(b) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. 19 U.S.C. § 2464, 2467 also require that U.S. foreign and trade policy take into account countries’ human rights and worker rights performance and that country reports be submitted to the Congress on an annual basis.
This report includes documents on several countries that do not fall into the categories established by these statutes and thus are not covered by the congressional requirement.
The report addresses situations and events in calendar year 2020 only.
The Department of State prepared this report using information from U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, foreign government officials, nongovernmental and international organizations, jurists and legal experts, journalists, academics, labor activists, and published reports. U.S. diplomatic missions abroad prepared the initial drafts of the individual country reports.
Once the initial drafts of the individual country reports were completed by U.S. missions abroad, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), in cooperation with other Department of State offices with the relevant country and regional expertise, reviewed and edited the reports, drawing on its own sources of information as well as of the Department of Labor. Bureau officers also consulted experts in the Department of State and elsewhere on worker rights, refugee issues, police and security issues, women’s issues, and legal matters, among many others. The guiding principles were that all information be reported objectively, thoroughly, and fairly. DRL, working with other Department offices as necessary, also ensured that all reports followed the same methodology and conformed to standard format and structure.
$33MILLION DIGGER SCAMMERS: "We, the three brothers, are NOT the WAF Digger Scammers", remonstrates Mohammed Sareem on Facebook
Fijileaks: We must understand that the $33.7million is not only for digger hire. It's the TOTAL plant hire cost for the period of 15 months. So, it's for all machines, vehicles and equipment hired by WAF
Fijileaks to FICAC:
QUESTIONING SECRECY, DEMANDING UPDATE ON CASE IS
DIGGING THEIR POLITICAL GRAVEYARDS:
Sadly, Ben Padarath is in court because the useless Opposition Politicians were sitting on their backsides, not repeatedly demanding answers about $33million Water Authority Digger Scam. They will raise an issue and then disappear from the face of the earth regarding that issue. They never follow it up. Oops, except when it comes to Indo-Fijian sugarcane farmers. The NFP, like a dog with a bone, for example, will jump up and down demanding answers, for political mileage
We say: LET us BURY these useless parties at the 2022 ELECTION
"KPMG is a reputable and well-established firm in Fiji, and they would never have tabled a ‘half pie’ audit report involving an alleged $33.7 million scam. The audit would have contained enough information to virtually allow FICAC to move immediately and lay charges. So why has it taken them this long?
The tragedy of this case is that the $33 million that was either stolen or given to this unethical contractor is equal to 10,000 unemployed or under employed COVID19 affected workers receiving $825 per quarter for 12 months to help them and thier families survive. These acts of greed and self enrichment must never be allowed to continue and all citizens who currently enable, aid or abet this criminal behavior, must start to do the right thing now and and start saying NO! To remain silent means you are 'complicit' and a party to the fraud being done against your employer, your self, your family and all your fellow citizens. So STOP NOW!" - MICK BEDDOES
Under the Companies Act, Directors appointed to Boards all have a fiduciary responsibility, and in the case of Government entities and institutions, the ultimate shareholders are the
taxpayers of Fiji.
The Companies Act spells out some of those responsibilities in: -
Sec 103 – to only exercise powers for the purposes for which they are conferred.
Sec 104 - Directors to act in good faith and promote the success of the company
Sec 105 the need for Board members to exercise ‘independent judgement’
Sec 106 the need to exercise reasonable care and diligence
Sec 107 to avoid situations in which a Director has or can have a direct or indirect interest in that it may possibly create a conflict with the company.
Sec 403 Which requires the company to lodge its annual returns with the registrar within 4 months after the end of the financial year.
According to information on the WAF website, the latest Annual Report is 2016. This means WAF has been in breach of Sec 403 for the past 3 years in a row, ever since the scam occurred. I have excluded 2020 which has been disrupted by COVID19.
With the exception of Ms Lynne Vaurasi and Mr Taitusi Vakadravuyca whose appointment dates I have yet to establish, other members including Mr Bhavesh Patel [Chairman] was appointed on 23rd April 2015, Mr Umarji Musa on 1st March 2015, Mr P. L. Munasinghe on 1st January 2015, Mr Hemant Kumar on 23rd April 2015 and Mr Kamal Gounder on 13th October 2016.
The majority of members have been in control of WAF for more than 5 years, having been reappointed for a second 3-year term and most of them serve on other Boards as well so are well versed with good business practice and ethics and the fiduciary responsibilities that each Director has under the Companies Act.
It is therefore not unreasonable for taxpayers to assume that all the Directors, have as part of their Individual and collective responsibility acted to ensure corporate governance, financial performance, risk management and strategic planning, good faith, independent judgement and reasonable care and diligence when managing and dispensing the $1.3 billion [Operations: $531.1 million & Capital: $787.5 million] allocated since 2014.
Which is why I find it highly irregular that 3 years after a KPMG special audit on the abuse itself in the WAF Plant Hire Division, which was tabled to the Board in August 2017, remains unresolved today?
KPMG is a reputable and well-established firm in Fiji, and they would never have tabled a ‘half pie’ audit report involving an alleged $33.7 million scam. The audit would have contained enough information to virtually allow FICAC to move immediately and lay charges. So why has it taken them this long?
I mean, from WAF’s own internal records, surely it would have a file copy of the contract with the company, details of the contractor, names and addresses of Directors and shareholders, copies of every cheque or online payment made over the 15 months to the contractor, names of every employee involved in processing and making those payments and the authorizing officers for every payment with their designated authority levels.
How on earth could a $33.7 million case of scam with an existing ‘contractor ‘which represented 17% of the total Capital grant for WAF in 2016-17 remain unresolved and still ongoing 3 years after a specific audit by KPMG was tabled with just a small note in the WAF 2016 Annual Report stating ‘The Matter is with FICAC’
My point is, aside from handing the matter over to FICAC, the Board had a responsibility and obligation to commence its own recovery process against the offending contractor and internal investigations to identify and remove staff who aided and abetted in the crime, armed with the details of the KPMG Audit report. Did they take any recovery action?
Or is this where the Board of WAF abdicated their responsibilities and washed their hands of the $33.7 million scam that occurred under their watch? Is this why there has not been any Annual report since 2016? The people need and are entitled to answers.
A week ago, my family hired a digger and the rate charged was $120 an hour with a minimum of a 2-hour hire. There was also a $70 reposition fee per day. Therefore for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week with 5 days reposition fees the total cost per week would be $5,175. So, a 15-month contract would cost $336,375. I accept there may be a variation in charges, but the difference would be minimal. Yet WAF paid out a staggering $33.3 million more for the work that 1 digger would normally cost to do. Daylight robbery!
Another way to explain this outrageous and unbelievable abuse is this. I sourced costs for diggers, and they were priced from $65,353 to $145,037. So, if we took the high price of $145, 037 per digger, it tells us that WAF could have purchased 232 diggers for the same price they overpaid to just hire 1 digger for 15 months.
The KPMG report also noted the following:
1. Contractors were being paid rates that were higher than those approved by the Board and Board approval for the increase was not sought.
2. A large steel track excavator was mainly used at the Natabua Wastewater Sewerage Plant for 6 months @ $80 per hour, when a smaller digger @ $45 per hour could have done the job and saved WAF and taxpayers $25,497.
3. A payment of $59,119.25 was paid out which included a [$38,427.51] or 65% over-payment.
4. A large rubber track excavator was hired at a higher rate for a contract, but a steel track excavator was noted doing the job resulting in a $10,285 over-payment.
This has to mean the mismanagement is widespread and yet in over 3 years there has been no communication from the Chairman and the Board on the progress of this case?
I am writing to the Board of the Water Authority of Fiji under the provisions of Sec 25 which allows us to Access to information and I will be asking them to:
1. All take full responsibility for this scam and resign their positions with immediate effect
2. Release the KPMG Audit Report on the scam so the facts can be known
3. Provide the public with the exact recovery measures WAF has taken to date to
a. Wind up the fraudulent contractor and recover the $33 million, including seizure of all their assets and cash.
Make these details public.
b. Apply for the owners passports to be surrendered and a ban on any outward travel put in place.
The tragedy of this case is that the $33 million that was either stolen or given to this unethical contractor is equal to 10,000 unemployed or under employed COVID19 affected workers receiving $825 per quarter for 12 months to help them and thier families survive.
These acts of greed and self enrichment must never be allowed to continue and all citizens who currently enable, aid or abet this criminal behavior, must start to do the right thing now and and start saying NO!
To remain silent means you are 'complicit' and a party to the fraud being done against your employer, your self, your family and all your fellow citizens.
So STOP NOW!
WAF and FFP Donors: Both Bhavesh Patel and Hemant Kumar Mehsuria donated thousands of dollars to Aiyaz Khaiyum's FijiFIRST Party
Fijileaks: FIT FOR WHAT?
MYSTERY of Goundar Shippings Shrinking Ferry LOMAIVITI Princes III. International Transport Workers Federation claims Lomaiviti Princess registered in Fiji 14 meters shorter than in Canada. ITWF demands Probe
*The Queen of Chilliwack had a length of 114 meters and a gross tonnage of 5,011 gt and measured 114.8 meters long by 18.3 meters beam
*In 2015 she was sold to Goundar Shipping of Fiji and renamed Lomaiviti Princess III. Now, while the Equasis data base still shows her gross tonnage as 5,011 gt, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) says that its inspectors have received information indicating that Goundar Shipping Limited may have registered the MV Lomaiviti Princess III at 14 meters shorter and with a 2.431 lower gross tonnage that the vessel’s previous registration in Canada
*The ITF says that “the paperwork discrepancy has meant the ferry has likely not received critical maintenance required for a vessel of its size, nor has it been staffed with crew of required skill and experience according to Fijian regulations and international rules.”
*On Wednesday, March 24, an ITF inspector wrote to the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji (MSAF) officially raising the discrepancy:
“Should this information be accurate, and we suspect it is, then this raises red flags for the ITF,” the ITF’s Sarah Maguire wrote the MSAF.
“We believe this vessel and others in Goundar’s fleet are not operating safely, have not received dry dock, and are being operated by crew who are under-qualified.”
*According to the ITF, Fiji’s regulations stipulate vessels of the Queen of Chilliwack’s size need a larger, more qualified crew than vessels of the smaller size that, it says, Goundar registered the ship as with MSAF in 2015
My wife is financing all my investments in Fiji from Canada”
George 'Subarmani' Goundar, 30 September 2014, Fiji Sun
Goundar's fleet is considered old, and the seafarers felt unsafe with the lack of maintenance on the vessels (Credit: ITF)
Transport workers’ unions are welcoming reports that Fijian authorities have launched an investigation into Goundar Shipping’s ongoing abusive treatment of dozens of Filipino seafarers. The probe must cover all areas of Goundar’s ‘seafarer scam’ and lead to real change to be credible, the unions warn.
ITF investigations this week have uncovered that staff at Goundar Shipping tried to confiscate a number of seafarers’ passports and other documents upon beginning work with the company. It is alleged that the company would not allow the seafarers to work until they did so. Withholding travel documents and forcing persons to work under threat are both offences under Fiji’s human trafficking laws.
“We welcome news of a Police investigation into Goundar Shipping after so many months of inaction from Fijian authorities. But it is important that any investigation addresses the full list of allegations against Goundar Shipping. We’re talking human trafficking, slavery, deception, labour law violations, intimidation, the list goes on..,” said ITF Inspector Sarah Maguire.
“It’s clear now that more than 20 Filipino seafarers were lured to Fiji to operate an ageing ferry fleet under false pretences, only to find 50-70 percent lower wages, unsafe conditions and no return ticket home as promised by Goundar shipping and required under Fiji’s immigration laws. When they arrived, Goundar cut the seafarers’ pay further, undercounted their hours, and generally treated them with contempt.”
Goundar also cut workers’ food rations, eventually to just bread and tea, and pushed seafarers to work an unsafe number of hours, many of them without commensurate pay.
The ITF estimates Goundar Shipping owes the seafarers collectively more than AUD $250,000 in unpaid wages.
“Goundar’s abusive tactics are not limited to taking passports – his illegal pay cuts kept these seafarers too poor to afford tickets home. They’re trapped there – working for a man they despise. And if they complain, his company sacks them and dumps them at the nearest port with absolutely nothing. They’re a million miles from home, with a Fijian government, which has so far failed to enforce their rights under the law,” said Maguire.
ITF working with Police investigation as new allegations revealed
On Tuesday the seafarers and their legal team met with officials from the Fiji’s immigration department and Human Rights Commission. For the first time, Fijian authorities confirmed that an active Police investigation has been launched into Goundar’s conduct.
It follows a months of the complaints being overlooked by Fijian officials. The seafarers had tipped off labour authorities in September 2020, and made official complaints with Police and the immigration in December 2020. When they received no response, another Police complaint was made on 5 January in the presence of the seafarers’ legal team. As recently as late February, Fijian government officials were denying that they had received complaints.
The ITF this week sent a letter to Permanent Secretary of Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s office detailing new allegations against Goundar Shipping that have been uncovered in recent days.
The ITF says that documents and testimonies indicate Goundar Shipping may have broken more Fijian laws than previously thought, as Goundar:
- routinely docks seafarers’ pay for basic items like PPE (Personal Protective Equipment);
- fails to provide basic hygiene necessities such as hand soap or laundry powder
- refuses to give workers transparent payslips;
- does not provide functioning fire and protective equipment onboard – severely endangering crew and passengers;
- informed workers that they needed to sign a contract for another year before he will pay for their return flights.
“Fiji owes the victims justice by fully investigating every allegation made against Goundar and pushing for prosecution in every area where laws have been broken. A thorough, transparent investigation is what these seafarers deserve after Fijian officials failed to act for so long over the abuse rampant in their biggest shipping company,” she said.
Goundar’s ongoing treatment of seafarers embarrassing Fiji
In the ITF’s letter on Monday to the Office of the Prime Minister and Minister for Immigration, who are both Voreqe Bainimarama, and his top officials, the global union federation said that Goundar Shipping’s conduct was now embarrassing Fiji on the world stage.
“This is a test for the Fijian government, and the whole world is watching. Are employers made to honour their obligations and promises to workers in Fiji, or can they get off the hook without paying what’s owed under Fijian law? The answer will send a message to workers, employers and would-be scammers. It’s time to crack down on crooks like Goundar – make them pay,” said the ITF’s Maguire.
Seven of the Filipino 20 seafarers Goundar brought to Fiji under its scamming operation are still currently abandoned without income and housing in Suva. All of the seafarers, including those still working for the company, want to go home after months of being over-contract.
Goundar this week told nine of the remaining seafarers it employs that it would finally arrange flights for them.
However, the shipping company is refusing to pay for quarantine and Covid PCR testing as part of the repatriation, meaning the impoverished seafarers will likely remain stranded in Fiji. A PCR test is worth about $300 Fijian Dollars (or $190 AUD).
The exposure of Goundar’s scam provides an opportunity for the Fiji Government to update its laws to prevent other migrant workers from being abused by employers, said lawyer Adrienne Ali of InterAlia Consultancy, who is leading the seafarers’ legal case in Suva.
“The only logical conclusion from the facts of this matter is that Goundar Shipping sought to reduce its labour costs and employee complaints by going to another jurisdiction and sourcing foreign workers, who are often cheaper, more compliant, and unrepresented by unions,” said Ali.
“Migrant workers can be desperate for work, making it difficult for them to reject unfair treatment and conditions once they arrive in the country – especially if they’re being told they have to pay for flights home. That’s why we need a system that supports their ability to speak up when employers are doing something wrong, like by having a dedicated local liaison or representative that migrant workers can get advice from.”
Ms Ali said another issue that needed to be addressed was that migrant workers were in a different category from Fiji citizens under current laws. For example, if something went wrong at work, the migrant worker would be deported, even if it was their employer who acted unlawfully. That can make migrant workers hesitant to speak up.
Fijian citizens have direct access to regulatory authorities, legal advice and support, she said, whereas migrant workers without sufficient knowledge of Fiji’s laws and regulations faced communication and confidence barriers.
Ensuring the Filipino seafarers could overcome those barriers to get home is why Ms Ali became involved in their case late last year.
She went with the seafarers on Tuesday to support them in registering their complaints with the Fiji Police Force, the Fiji Immigration Department, the Ministry of Employment, and the Fiji Human Rights Commission.
But she said that even when complaints are lodged by victimised workers, getting redress is often unsuccessful due to the historical requirement to be present within country to continue to be a complainant and testify in court.
“I’ve worked on similar cases that have lost traction once the workers left Fiji, and the employers in those cases were never held to account. Thankfully, the Government is revising these laws as we speak to make it possible for workers to continue their complaints even once they have left Fiji. Currently, workers have to physically stay in the country for months or years awaiting their day in court,” she said.
“These seafarers are extremely lucky to have an advocate in their union representatives here and overseas, who can support them and their cause during this time. They’ve also had a lot of support from the local Filipino community, helping them to avoid sleeping on the streets. I know they are thankful for that support.”
“Without the Government having a dedicated authority or liaison officer for migrant workers, it took having to get a local lawyer involved to get traction in this case from officials, meanwhile the seafarers are stuck here without financial support. It’s exhausting and stressful for them and understandably they’re desperate to return home,” said Ali.
TO BE CONTINUED
ITF: Seafarers take a video of Goundar's ship to show the world the unsafe conditions they have been expected to work in by the company
BLIND TO BRUTALITY: The former Colonel who punched Marist Brothers student nearly blinding HIM in the left EYE is Head of SECURITY at the Australian High Commission in Fiji. Diplomats don't give toss to Brutality
BRITISH HIGH COMMISSION IN FIJI SENDS TORTURER QILIHO TO LONDON
"I was physically tortured and had hot water poured over me by Sitiveni Qilihio"
"I, Ben Padarath was tortured at the RFMF's Queen Elizabeth Barracks in Suva, Fiji in February 2011. The soldiers who assaulted me included Sitiveni Qilihio. I was physically tortured and had hot water poured over me by Sitiveni Qilihio. My whole left arm was broken from my wrist to my shoulder, this arm I still can't lift above my head to this very day. During the assault as I lay on the ground in much pain and blood, Qiliho continued to kick me and used the butt of a gun to break my left wrist.
"LCDR NAUPOTO is also be to be charged for not limiting the roughening up to a certain degree that could be easily controlled. He is to be charged under Section 69 of the Army Act 1955, Conduct to the Prejduice of Good Order and Military Discipline. It is also recommended that he should be admonished for the maintenance of morale in the Naval Unit and the technicality arising out of the lack of foresight at higher level of command of the improper management of the Military Police in the transportation of the State detainees to Nukulau"
Board of Inquiry Report, August 2000, on George Speight & Associates
Fijileaks: We shouldn't be making a big song and dance regarding the US 2020 Human Rights Report on Fiji. Previous reports also highlighted violations, but the diplomats continue to ball grease the FFP government
Fiji Labour Party questions EFL’s decision to withdraw a 52% subsidy on first 100 units of electricity used per month by its domestic consumers. EFL has, without explanation, withdrawn commitment effective 1st April
The EFL subsidy was worth $17.67 (52%) per month while the government contributed $16.34 (48%), making a total of $34.01c in monthly subsidy.
While the government subsidy continues, EFL has, without explanation, withdrawn its commitment effective 1st April.
The subsidy was initiated to assist the people in a situation of severe economic downturn following the Covid pandemic.
“The Labour Party is satisfied that EFL has the financial capacity to continue the subsidy, and should do so, as a responsible public sector corporate organization, until economic conditions improve,” said Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry.
“The Party is apprehensive that the withdrawal of the subsidy may be a sign of things to come now that the government has embarked on a partial privatization of EFL,” he said.
#Fuel and #CookingGas prices up
Mr Chaudhry also expressed concern at the rapidly rising prices of fuel and cooking gas.
“The increases announced in the April review by the FCCC are enormous, coming on the heels of similar hikes last month,” he said.
In the two months from 1st February to 1st April the following price increases have been allowed by FCCC: (Viti Levu prices – people outside pay more)
Motor Spirit from $1.94 - $2.24 - 30c per litre
Diesel from $1.61 - $1.86 - 25c per litre
Kerosene from $1.08 - 1.43 - 35c per litre
Cooking Gas (13kg) cylinder from $36.17 - $40.94 - $4.77
Bulk Gas from $ 2.33 - $2.64 - 31c per kg
“Fiji Labour Party believes that the profit margins allowed the oil and gas companies and their intermediaries need to be reviewed in the context of the current economic and market conditions, and in the public interest.
“A promised review by FCCC late last year of the current price determination template and methodology has not eventuated.
“We urge that this be completed without any further delay as the current trends in the prices of these commodities appear to militate against the public interest,” Mr Chaudhry said..