Abhorrent Breaches of Companies Act by ATS Board Overpayment to Fiji Airways

The National Federation Party says the Board of Air Terminal Services this year overpaid Fiji Airways by $2.5 million contrary to the damage assessment of $535,000 carried out by ATS’s insurers, after a Fiji Airways A330 airplane suffered damage during cargo handling by ATS.

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad said this issue was raised by Directors of ATS on the Board who were representing ATS Employees Trust (ATSET) who hold 49% of shares in the company.

“The ATS Board and its unelected Chairman authorised a payment of $3 million to Fiji Airways. The insurers of ATS, the world reputable firm of Lloyds of London, had assessed the damage to the aircraft to be worth only $535,000”.

“This is one of the many issues of the ATS Board breaching the Companies Act of 2015, and had duly raised it in a Board paper given to the ATS Board at its meeting of 22nd May 2017. The three ATSET Directors on the Board at that time of the discovery of these breaches were Manasa Ratuvili, Kevueli Tunidau and Jai D Singh as Alternate Director”.

“Soon after that meeting which ended abruptly, the two ATSET Directors plus the Alternate Director were dubiously removed from the board, leaving ATSET representation of 49% shares limited to only one director, while Government as 51% shareholder has four directors”.

Professor Prasad said the three ATSET Directors who were represented at the meeting of 22 May 2017 told the Board that it had made a “serious error in judgment in entertaining the demand by Fiji Airways”.

“The Board paper presented by ATSET Directors states that Fiji Airways initially demanded $12 million, after which it was then reduced to $6.4 million and then a settlement was reached for $3 million.

That settlement term was made by the appointed but unelected Chairman, the other Government Members and its than ATSET directors, who were then replaced by ATSET and told in no uncertain terms to show cause for their action. They knowingly and willingly took that decision knowing full well that the insurers had assessed the liability to be only worth $535,000 of damage”.

“More seriously, however is that Fiji Airways had intimidated ATS to pay up. The ATSET paper to the ATS Board states that the airline demanded the money as an “irrefutable claim” and threatened to take away ground handling services from ATS if the money was not paid”.

“The ATSET Directors pointed out that this was blatant blackmail by Fiji Airways as a client of ATS, and the Board wilfully failed to protect the rights of shareholders which are the taxpayers, and the 49% employee-owner shareholders”.

Professor Prasad said this was a very serious issue, that undermined the commercial interest of shareholders – both public and private.

“Government has allowed this and other serious breaches of the Companies Act (http://www.parliament.gov.fj/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Act-No-3-Companies.pdf) to happen and seems to have deliberately turned a blind eye, and in the first instance breached the ATS Articles of Association, by appointing a Chairman when the Chair is elected by the Board”.

Professor Prasad said the saga at ATS led to the ATSET shareholders meeting to deliberate on the serious issues before, and for which they have been unfairly punished by being locked out of their own company.

“Two weeks have lapsed since the start of the impasse. The aggrieved shareholders who are workers spent Christmas day in temporary shelters outside in the drain areas. The issue of why the Prime Minister has not uttered a word or intervened like his predecessors to resolve an industrial dispute is shocking”.

“Any leader of a nation should be concerned about an impasse that is not only affecting workers but their children and families”.

“We call on the Prime Minister to intervene and order ATS Board and Management to allow the workers who are shareholders to freely return to work without loss of pay and benefits and also order an independent inquiry in the operations of ATS”.

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

Leader

NFP Leader – ATS breached Companies Act by overpaying Fiji Airways

Human Rights Director and MIDA Chair reeks of political puppetry ~ MIDA Chair breaches his own Law

National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad has today hit out at the appalling display of political puppetry by the so-called Director of Human Rights, Ashwin Raj, ably aided and abetted by the FBC ‘Speak Your Mind’ host, Shammi Lal Lochan on their segment which was broadcast on radio on Tuesday, 19 December 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqui15-4SC0 (Speak your Mind Link)

“The ludicrous situation where a public servant clearly colludes with host of a show of the State broadcaster, FBC — the head of whom is Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, the younger brother to the Attorney General who is already reeling under public disquiet on his handling of the ATS employee-owner crisis — to make political statements is so laughable its almost not worth responding to, but we are obligated to respond because taxpayers are not “gullible” as Shammi Lochan suggests, and need to hear a counter view.

The theme of the show was supposed to discuss “hate speech on social media”. As the Director of Human Rights, we expected more maturity and leadership in his responses. The listeners and viewers of the show will not need much convincing whether this is what they witnessed or not.

Ms Lochan’s maladroit attempt to take pot-shots at the NFP and reframe our public statement of 02 April 2017 is politically motivated twaddle with the objective of inferring that NFP is racially segmented or promotes xenophobia. This is grossly defamatory and we will be seeking legal advice on this.

If Shammi is an intending candidate of Fiji First party she should do the honourable thing and resign instead of using the publicly funded airwaves to raise her profile. The people are not “gullible” and see right through this shameless self-promotional marketing, using a similar approach of a former radio announcer of that same station who now sits in Parliament.

Ashwin Raj, on the other hand continues to over-extend himself both as the Director of Human Rights and Chair of the Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA). Obviously he confuses himself on which hat he wears on any given day because if he was thinking rationally, instead of using publicly funded air-time to “campaign” on hate speech on social media, he should have exemplified balance and advocated for a wider spread of opinions with more studio guests as per Schedule 1 Media Code of Ethics and Practice, of his OWN enabling MIDA Decree.

Even as the Human Rights Director he of all people should be the first to promote balanced dialogue, instead of hogging the airwaves to promote a skewed worldview on “deliberative democracy”.

If Raj was so concerned about international law and Fiji’s compliance on human rights international law, he should firstly restrict himself to what he can immediately control, and what he is getting paid for, and ensure compliance with the Paris Principles instead of shamelessly kowtowing to the government and speaking with glossy eyes fawning over them.

The State broadcaster FBC, the Human Rights Commission and MIDA all have not tabled Annual Reports in Parliament and are supercilious by not humbling themselves and show accountability to taxpayers funding their operations. This is the height of arrogance that is prevalent from this Government down to their stooges like those we see campaigning for them on public funds.

The Chair of the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission must remove Ashwin Raj immediately. Furthermore, the Prime Minister should remove him as the MIDA Chair.

He has failed to uphold his independence or at least try to show it in the public domain and serious questions arise as to his competence for both roles and his self-aggrandised continuous use of 4 syllabled words is an indictment of his inability to communicate effectively.

Ashwin Raj, by advocating for laws to curb hate speech on social media is a thinly veiled attempt to muzzle the negative publicity of this Government, and he should be speaking to Parliament with facts and figures, instead of hogging the airwaves to promote an unsolicited and tyrannical “campaign” with no public mandate.

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

Leader

NFP Leader- MIDA Chairman breaches his own law – Dec 2017

A time for hope and salvation: NFP Leader

The National Federation Party sincerely hopes that the significance of Christmas prevails upon all the people of Fiji, particularly those at the helm of our nation.

“Christmas is the Season for Hope, Salvation, Peace and Goodwill among Mankind. Among Christians and non-Christians alike who all celebrate it. It is a time of reflection, it is a time for family and also a time of thanksgiving to celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ and all that he embodies”. NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad said.

Professor Prasad said unity and togetherness can only be achieved if our Leaders adhere to the spirit of Christmas. “Unity, peace and togetherness cannot be achieved if our Leaders ignore the mandate that people gave them. Because in a democracy, mandate means listening to the people and alleviating their problems, not riding roughshod over them”.

“It is extremely important to adhere to this principle – Leadership is about averting disaster, not creating conditions in which it thrives”.

Professor Prasad said Government’s handling of the ATS (Air Terminal Services) impasse where workers who are 49% shareholders of company, resulting in them being locked out by the ATS management and fully supported by Government, is an example of imposition that hardened attitudes.

“The impasse was exacerbated because two Ministers of Government, the ATS Board Chair and ATS Management ignored their mandate and were hell-bent on imposing their will upon the workers who are shareholders. It has been a case of My Way or the Highway”.

Professor Prasad said impositions harden attitudes and cause irreparable damage in the long term.

“The NFP hopes that Government has learnt valuable lessons from the ATS impasse, in the spirit of Christmas reflect on its actions, enlighten themselves, and forge a new path of harmonious relations with the workers and the overwhelming majority of the people of Fiji who have clearly supported the just and fair struggle of the ATS workers and 49% shareholders”.

“We wish the people of Fiji a blessed and merry Christmas”.

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

NFP Leader Christmas Message 2017

NFP Leader says Government trying to gain 100% control of ATS

The National Federation Party says Government has used the management and board of Air Terminal Services to lock out ATS employees as part of a strategy to gain 100% control of the company.
NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad calls on the Government and the ATS Board to inform the people of Fiji, whether Fijian Holdings Limited (FHL) is being earmarked to buy out 49% of employee shares in ATS.
Professor said ATS was a model company not only for Fiji but for the region since its formation in September 1981 because both Government and employees have almost equal status as shareholders.
“But this changed in the last 11 years. Employees who are co-owners of ATS are subservient to a Board that is not completely representative of the workers. This is completely unacceptable”.
“Therefor the lockout of ATS employees who are members of ATSET (Air Terminal Services Employees Trust) is a deceitful takeover tactic by Government, and the ATS Board and Management”.

“This deliberate move by Government through the Board and Management of ATS started a few years ago when the current Chairman, a few a few months after his appointment as Board Chair, warned the employees through the media, to ‘shape up
or ship out’. He also said worker ownership may not be entirely applicable or useful in the modern business environment. We refute this naïve assumption because worker owned cooperatives are quickly becoming an approach worth considering by many
countries—indeed NFP will be looking to encourage this mode of employer-ownership when we are in Government”.
“We are also aware that the size of the ATS Board has been reduced from 7 to 5 members. The Board now has only one employee representative instead of 3. We understand that this is now a matter before the Court. But this is a breach of the Deed of Trust laying the foundation for the formulation of ATS as a company”.
Professor Prasad said the action by the ATS employees should not be viewed as an industrial dispute or a matter started by their union.
“This is purely an issue of workers as shareholders of a private company exercising their right under the Deed to take resolutions for the welfare and safeguarding of the company in which they have a 49% stake. The employees are exercising their right and protecting their interests as members of ATS Employees Trust and shareholders”.
“But they find themselves locked out from their own company yet the management, who are technically employees of the ATS workers. The primary role of management and especially the Board should be to safeguard the rights of shareholders.
“But here they are at least seen to be colluding with another shareholder, which is Government, to get rid of another significant owner of the company, which are the workers”.
Professor Prasad said the Minister for Industrial Relations acted hastily in declaring the action of the ATS Employees as an illegal strike, without bothering to establish the facts.
“The other issue here is the conflict of interest of those dealing with the employees. Both the Attorney General and Board Chair are speaking the same dictatorial language. And everyone knows that both are brothers”.
“In the interest of transparency, they should not be dealing with this dispute together. It goes completely against the grain of good governance and accountability”.
“The last thing we want is for this stand-off to escalate and seriously compromise the rigid global aviation standards because of the deliberate intention of one shareholder to discriminate another in breach of the Deed of Trust between both parties”.
“The employees as shareholders must be allowed to return to work unconditionally and without loss of pay and benefits”.
Furthermore, the Board needs to be acutely aware of their legal responsibilities and the penalties prescribed in the new Companies Act.
Professor Biman Prasad
NFP Leader

 

NFP Leader says Govt trying to gain 100% control of ATS

November 29, 2017-11-29
Honourable Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama
Prime Minister
Minister for i-Taukei Affairs, Sugar
Immigration and Waterways
4th Floor Government Buildings
SUVA
Dear Prime Minister

Re: Removal of Ban (Prohibition of Entry): –
Professor Brij Vilash and Dr Padma Narsey Lal

We humbly request you to rescind the ban or prohibition of entry on two outstanding individuals who were banished from the land of their birth almost 8 years ago.
As you undoubtedly are aware, an indefinite ban on entering Fiji has been placed on former Fiji citizens Professor Brij Vilash Lal and his wife Dr Padma Narsey Lal since November 2009 and January 2010 respectively.
Professor Lal has been writing to the Department of Immigration since October 2014 regarding both he and his wife’s prohibited status. Soon after the general elections Professor Lal also wrote to the then Minister for Immigration Timoci Natuva who replied that they could travel to Fiji and advised him to contact the Director or his Deputy of the Department of Immigration.
Professor Lal contacted the Immigration Department’s Edward Brown, who I believe was the Deputy Director. Mr Brown advised Professor Lal that while Immigration did not have any problem in removing the ban, they would have to get clearance from the
Prime Minister’s Office.
In December 2014, Mr Brown advised Professor Lal that their names were still on the “controversial list” that had been given to Immigration by the PM’s Office. Mr Brown also informed Professor Lal that Immigration would write to the PM’s Office to “seek comment and endorsement on whether the names should remain on the list or not”.
After a lapse of four months and following publicity on the issue when it was raised in Parliament by the NFP through Honourable Prem Singh, the Lal’s were told to re-apply. This was after then Minister Natuva, after having told Parliament the actions of the Lal’s
were viewed as prejudicial to security, public safety, public order and defence (parliamentary hansard 18th March 2015), stated that the Lals could re-apply for the ban to be lifted, like 30 other people.
This they duly did in April 2015 but Mr Brown informed them that the ban was never lifted.

Prime Minister, I had the opportunity of visiting Professor Brij Vilash Lal and Dr Padma Narsey Lal in Brisbane, Australia, recently. They dearly miss the land of their birth. They were forced to sell off their home, a piece of prime real estate in Suva Point because they
could not come back and retire in Fiji.
Professor Lal has been honoured by Fiji for his contribution to the country, especially his work on the Constitution Review Commission. In June 2015, he was honoured with a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to education through
preservation and teaching of Pacific history as a scholar, author and commentator.
They have much to contribute towards the development of Fiji. Professor Lal is the preeminent authority and historian whose work in documenting the struggle and history of the Girmitiya and their descendants is unparalleled. Anyone around the world interested in the history of Fiji and indentured labourers cannot escape the eminent contribution of Professor Lal.
Prime Minister, the Lals have been treated like common criminals and stopped from entering and residing in the land of their birth. All they did was to defend democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms.
We are a parliamentary democracy and it does not make sense for Government to treat its former and eminent citizens as threats to our national security.
We therefore humbly request you to direct the Immigration Department to remove the names of Professor Brij Vilash Lal and Padma Narsey Lal from the list of those prohibited from entering Fiji.
I thank you and look forward to your favourable response and action.

Yours sincerely
Professor Biman Prasad
Leader
c.c. Honourable Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum – Attorney General and Minister for Justice
Honourable Ratu Inoke Kubuabola – Minister for National Security and Defence

NFP President describes MP’s interrogation as Persecution and intimidation

The National Federation claims that the interrogation of NFP Member of Parliament Parmod Chand by police for allegedly making seditious statements is political persecution, harassment and intimidation by the Fiji Police Force on the orders from Government.
NFP President Pio Tikoduadua says this is clear from the threat made against Mr Chand in Parliament by the Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum on September 14th this year.
Mr Tikoduadua pointed out that while speaking during a debate on a
Motion to thank His Excellency the President for his address, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum while talking on practices in the 2006 general elections said following interjections by Opposition Members, “Hon Chand, you know this! You know very much about this. I have a statutory declaration here about you my friend, which I will reveal later on.”

“This confirms that Government orchestrated this act of intimidation and persecution that resulted in a team of detectives from CID headquarters in Suva taking Mr Chand into custody on Friday at the Labasa Police Station and interrogating him over the contents of a statutory declaration made by a school teacher about comments that Mr Chand allegedly made in his (school teacher’s) presence in a shop on 14th August this year”, Mr Tikoduadua said.
Mr Chand was called into the Labasa Police Station before midday on Friday, taken into custody, questioned by the CID detectives until late that afternoon and released. He was again questioned for more than hour on Saturday afternoon.
“I have spoken to Mr Chand and the Party fully stands by him. It is obvious that he is being targeted by Government after his public exchange with the Prime Minister over his role in the May 2000 coup and its aftermath, which Mr Chand first spoke about in Parliament on 13th September”.
“We regard him being taken into custody at the Labasa Police Station and being interrogated, as a cowardly act by those who authorised this action”.
“The international community, particularly those nations who are assisting Fiji once again in preparatory works for the 2018 general elections must know that actions like this where a Government obtains declarations and affidavits on conversations of Opposition MPs and Politicians in order to persecute and intimidate them using law enforcement agencies, after failing to do so within the parliamentary chambers or through the media, is a sure sign of parliamentary and constitutional dictatorship under the
pretext of a true and genuine democracy”.
“This action against Mr Chand comes 15 months after the NFP Leader together with five others were incarcerated for over 30 hours in September 2016 for allegedly violating the Public Order (Amendment) Decree for participating in a public forum on the 2013 Constitution. The Office of Director of Public Prosecutions did not lay any charges against them for insufficient evidence and the police in being selective in their arrests”.
“We view Mr Chand’s case in a similar fashion. He is being persecuted, harassed and intimidated for speaking out within his rights and privileges as an honourable member of parliament, and Government through the Attorney General clearly making their intentions known of taking action against Mr Chand by revealing they have a statutory declaration of someone, who we are told is embroiled in controversy”.
“This is clearly collusion between Government and the school teacher”.
“It does not augur well for Fiji’s human rights record as Government bids for a seat on the UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council in 2018”.
Pio Tikoduadua

President National Federation Party

NFP President describes MP’s interrogation as persecution and intimidation – December 2017

 

Acting contracts to teachers not automatically renewed

MEDIA RELEASE

December 01, 2017

The security of employment of teachers who were forced to enter into contracts that legislated acting appointments for their positons is now in jeopardy as they will not have their acting appointments automatically renewed with revelations that their positions will be advertised.

National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad said substantive post holders who were first relegated to a lower rank and then re-appointed on acting basis to their substantive post despite having served as Principals, Head Teachers and Heads of Department for many years, are now facing an uncertain future due to the draconian civil service reforms.

“In a circular dated 17th November 2017, the Permanent Secretary for Education states that all post holders in the education fraternity will be advertised including Heads (Principals) of all Primary and Secondary Schools.

Professor Prasad said when the NFP exposed this issue in August the Attorney General and Minister for Civil Service had downplayed the issue by saying all contracts would be automatically renewed.

“According to the circular the applications close on 5th January 2018. Assessments under the so-called Open Merit Recruitment System will start early February 2018 and new appointments will commence at the start of the 2nd school term on 7th May 2018”.

Other positions that will be advertised are Director Technical College and Heads of Technical College Campuses.

“The circular also states that other positions, presumably Heads of
Department (HOD) will be advertised in April for commencement at the start of 3rd school term on 27th August”

“The teaching fraternity has been exploited and held to ransom by the current Government, which forced them to enter into discriminatory contracts under the pretext of offering them salary increases”.

“Principals, Vice Principals, Heads of Department (HOD), Head Teachers, Assistant Head Teachers and other post holders were demoted to a lower rank and then offered acting appointments to the substantive positions they previously held”.

“Teachers who held substantive positions were first appointed to a rank lower than the position they were holding, and then given a second contract offering them an acting contract to the position they held substantially and an acting salary of 95% of the substantive salary”.

“We cited contracts of several teachers to confirm the exploitation and discriminatory nature of the contract”.

“Worse of all, all contracts render meaningless the teachers’ employment security and make them totally subservient to Government”.

“This discriminatory and exploitative contractual employment that is being forced upon our teachers will not result in a harmonious, unified and productive civil service”.

Such draconian contracts are subjugating our teachers and have no place in a genuine democracy. An NFP Government will revoke the contracts and restore permanent tenure of employment.

Professor Biman Prasad
NFP Leader

Encl: MOE Circular

NFP Leader- Teachers acting appointment contracts advertised

MOE CIRCULAR NOV 17 2017