29 January 2016: Media Release – Sugar Industry lacks accountability and transparency

The Sugar Industry in Fiji has been totally politicised by the Fiji First Government. And the clearest example of politicisation, nepotism and cronyism is Fiji Sugar Corporation Executive Chairman Abdul Khan.

Mr Khan told FBC News on Wednesday 27th January (script enclosed with our statement) that the industry had begun to show positive signs towards prosperity because the Bainimarama Government had kicked out politics from the industry. He also accused the Opposition of wanting to politicise the industry saying the industry will never progress if it is done with cheap politics.

Nothing can be further from the truth. His comments are deplorable and the declining industry since 2007 is a result of political interference and political manipulation by the Bainimarama regime and now Fiji First government, with cane growers, as the largest stakeholders in the industry, being completely denied their fundamental right to freely participate and make decisions about their livelihood as well as the future well-being of the industry.

The politicisation of the sugar industry is unprecedented in the history of the industry since the enactment of the Sugar Industry Act in 1984, which made the industry and its stakeholders independent with no interference from Government.

But this has changed with decisions and appointments being arbitrarily made. We now have the Executive Chairman of the FSC who makes decisions for growers on marketing of sugar, who is also Chairman of South Pacific Fertilizers which is also 100 percent owned by growers through the Sugar Cane Growers Fund (90%) and Sugar Cane Growers Council (10%), and now is a member of the Fund Board administering the use of funds totally owned by growers.

Growers are represented by only one Member on the 5 member Growers Fund Board. This is 20% representation in an institution whose funds are 100% owned by growers.

This is now also true for the Sugar Cane Growers Council, created under the Sugar Industry to be the umbrella organisation of growers. Instead of democratizing the SCGC, Government has used its numerical strength to abolish elections and instead make appointments. The Chairman will be appointed by the Prime Minister in his capacity as Sugar Minister.

We ask how will Mr Khan feel if he loses control and Directorship of AJYNK Limited – a company of which he is Managing Director? Will he allow another company, which has no interest in it to control his Company? And Mr Khan forgets Frank Bainimarama is the leader of Fiji First – a political party, not an NGO. And as PM he has the sole authority over the industry. Mr Khan deliberately forgets this fact.

Furthermore, Fiji First government to which the likes of Mr Khan report to, have time and again rejected a question by us for the PM to reveal how much the FSC Executive Chairman and the Corporation’s senior management are paid as a matter of accountability and transparency. Taxpayers have a right to know this because Government has guaranteed $120 million for FSC, apart from previous guarantees on loans that are still not fully paid.

Nepotism and cronyism because of politicization is now synonymous with the industry. Transparency and accountability has ceased to have any meaning. True democracy, which is being trumpeted by the Fiji First Government, has been given a new meaning as far as the sugar industry and cane growers as its largest stakeholders are concerned.

Fiji First Government is making growers subservient and powerless as well as denying them the fundamental right to make decisions even in institutions totally owned by them, with authority and control of their funds, assets and livelihood placed in political appointees made by a single person.

This is a result of total politicisation of the sugar industry by the Fiji First government through the likes of Abdul Khan.
Biman Prasad
Leader