Posts tagged Fiji AG

AG CALLS ON GLOBAL COMMUNITY TO ASSIST PACIFIC NATIONS COPE WITH CLIMATE CHANGE

Pacific nations must come up with a coordinated response to the local impacts of climate change in the face of global inaction, according to the Acting Prime Minister and Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

The AG was opening a joint meeting in Denarau of the 2013 Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and Pacific Climate Change Roundtable, that brings together various stakeholders dealing with the impacts of global warming.

He said that while the science of climate change was hotly disputed, there was no question that the planet was warming and this was having grave consequences for Pacific nations in the form of rising sea levels and extreme weather events.

“Whole countries such as Tuvalu and Kiribati are at risk as ice caps melt and sea levels rise to unprecedented heights. Some of these countries are already preparing for a doomsday scenario in which their islands are eventually submerged and their populations have to be moved to higher ground elsewhere”, he said.

The AG said that while the Pacific Small Island Developing States – led by Fiji – continued to press for global action on climate change at the United Nations, a coordinated response was needed at local level to develop a Disaster Risk Management Plan for the region.

“As always, our resources are limited and we need a holistic approach to problem solving that is practical, affordable and involves a close partnership between Government, the business community and civil society groups. We also need to strike a balance between the urgent need to mitigate against the effects of climate change and the economic capability of Pacific Small Island States to do so”, he said.

The AG called for international assistance for Pacific countries to enable them to come up with an integrated approach to dealing with rising sea levels and extreme weather events, which he said were becoming more frequent.

“If we are to assume that global warming is human-made, or exacerbated by humans, we in the Pacific are clearly not to blame.  We are victims of the big carbon emitters and natural justice alone dictates that they should carry the burden of the problems they have created”, the AG added.

PAY RISE FOR FIJI PORT WORKERS

Workers at the Fiji Ports Corporation Limited (FPCL) and its subsidiary, Ports Terminal Limited (PTL), are to receive a substantial share of yet another big boost in the Group’s profits.

About 170 permanent staff are being awarded pay rises of two per cent backdated 18 months to January 1st, 2012.

The Attorney General and Minister for Public Enterprises, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, said he was delighted to announce the increases to a dedicated workforce that had not had a pay rise for four years.

“The Bainimarama Government firmly believes in the principle of rewarding hard work in our public enterprises. Only through a constructive partnership with workers and management – without third party intervention – can we hope to grow these business and the Fijian economy as a whole”, he said.

The Minister noted that the Fiji Ports Group had recorded a significant improvement in financial performance in the past few years.

The Group recorded a net profit after tax of $7.31m for the 2012 financial year – a 30% increase over 2011.

Ports Terminal Limited recorded a loss of $26,415 in 2010. But the Group says that with “vigilant Board oversight, effective organisational leadership and the hard work and commitment of the employees” this position was completed turned around, with PTL recording successive profits of $1.28m in 2011, and $1.96m in 2012.

“We want to congratulate and thank all those responsible – workers and management – for an impressive performance”, the Minister said.

“This is bound to boost morale and the retention of key staff and we look forward to even better times ahead with our agreement with the Aitken Spence group of Sri Lanka to manage Ports Terminal Limited”, he added.

Fiji AG Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum Says Political Party Registration is Independent

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, commenting on yesterday’s registration of three political parties, says that the process for the registration of political parties put in place by the Bainimarama Government is clearly independent and transparent.

The Attorney-General said that the Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures) Decree, for the first time in Fiji’s history, has introduced high standards of conduct for political parties, and accountability and transparency with respect to the sources of their funding and the nature of their accounts.

“Unlike any time in Fiji’s past, political parties are now accountable to members of the public and to their own members,” he said. “Previously, these parties were run like fiefdoms, and were the domain of only a handful of party insiders and/or family members, who never made their accounts public.”

The Attorney-General said that these were the same politicians who, over the past few weeks, have been making numerous statements to the media laying all kinds of wild accusations before the registration process was allowed to take its course.

“The Registrar for Political Parties follows due process, as yesterday’s registration demonstrates,” the AG said. “The Political Party Decree applies to everybody, and applies to everybody equally. When the Prime Minister forms his political party, for example, that party will be bound by exactly the same rules.”

He said that he was not surprised to see the same old politicians continuing to participate in political gimmickry. “For them, there is no rational critique of the process, but rather an attempt to score cheap political points. For example, today one such politician of SODELPA claimed that his party will be making a declaration of its assets and liabilities ‘under protest’, as if his party were being unfairly singled out.”

The Attorney-General added that in addition to the requirements of the Political Parties Decree, the Draft Constitution establishes an Accountability and Transparency Commission that will be responsible for enforcing Fiji’s first code of conduct for public officers, which the Bainimarama Government will put in place in the next few months, as well as have unprecedented powers to investigate complaints against public office holders.

“Let us not forget that this is all part of the very draft constitution that the so-called United Front for a Democratic Fiji has completely repudiated,” he said. “The Bainimarama Government has put in place new standards, is requiring more transparency, and has established a framework for comprehensive political and electoral reforms, and yet all these politicians interpret this as them being picked on,” he said.

“Frankly, their hypocrisy is staggering. No former government held political parties to a high standard of conduct and transparency, and no former government put in place a code of conduct for public officers, even though the 1997 constitution required it,” the Attorney-General said.

Fiji 2013 Draft Constitution Explained by AG Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

Fijian Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum talks on the importance of the consultations of the Draft Constitution, its significant changes and the need for people to better understand the changes and make submissions.

Fijian Minister for Tourism Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum launches Fiji Tourism website www.fiji.travel

AG Sayed-Khaiyum Attends Premier of 3G

Message from the AG Sayed-Khaiyum on World Consumer Rights Day

World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) reinforces the rights of consumers and provides an opportunity to consumer movements worldwide to raise concerns against market abuses that undermine consumer interests.

The theme this year focuses on reforms to ensure consumer justice “Consumer Justice Now: Call for Reforms”.

The Bainimarama government is committed to protection of consumers and has taken significant steps in ensuring that appropriate laws and processes are implemented to enable redress for aggrieved consumers.

With the modern market becoming increasingly complex and diverse, consumers need to have appropriate information and access to timely redress should the need arise.

The Bainimarama government is mindful of the changing needs of consumers, therefore, commenced the process of reviewing laws and processes relating to consumer protection with a view to updating and strengthening them. In order to determine the appropriate changes, extensive consultations with relevant stakeholders and consumers have been undertaken to ensure that the review is holistic and in the end offers consumers a simple and expedient framework to protect their rights and interests. As part of this reform for example the Independent Legal Services Commission (ILSC) was created to make the legal fraternity accountable and transparent in their conduct. Consumers/Clients now have an avenue through which they can register complaints against legal practitioners.

Consumers are the key to the growth of any economy. Therefore, apart from addressing consumer concerns through legal reforms, the government also partners with the business community to ensure that they are aware of their legal responsibilities and understand the synergies that exist or indeed that can be created

Recently, the Consumer Council Chief Executive Officer (CEO) has been re-appointed to the board of Trade Standards Advisory Council (TSAC), which includes representatives from the private sector.

Accordingly, consumers will continue to have a voice in determining and establishing trade standards that protect consumers and encourage fair trade. The government will also ensure that policies foster transparency, openness, and competition to ensure businesses and industries flourish, while consumer rights are protected.

In May last year, Fiji hosted the International Organisation for Standardisation‘s Committee on Consumer Policies (ISO/COPOLCO), which was attended by approximately 24 countries. The consumer, NGO and business representatives were surprised to see the overwhelming attendance by the Fijian business community at this meeting.

This provided the impetus for the development of policies and laws in an inclusive manner. The business community came forward to understand consumer concerns and work with consumer bodies such as COPOLCO to develop at an international and regional level laws and policies for the protection of consumers.

The ISO/COPOLCO for the first time recognised that there is an imbalance in the decision making at the international standardization. A number of Pacific island countries that are non-ISO members are not able to contribute in the development of international standards and are forced to accept the standards or are faced with imports of substandard products that are rejected by countries with strong controls. This led to the proposal to establish a Pacific Islands Consumer Network on Standards, which will channel the concerns and contribution of Pacific Islands.

I wish you all a happy and successful World Consumer Rights Day and reiterate the fact that consumers are a crucial component of the economy; therefore, their concerns cannot be addressed in isolation. Consultations with all and inclusive reforms is the way forward for the benefit of consumers and the growth of the Fijian economy.

Vinaka vakalevu.

Fijian Tourism Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum Launches Nanuku Cove Estates

Fiji AG Sayed-Khaiyum Urges EU to Conclude Economic Partnership Agreement

Fiji has called on the European Union to meet the June deadline established by the Pacific ACP to conclude its comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU.

Speaking at a PACP-EU Technical Working Group meeting in Nadi today, Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum asked for a firm commitment from the EU to ensure that an agreement is reached.

“My message to this group is that we have a small window of opportunity to unlock the development benefits that the EPA has promised. The PACP leaders have already extended the deadlines for the conclusion of the EPA twice. We need a firm commitment and cooperation from the EU to ensure that negotiations are concluded in June 2013”, he said.

The Attorney-General says Fiji is committed to the PACP’s effort to negotiate an Economic Partnership Agreement as a single region. Pacific nations would be able to pool their fisheries resources and enter into joint ventures, which are not possible under the present arrangements.

“This will allow all the countries of our region to share the benefits of our fisheries more equally. The region in turn will have access to more jobs – especially for women – and better living standards”, he said.

The Attorney-General says Pacific nations are especially keen to include global sourcing for fisheries as a key component of the agreement. Global sourcing would allow a PACP country to purchase fish from approved sources – including non-PACP vessels – process it and export it to the EU. This would benefit Pacific countries that lack their own fishing fleets.

The currents rules do not allow PACP countries to buy fish for export to the EU from foreign owned and foreign flagged vessels, even if the fish was caught within PACP waters.

Under an interim agreement, the EU has agreed to grant global sourcing for canned fish from the Pacific. But the Attorney-General reiterated today the PACP wanted global sourcing to be extended to fresh fish and frozen fish.

“This will allow the region to gain more benefits from its single-largest shared resource”, the Attorney-General said.

Closing Address at EU-PACP Technical Working Group on Fisheries by AG Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to our guests from the European Commission (EC) in Brussels, and indeed our Pacific officials.

I hope your stay so far has been pleasant and the discussions you have had have been fruitful and have brought us a step closer toward finalising our long on-going negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

Fiji is committed to the Pacific ACP States’ (PACP) effort to conclude the Comprehensive EPA as a single region. We are also committed to establishing a formal trade and economic partnership with the European Union through the EPA.

This will be our first Partnership with a trading bloc of developed nations.  By the virtue of being the first, it needs to be done right. In other words, the EPA needs to be a vehicle for sustainable development for the Pacific, by enabling the region to utilise its resources to attract onshore investment, encourage value addition, and exports.

Concluding a development-friendly EPA will also set a precedent for a favourable PACER Plus agreement with Australia and New Zealand and subsequent agreements that could be negotiated by the Pacific States. Therefore a successful EPA is critical to the region, in terms of our relations with the EU, plus its precedent value.

Global sourcing for fresh and frozen fish, in addition to global sourcing for processed fish, is a key component of a development-friendly and balanced EPA for the Pacific. Global sourcing will allow the region to gain more benefits from its single largest shared resource.

Many Pacific ACP countries face challenges in developing their own fishing fleets and setting up processing factories. Through global sourcing, the region will be able to pool resources and enter into joint ventures to attract onshore investment and develop its infrastructure. This will allow all the countries of our region to share the benefits of our fisheries more equally. The region in turn will have access to more jobs – especially for women – and better living standards.

In this sense, we share the EC’s concern that our fisheries resources need to be conserved and sustainably managed. In essence, our objectives are the same. The PACP countries will be the biggest losers if there is a failure in our conservation and management measures.

In this context, the Pacific States have put in place a raft of measures to manage and conserve their resources.

However, I don’t believe that differences in how we approach conservation should stop or delay us from achieving a favourable EPA, nor should it be used as a reason for not extending global sourcing to fresh and frozen fish.  As studies have shown, global sourcing will not only achieve socio-economic development by alleviating poverty and creating gainful employment, it will also enhance regional integration. This is critical given the Pacific’s disperse demographics.

The Pacific States would like to reiterate that global sourcing for processed fish, which is already included in the interim EPA, should be immutable. It is our position that this needs to be extended to fresh and frozen fisheries products and provided to all Pacific States without any restrictions.

Some investment in the region has already taken place in anticipation of the extension of global sourcing rules to fresh and frozen fisheries products.  Fiji and Kiribati have already entered into a joint venture arrangement through investments by Golden Ocean and plans are in the pipeline to have similar commercial joint venture operations between Fiji and Tuvalu.

We agree that our Fisheries management policies, whether national, sub-regional or regional, should be transparent and applied fairly. However, our valued partners, like the EU, should recognise our national laws, as well as sub-regional and regional measures. Our partners should also complement our conservation efforts.

The PACP States have sovereignty over their territorial waters and sovereign rights in their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). The fisheries resources in the waters of the Pacific should be sustainably utilised to achieve the development aspirations of PACP States, by encouraging investment in both upstream and downstream value addition activities and job creation.

The PACP States have also agreed to comply with the EC’s regulation on Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing and to take measures to combat IUU. Again, we have the same interest here, which is to protect our precious shared resources.

For example, Fiji, recently, has put in place the Offshore Fisheries Management Decree that allows Fiji to not only regulate fishing within our Zone, but also offshore fishing by Fiji flagged vessels.  There are stringent penalties in the decree that deter IUU fishing.

In addition, our long-line vessels have “vessels monitoring systems (VMS)” that chart their fishing activity. Fiji was also chosen as a pilot country by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to have observer cameras on board fishing vessels. In December 2012, the Fijian Albacore Long-line fishery was awarded the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification, and was the fourth tuna fishery industry in the Pacific to achieve this.  The MSC enables traceability from the sea to the shelves and sets rigorous standards for sustainable and well-managed fisheries.

Therefore, my message to this Group is that we have a small window of opportunity to unlock the development benefits that the EPA has promised. As we all know, the preferences accorded by the EU through “duty-free quota free” entry will not last in perpetuity and may soon erode, as other partners finalise arrangements with the EU.

Therefore, I urge the EC to take heed of the deadline the Pacific ACP side is working toward. The PACP Leaders have already extended the deadlines for the conclusion of the EPA twice. We need a firm commitment and cooperation from the EU to ensure that negotiations are concluded in June 2013.

We are at a crucial stage of EPA negotiations. Both sides need to work on their final positions.  Further delays in the negotiations will not work in any parties’ favour and may lead to a missed opportunity to conclude the EPA. We need to build on the momentum that was achieved at the end of last year and bring the long outstanding negotiations to a conclusion by June 2013.

On this note, I request that this Technical Working Group, after returning home to your respective countries, sends the necessary feedback and proposals for the Fisheries Chapter of the EPA and for the global sourcing rules of origin on fresh and frozen fish.

The Pacific ACP Trade Ministers, in their upcoming meeting in May, need concrete proposals on the table to conclude negotiations on the Comprehensive EPA.

I wish you the best in working toward our targets. To our visitors from the European Union, I hope you have enjoyed our Fijian hospitality and wish you a safe journey on your return home.

Thank you. Vinaka vakalevu.