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Judge Wati Orders LTA To Reinstate Employee

Judge Wati Orders LTA To Reinstate Employee
Alipate Qalomaiwasa. Photo: Fonua Talei
May 17
10:00 2018

 

High Court judge Justice Anjala Wati yesterday ordered the Land Transport Authority to reinstate without loss of benefits a former LTA prosecutor who was terminated on July 27, 2006.

Further Justice Wati also ordered LTA to pay the employee, Alipate Qalomaiwasa, his wages from January 23, 2015 to May 16, 2018.

Mr Qalomaiwasa was terminated on the basis that he was involved in alleged corrupt practices and he was subsequently charged with four counts.

He was accused of providing false receipts to LTA indicating that two men who were issued with Traffic Infringement Notices had paid their fines in full enabling them to get a clearance.

However, Mr Qalomaiwasa was acquitted at the Lautoka Magistrates Court on all counts after the court ruled that there was no case to answer.

After his acquittal, Mr Qalomaiwasa filed for proceedings in the Employment Relations Tribunal regarding his termination.

When LTA did not turn up for the hearing the tribunal heard the matter in their absence and made a finding of unlawful dismissal and ordered LTA to reinstate Mr Qalomaiwasa without loss of benefits.

Following the judgment LTA filed an appeal, which was dismissed by Justice Wati.

In her judgment, she ordered LTA to comply with the orders of the tribunal.

She said the manner in which the grounds of appeal were developed left a lot of questions in her mind on the seriousness of the appeal.

She said LTA had an in-house legal department which employs fully-fledged lawyers. However, a document containing grounds which made no sense was a reflection of the lack of interest in prosecuting the matter with due diligence.

Justice Wati said LTA failed to appear in court and showed no desire to take part in the proceedings.

“A litigant who demonstrates such reprehensible attitude does not deserve to put forward an argument about natural justice and the right to be heard,” Justice Wati said.

“These rights are not absolute and must be respected when the opportunities are given.”

She said it was LTA’s duty to establish that there was lawful cause to terminate Mr Qalomaiwasa by establishing that he was engaged in corrupt practices and also that the procedure they invoked to terminate him was proper.

Justice Wati said on the face of the acquittal she was not shown any material on which LTA asserted that they had lawful reasons to terminate Mr Qalomaiwasa.

“Swift and expeditious completion of a case is a right of every party and the employer definitely did not want to enjoy its rights,” she said.

“Its failure to appear in court was so common that there is nothing wrong in finding that it had no interest in presenting its case to the court.”

She said people must treat the business of the court seriously and those who do not will end up neglecting their rights and find themselves in difficulty.

Justice Wati also mentioned that Mr Qalomaiwasa had been greatly prejudiced by his dismissal and the delay in the proceedings.

LTA was further ordered to pay the costs of the appeal in the sum of $1500 within seven days.

Mr Qalomaiwasa was represented by the Fiji Public Service Association general secretary, Rajeshwar Singh.

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

Feedback:  fonua.talei@fijisun.com.fj

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