Fiji Eyes ASA With India, Says A-G

This is the concluding part of excerpts from the closing remarks of the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, at the 17th Attorney-General’s Conference at the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa last
15 Dec 2015 10:30
Fiji Eyes ASA With India, Says A-G

This is the concluding part of excerpts from the closing remarks of the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, at the 17th Attorney-General’s Conference at the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa last Friday and Saturday.

Fiji will be negotiating its Air Services Agreement (ASA) with India next month.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum announced this at the close of the 17th Attorney-General’s Conference at the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa, Natadola.

“Hopefully they will be down here in the mid of January to finalise that because India is the second largest outbound market in the world,” he said.

He said apparently in five to eight years time they would be the largest outbound market.

He said so Fiji having a direct flight to Singapore meant “we have to have a level of connectivity with India via Singapore” so were some of the work already done.

He said knowledge was import and of particular value in society.

“So when we are talking about biosecurity we have an understanding of that, there is also a legal framework for that,” he said.

“On drones, he said some had crept into Fiji because “specifically we don’t know about them, we all know about drones bombing some outposts in Afghanistan or somewhere else.

“But some of them have crept in as toys because some of them weren’t recognised.” He said drones “have a useful purpose where we can check all the marijuana spots in Kadavu, where they grow all the marijuana in Fiji, but it’s critical how we manage that.”

He said the Open Skies issue was a critical issue for us as it was highlighted and he could not agree more with the Solicitor-General and of course the chief executive officer of Fiji Airways that Fiji needed to protect its airspace.

“In that sense, we are happy to announce that in January of next year, in few weeks time, we will be negotiating hopefully our ASA with India.”


Asylum, refugees and borders

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said movement of people had increased quite significantly in the world. He said it was encouraged in countries like USA, UK and Australia where they highlighted specific policies to receive people and immigrants into their country.

They did that because there was a shortage of labourers in these countries and lack of expertise, he said.

“Now some of the countries themselves are closing their borders.

“We have an issue regarding the relocation of people who are seeking asylum or refugees status.

“They have been transported to third party countries like Nauru and various other countries. That also brings about a number of social issues in those countries.

“So it’s very critical for us to understand that this was highlighted by the director of Immigration.

“We actually in Fiji do have some asylum seekers and many people did not know that, but on the other hand we also need to understand our laws.

“There is a company I just discovered three weeks ago in Fiji that you pay three and a half thousand US Dollars and they have students coming in from India and Pakistan to learn baking and catering.

“These people are not coming in to learn baking and catering, these people are coming here to be able to stay in Fiji or to be able to go to Australia and New Zealand and other third countries.

“That’s the real reason behind it, but we are allowing it to happen.  FRCA needs to look at these schools too, three and a-half-thousand dollars and on top of that they pay hostel fees. In fact there was one person that the director of Immigration referred to.

“There was an application for asylum status sent to the A-G’s Office and then we sent it off to the director of Immigration to do their processing and assessment.

“But these are the kinds of contradictions that you like are taking place. A country needs to able to deal with these situations.

Once Fiji starts doing its work, there is also work for lawyers in helping refugees or asylum seekers or with the immigration laws.

“Again in Fiji we don’t have that level of expertise like developed countries then they argue that there is not enough work there, but it will develop in time to come so we need to be aware of these issues.”

“Climate change refugee status is very critical for us and as we discussed about territoriality and its implications.

“This is why it was highlighted yesterday. We have allocated $50,000 as budget. I urge those of you who are passionate about this area to please feel free to contribute.

“We will soon be announcing couple of the lawyers in the A-G’s Chambers who will be dealing with this matter, to develop that level of knowledge base in Fiji to be able to talk about these issues and to come to be able to develop the laws that will pertain to that because migration, refugees and asylum status seeking fundamentally boils down to social issues.

“We don’t want to be a country left with xenophobia. How are we going to deal with this because it has huge implications on society itself?”


Reptiles, insects, zoonosis

“Perhaps like FRCA , Biosecurity Authority of Fiji is seen as a pain …….  by many people.

“I have to publicly commend the executive chairman and his team for doing a sterling job because BAF in a very short period of time , had come a long way.”

He said “if we don’t keep the borders in check” it would pose problems.

“Sometimes you may think that a person crossing a border is not as dangerous as some insect coming to Fiji. It is a big problem.”

He said if we got the giant African snail in Fiji, “you a lot of people goodbye.” “Unfortunately there was one giant African snail that was detected by BAF in a container that was transiting, from Vanuatu or the Solomon Islands to Suva Port. On its way to Australia BAF picked it up and reported it to Australia saying that they detected a giant African snail in the container.

Unfortunately, the Australians listed us as a giant African snail country and the director of Trade together with the Permanent Secretary had been fighting tooth and nail to get Fiji off the list.

“If the law is not conclusive on the circumstances or the realities that exist on the ground, you can have a great injustice take place. That young boy, probably he was wrong to forward that photograph to his friend that his girlfriend sent to him, but does the law had to be absolute.

“This is why it is very critical that we use such forums like this. I hope that when you are discussing tonight, you actually discuss this kind of issues and we would like to get a feedback on such matters or us to get it right as a country, as I have said again pose issues for you and your clients.

“If shipments comes in and don’t know the rules and regulations, you can become a specialist in this area, and hold yourself with BAF. BAF does prosecute people, prosecute AFL, prosecute individual companies for that and they have the ability to impose large fines. These are things we are trying to get in place, one important issue that does come out because BAF has those powers.

“We need to develop legislations in that area. These are real life issues that can come out. Somebody comes to you and says my constitution rights had been breached.

“Again as I have mentioned about the Iguana coming into the Western Division, and I think that point is taken.”Evasion and compliance

“I think that the relationship between taxpayers and FIRCA would improve quite significantly if we have more lawyers involved representing their clients directly than accountants. I have to admit FRCA does get a bit of bashing, it is becoming a bit of a trend. One accounting firm that is always complaining about FRCA, not being on time, etc, was directly involved in giving wrong advice to their clients and would turn the argument of tax evasion.

“A partner from a leading law firm, I saw an email that this partner had sent to acting CEO of FRCA, it was appalling, and it was quite shameful for a legal officer. I think there is a certain level of respect that is necessary.  Reality is the law says you have to pay taxes. The reality is there are people evading taxes. We put in place laws. There is also the issue of avoidance and how do we stop avoidance or avoid avoidance. The new income tax comes in effect from 1st January together with the New Companies Act.”

He said those lawyers, experts in putting up notices, could no longer use that because it had been abused.

“I really urge all lawyers to get into the area of tax law advising more clients about that. The other point that is a critical issue is about ethics as professionals.

“We need to be able to say to a client, look this is what is legally required of you, and you need to do this, just because your client is paying you a few, doesn’t mean you are selling your soul to them. Just to look good in front of your client, and by doing so sometimes you are actually crossing the line.

“You may see accountants do that. Some lawyers do that specifically in the area of tax. If the true position is that you have to pay the tax there is no way you can avoid it, advise them to do that, in the same way a good lawyer would tell their clients, look there is no point of you going to court because the law is not with you.

“In this particular instance you have settled the matter, and off course the judiciary will appreciate that, but you are also doing the client a better service, if clients paid the fees a lot quicker and a lot better.”



Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said some in the tourist sector “wrote to us and they said if you are going to remove general tax concessions to the tourism industry” people will relocate their hotels to other Pacific Island countries.

“That’s the kind of threat that showed disloyalty. They have been making money in Fiji for decades; we have been selling the Fijian hospitality, the Fijian people the hospitality you can’t get anywhere else in the world.

“After 20 years we want you to pay tax now and they want to lift up the hotels and leave, that is off course not right, we don’t listen to that. Off course no hotel has left Fiji but more hotels are being built.

“The reality is that we need to have what is really good for investment, a particular level of consistency in the law. We need to have laws that are forward looking.”


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