Letters To The Editor, 27th July, 2016

Government job losses Saverio Baleikanacea (former Deputy Permanent Secretary), Delainavesi The Commissioner Northern, Mr Josaia Vocea’s comments are commended in that the recent Civil Service Reforms carried out by the
27 Jul 2016 08:10
Letters To The Editor, 27th July, 2016
Letters To The Editor

Government job losses

Saverio Baleikanacea (former Deputy Permanent Secretary), Delainavesi

The Commissioner Northern, Mr Josaia Vocea’s comments are commended in that the recent Civil Service Reforms carried out by the World Bank had brought about “positive changes” in Civil Service pay structure for many Civil Servants, particularly in the Medical profession.

As a result of the Civil Service Reforms (CSR) Civil Servants have also lost their jobs. A good example of this CSR is the PSC case.

On 30th October, all PSC employees received letters notifying them that their employments will be terminated from 29th February 2016.

A small number of these employees were paid a measly so called redundancy pay based on two weeks pay for each year of service.

A small number were fortunate enough to be absorbed by other Ministries/Departments, through their own individual efforts.

Surprisingly, PSC, the Ministry of Civil Service and Government made no effort to redeploy the affected PSC employees.

The majority of PSC employees lost their jobs without any compensation (redundancy packages)  and remain unemployed to date.

At the request of some of these employees. I Saverio Baleikanacea have personally taken up their claims of unfair, wrongful and unlawful dismissal which is awaiting the decision of the Employment Relations Court to allow their case to be heard or otherwise.

This is also happening because their Trade Union, the Fiji Public Service Association, had refused to represent its members with PSC, Ministry of Civil Service & Government.



Drug policy

Francisco Leitupo, Lautoka


The drug problem is one of the most controversial and sensitive issue that encompasses the world today because of its contribution to the social ills that is prevalent in our society.

Governments across the globe have enacted policies to deal with this problem in one way or another. Fiji is not new to this drug problem as previous Governments and the current one has mapped out policies that criminalise the possession and usage of drugs.

Marijuana being the main herb that is being cultivated by local farmers is on-going despite the laws in Fiji that prohibits the cultivation and its usage. This may be because of the crop being a source of income for these farmers and as a way out of poverty.

While reading and following the recent ‘Operation Cavuraka’, I suddenly remembered a programme (My Perfect Country: Portugal Link: http//www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03gsc50) on the BBC which I had listened to earlier this year (around February).

The half an hour short audio was about the de-criminalisation of drug policy in Portugal and its implications, which was discussed by various independent researchers and analysts and also featured testimonies from ex-drug users and offenders who came through the policy.

This was the system whereby the drug problem was taken out of the criminal justice system and into healthcare. The pioneer and architect of the policy also explained on the policy and why the country needed to have it.

After listening to the programme, I felt an urge to do some research on this policy which had improved public health and safety in Portugal and reduced drug usage, cultivation and possession.

In the 1990s, the drug problem had spiraled out of control which brought with it an increase in crime rates and violence. After years of waging war on drugs, the country decided to change strategy.

In 2001, Portugese legislators enacted the policy of decriminalising drugs – this means that criminal penalties for cultivation, possession and consumption of all illicit drugs were eradicated and were rather reclassified as ‘Administrative violations’.

This means that if a person was found to be in possession of any type of drugs for personal use, they were no longer arrested but were ordered to appear in a local commission made up of a 3-person team comprising of a legal, healthcare and social welfare official, however, the person was not forced to appear.

These officials determine whether and to what extent the person is addicted to drugs. The commission than can refer that person to a voluntary treatment programme or impose other sanctions but the person will not face the criminal judiciary system.

The person was rather dealt with by healthcare.

However, drug use and possession are still illegal despite criminal sanctions being abolished.

Independent analysts of the Portugese policy further stated the policy had reaped remarkable results in that there were;

  • No major increases in drug usage.
  • Reduced problematic and adolescent drug use,
  • Fewer people arrested and incarcerated for drugs
  • More people receiving drug treatment
  • Reduced drug-induced deaths
  • Reduced social costs of drug misuse.

To summarise the policy, it is simply an Act that eliminates the detainment, imprisonment and prosecution of drug offenders and users in a court of law but offers an alternative solution in that the problem is a health issue that is needed to be treated – not punished.

It no longer sees drug users and offenders as criminals, but rather as sick people that needed to be treated by healthcare professionals.

The main architect behind the policy, Dr. Joao Goulao in his interview with the BBC further stated that they were “dealing with a health issue, rather than a criminal one”.

Moreover, he stated that the stigma that had been leveled at drug addicts and offenders had dropped dramatically and that offenders and addicts were able to seek professional healthcare and counseling without fear. The main idea behind the policy was that it focused on the dignity of the human person.

The policy does not eliminate the drug problem totally but rather reduces the usage substantially. Furthermore, the decriminalisation policy does not mean legalising drugs as it is still being outlawed in Portugal but rather it is not considered a crime. To date, drug related problems are at an all-time low in the country.

In my view, I think our local legislators should try and study this approach and come up with a similar policy. As the saying goes ‘Prevention is better than cure’. I fully support what is being done by our law enforcers in its war against drugs, but the drug problem will never be eliminated any time soon.

Maybe, the best approach the Government could do perhaps is to try and switch strategy in dealing with the drug problem as per the Portugese model. However, there may be extra financial costs and extra funding for the health sector if a similar policy was to be enacted in Fiji but the benefits of this type of policy are diverse. It will not only help in the reduction of drug related crime rates but also promotes social well-being and human dignity in dealing with drug offenders.



Games and drama

Floyd Robinson, Nasinu


It appears that even before the Rio Olympics dramas have unfolded.

To begin with there were health experts advising against the games going ahead due to fears about Zika virus but this is difficult given the investment of US$11 billion dollars into preparations.

Days before the games one country, Australia, has pulled its team out from the accommodation venue due to health and hygiene concerns.  Some organisation had unsuccessfully lobby for Russia to be banned from the Olympic Games.

Meanwhile on the streets of Rio de Janeiro thousands if armed troops are providing beefed up security which begs a question.

Are our athletes safe in Rio?

Whatever ones views, looks like dramas have unfolded before the games have started.



Perfect timing

Arien Vikash Kumar, Nadi


There would have been no other better time than this for the Fiji Roads Authority and Higgins to upgrade the Nadi Back Road.

Four lane is on progress from Martintar to Namaka. Cane crushing just started with slow moving trucks on the road anytime of the day and night.

The Bula Festival is also going well causing more traffic jams in Nadi Town (forget about the daily congestions and its pain).

But the upgrading of the Nadi Back Road during this busy week is more like the “icing on the cake”, thanks to some great minds.

Please, there are other roads such as Malolo, Salovi, Nawaka, etc which needs much more attention at this point of time rather than the busy back road which still could wait for upgrade or major maintenance.

It’s simply inviting more accidents as some frustrated drivers are bound to make silly or major mistakes while rushing or speeding.

Somebody should capture the looks of the frustrated drivers and passengers waiting in the long queues. I bet some might win the prize for the best smile of the week.



Water safety

Satish Nakched, Suva

It was alarming see a photograph in a newspaper last week of the Minister of Women on tour with another Minister of a neighbouring country travelling in an open punt without the use of any life jackets.

They were also accompanied by other officials of the party too and exposed to the risk of drowning. I believe that this mode of travel is governed by the Fiji Maritime and Safety Authority of Fiji where the Ministry vigorously try to educate people on water safety.

It is a breach of the Act and there is a fining machisim in place for anyone who is not in compliance to the legislation. We see our ministers as people who are the custodian of the laws and they must set ethical standards for the nation to follow.

If she and the team had worn life jackets probably the signal would have gone to the people that everyone must adhere to the law and not one is exempted or is above. It is also note mentioning that the Minister of Education who donated a fibreglass boat to a school was seen on the TV news last week taking a joy ride on it without any lifesaving equipment.

The relevant authorities must come down hard on such abuse and the message must get across to the public on the requirement of safe travel on water.

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