The State Services Decree (Decree Number 8) was promulgated via an extra-ordinary gazette on Tuesday, 10th April, 2009.
The first part of a series of analysis looks at the Retirement Age provisions.
Section 15(1) of the Decree states the retirement age in the public service will be 55 years. As a result all civil servants aged 55 or 55-60 as legislated ten years ago will have to retire on 30th April.
The Fiji Times reported on Saturday 18th April that 1614 civil servants would have to retire by 30th April. This was confirmed to the newspaper by Permanent Secretary of Public Service Commission Parmesh Chand.
15(2) and 15(3) of the Decree states that the retirement age of 55 also extends to the Fiji Police Force and Fiji Prisons Service, and all those aged 55 have to retire on 30th April.
15(4) states that upon retirement a civil servant can be appointed on a fixed term contract and shall be eligible for re-appointment. We believe this provision in the Decree is to protect the continued employment of those civil servants over the age of 55 who kow-tow the regime’s line.
Section 21 of the Decree applies to the Fiji Police Force. 21(7) reiterates for the avoidance of doubt, the retirement age in the Police Force would be 55 years but not applicable to the Commissioner of Police. A case of Animal Farm - no prizes for guessing the answer. Police boss Esala Teleni was the Deputy RFMF Commander before taking up this post.
Section 22 of the Decree relates to the Fiji Prisons Service. Again 22(7) re-iterates to erase any doubt, the retirement age in the Service will be 55. But this policy excludes the Commissioner of Prisons. Prisons Commissioner Iowane Naivalarua was the Chief of Staff of RFMF at the time of the coup. Again this is a case of the haves versus the have-nots.
Section 23 of the Decree relates to the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF). 23(4) emphasizes the fact that the retirement age in RFMF shall be 55. But this doesn’t apply to the Army Commander. Current Commander Frank Bainimarama is the interim Prime Minister and the interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum is the chief legal officer or lawmaker of the regime.
Section 25 of the Decree lists the office holders whose retirement age is set at 65. They are:
(a) Supervisor of Elections
(b)Commissioner of Prisons
(d) Director of Public Prosecutions
(e) Commissioner of Police
(f) Commander of Republic of Fiji Military Forces
(g) Members of the Electoral Commission
(h) Members of the Constituency Boundaries Commission
(i) Members of the Prerogative Mercy Commission
(j) Members of the Public Service Commission
Section 26(1) states the office holders listed from a to f in Section 25 (Elections Supervisor to RFMF Commander) should be appointed for a term of five years and are eligible for re-appointment. 26(2) states office holders listed from g to j in Section 25 (Members of the Electoral Commission to Members of the Public Service Commission) should be appointed for a term of two years and are eligible for re-appointment.
26(3) states the term of appointment of a person from a to f in Section 25 (Supervisor of Elections to RFMF Commander) expires upon his or her reaching the age of 65 and they are not eligible for re-appointment upon reaching the age of 65. No such provision has been made from office holders listed from g to j (Electoral Commission Members to Public Service Commission Members).
This proves that the RFMF Commander (Bainimarama), Police Commissioner (Teleni) and Prisons Commissioner (Naivalarua) will retire at the age of 65 while the men and women under their command should retire at the age of 55. Those already 55 and over (to 60) will have to go home on 30th April.
This Decree proves the following:
* Some are more equal than others – especially Bainimarama and his trusted allies of Teleni and Naivalarua.
* While the psychological trauma on those 1614 public servants told to go home on April 30 will be immense in terms of meeting debt commitments, mortgages, home repayments and education of their children, the privileged few have the luxury of accumulating taxpayers’ hard earned dollars as salary and FNPF contribution for ten more years. No wonder RFMF Land Force Commander Pita Driti and his men are incensed that their boss (Bainimarama) who will turn 55 on April 27 will stay on as Commander for 10 more years while those nearing 55 have to start preparing for their departure in the future and those above 55 will have to go on 30th April.
* For example Bainimarama’s RFMF Commander’s salary is $96,000.00 per annum calculated from his $184,000 leave payout(for 698 days of leave), authorised by his one time trusted ally and the then interim Finance Minister Mahendra Pal Chaudhry. It was based on the current salary of $96,000.00 per annum. If the FNPF contribution remains at 16% for the next 10 years (employee 8% & employer 8%) from the gross salary, Bainimarama will have accrued $153,600 in FNPF contributions alone. If one adds interest (average of 6% paid to members by FNPF) it will be close to a quarter million dollars in 10 years. As for salary he would have earned $58,560 per annum or $585,600 over 10 years if one calculates his net salary (minus 31% tax and 8% FNPF. When one adds the FNPF contribution (excluding interest) and the net salary ($153,600 + $585,600), Bainimarama would accumulate up to $739,200 over 10 years while his officers and men as well as thousands of public servants during this period will be forced to scratch the bottom of the barrel for survival.
* Most importantly, Ratu Josefa Iloilo stated in his national address on 10th April (when he abrogated the Constitution) that elections will be held in September 2014. This timeline has been effectively thrown out the window by the State Services Decree. If Bainimarama can remain army commander for 10 years after reaching 55 on 27th April, what guarantee is there that he will relinquish power in 5 years? From our assessment this regime will stay in power for the next 10 years until 2019. This is the reality facing Fiji. Bainimarama’s past disobedience to commitments made by the regime to the European Union and the Pacific Islands Forum to return Fiji to parliamentary democracy and constitution governance under the 1997 Constitution is a yardstick to measuring the sincerity of the latest announcement of elections in 2014.
The onus is on all Fiji Islanders to wake up and start accepting this painful reality. And this is that the barrel of the gun will prevail over for 10 years over in a nation made up of 322 islands, which was once known as the way the world should be.
That is the way Fiji was since 5 December 2006 and will be till 2019. The choice is on those people who call Fiji their home: whether they want to be enslaved by this regime for 10 excruciating painful years or whether they are prepared to oppose dictatorship and thuggery.