|The Khaiyum brothers, Riyaz (left) and Aiyaz, with Frank Bainimarama at the FBC TV launch last year in November.|
By Victor Lal
The declared aim of the 2006 treasonous coup included an end to nepotism, corruption, and misrule. At the time of the coup, military dictator Frank Bainimarama swore that no military officer would benefit from the coup – later proved to be a hollow sham. There was no mention of civilian coup beneficiaries.
One of the many civilians to come out of the woods was Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, one of the two authors of the Doctrine of Necessity document that he and Brigadier-General Mohammed Aziz had prepared for the dictator long before the coup. Khaiyum became the new interim Attorney-General and later Minister for All Posts, including media and communications.
It was only a matter of time before others unmasked their coup faces. One of them was Riyaz Saiyad Khaiyum, the brother of Aiyaz. Long before his name was announced as the new CEO of the Fiji Broadcasting Commission, a journalist colleague of his on TVNZ’s Down Under had tipped me off that Riyaz was planning to return to Fiji for “top FBC job – nepotism bro!”, with me quipping, “I liked his style on Fiji TV Close Up”.
His NZ journo colleague retorted: “He will sacrifice all to become mouthpiece of the illegal lot, bro – his brother is getting him the FBC job”. He was stating the bleeding obvious that in the near future Riyaz would become his “brother’s news keeper”.
FBC Board in dark: Dictator appoints Riyaz Khaiyum as CEO
On 15 November Bainimarama, then Fiji’s interim Prime Minister announced the appointment of Riyaz as the new CEO of the radio station before informing the FBC Board. His permanent secretary Parmesh Chand claimed that Bainimarama made the appointment after he (dictator) reviewed the scrutiny and process that was followed by the FBC Board.
David Whippy disputes – charged by regime for alleged corruption
The FBC’s official website had jumped the gun and had announced Riyaz’s appointment before the Board made a formal announcement. An unhappy David Whippy, the then chairman of FBC, told the media: “The problem is that the Prime Minister's office has changed the conditions and we were not told about the announcement. We need to tell the applicant about this significant development as he may not accept the conditions in its present form." Whippy said the package was slightly lower than the one which former chief executive Francis Herman received before he resigned in June of that year.
He said it was a bad idea that government companies competing in the commercial market were aligned to a permanent secretary as emoluments that attract the right candidate who could achieve the company's objectives needed to fill in the vacancy. Riyaz and and former radio executive and media sales manager Esava Cakau had been shortlisted for the CEO position.
Regime lackey Parmesh Chand covers appointment
Parmesh Chand said Riyaz was recommended by the Board and endorsed by Bainimarama. “The advertising, short-listing, interviews and recommendation of appointment of a suitable candidate are all made by the board (FBCL). They are, with the support of the Public Enterprise Minister, submitted to the Prime Minister for endorsement,” Chand said. He said matters such as a conflict of interest were non issues as far as the office of the interim Prime Minister was concerned. Basically, the law of the dictator ruled supreme in post-coup Fiji.
The big brother Aiyaz passed any questions to the FBC Board saying the appointment of any person in a government statutory body was done by the appropriate authority. “As such, queries regarding the procedures followed in the appointments should be directed to the appropriate authority. In this case, questions regarding the appointment of Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum should be addressed to the board of FBCL.”
Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions secretary Attar Singh, while praising Riyaz’s journalistic credentials said he did not know what business experience or qualifications Riyaz held. Singh said he also hoped it was not a case of nepotism because it “is the very thing that the interim Government has been trying to eradicate”. Whippy was looking for someone with solid business background.
It was not long after the desired outcome, the illegal regime’s one-time warm supporter Whippy was singled out for persecution. The “Brothers” used FICAC, their “conveyor belt to the court house” to charge Whippy, along with his deputy Champak Kapadia. It is alleged that two intended to defraud the FBC by making a false document namely an extract of minutes of a meeting of the FBCL board purported to be held on March 19, 2004 knowing that such a meeting was not held.
FICAC alleges that Whippy and Kapadia– with intent to defraud – procured the offer of an advance of $1,030,000 from Westpac Banking Corporation for the FBC on the basis of a fictitious resolution. There is however evidence to suggest that some FICAC officers were against the charges, arguing that the pair had acted on the collective board resolutions of FBC, one of which was a Board resolution endorsing the seeking of financing from Westpac.
FBC TV: The Khaiyums venture into television
It was long before Riyaz’s appointment, the FBC announced of plans of venturing into the television industry. Whippy said the FBC had all the infrastructure and resources to operate a TV station. The Fiji Development Bank was armed twisted by the regime to fork out $17million, with Whippy’s replacement Yaminiasi Gaunavou stating that it would be able to meet the yearly loan repayment of $1million based on projected revenue. Riyaz later told a business magazine that the FBC had to undertake the FDB loan at an extremely high interest rate – twelve per cent.
In November last year the dictator launched the FBC TV amid glitz and glamour saying “competition brought by FBC TV would be good for everyone”. He omitted to mention that big brother Aiyaz was planning to introduce a television decree to stifle the rival Fiji TV.
Little brother Riyaz told the launch audience that the journey from the initiation of FBC TV was not an easy one and thanked everyone who had been a part of the journey, especially the support of family and friends.
Name Change to FBC
On 25 August 1999 the Registrar of Companies (ROC) was informed that it was resolved that the name of the company be changed from Island Networks Corporation Ltd to Fiji Broadcasting Ltd. And its business address was listed as Broadcasting House, Gladstone Rd, Suva.
In June 2002 the ROC was notified that the nominal capital of the company had been increased to $9,900,000. Four years later, in June 2006, and six months before the coup, the FBC’s Return of Allotments to the ROC read as follows:
Number of (b) 3,913,555 ordinary shares allotted payable in cash $3,913,355. Amount to be paid on each share was $1. Name, Description and Address of the Allottees: Parmesh Chand, CEO for Ministry of Public Enterprises, P O Box 2278, Government Builidings, Suva, Ordinary shares: 1,956,678. The other allottee was Paula Uluinaceva, CEO for Ministry of Finance, Ordinary shares 1,956,677.
After the coup, the following were listed as Board of Directors: Daniel Whippy, Fane Niumataiwalu, Aktar Ali, Kini Qorovakatini Marawai, Manoa Rasigatale, Parmesh Sharma, Dr Vivekanand Sharma, Abdul Hakik and Sitiveni Ratulala. Ali and Marawai were terminated from their positions in April 2007, and Sharma had passed away in September 2006. Rasigatale resigned from the Board in June 2008.
The secretaries of the Board were listed as Luisa Verevou, who resigned in August 2007; she was replaced by Naomi Vuibureta (resigned in March 2008) and was replaced by Veronika Singh.
Khaiyum Brothers raid on the FDB to start FBC TV
With the arrival of little brother Riyaz at the helm of FBC, FDB was instructed to make available a loan of $17,846,315 to the company for it to embark on the television project. The property mortgaged or charged was the company’s assets and undertakings including its uncalled and unpaid capital. The debenture of 26 August 2009 was the following: Crown Lease No 2748 being Lot 2 Section 12 (Pt of) Suva City, Rewa, Area: 1 Rood 19.2 Perches LD Ref 8/59.
By 11 May 2011, the Khaiyum brothers had obtained from the FDB a staggering $22,696,465.05 for the FBC to build a rival television station in post-coup Fiji.
It was only a matter of time before Fiji TV was going to be targeted by them, especially by Aiyaz with the recent infamous television amendment decree.
The freedom blog Fiji Democracy Now has spoken on behalf of the suffering majority regarding the Television (Amendment) Decree 52 of 2012:
“It’s nothing more than a blunt instrument designed to brutally suppress our broadcast media and it’s clearly tailor-made for application against Fiji TV. And the content and timing of the Decree have exposed Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s huge ego, vanity and contempt for Fijian values. He is sending out a clear message: “Look at me! I am the big man! Between us, my brother Riyaz and I can control what you see and hear on Fiji’s broadcast media. What I say is law and there’s nothing you inferior minions can do about it!”
What Fiji Democracy Now did not remind we are transcripts of television scripts? We may recall the fate of Fiji TV during the 2000 attempted coup, when it was smashed up by a mob while reporter Riyaz Sayed Khaiyum was chairing the Close UP programme. His guests were Jone Dakuvula and William Parkinson.
The mob was angered by Dakuvula’s courageous and forthright denunciation of the perpetrators of the 2000 coup. What Dakuvula, who later worked for the National Council for Building a Better Fiji Technical Secretariat, and had also served as Chief Assistant Secretary and Press Secretary to Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and later worked for the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum, noted is equally apt to describe the Khaiyum brothers.
When Riyaz had asked what naked interest, Dakuvula had answered: “The naked interest is, a bunch of people who want to get to power through unlawful means and they couldn't get it through the constitution, and therefore they want it through a coup and they want to impose a system of government here in the name of indigenous rights.”
The brothers, Aiyaz and Riyaz are where they are, not on merit but through the barrel of the gun and the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution – with Aiyaz doing the bidding for Riyaz’s FBC TV against Fiji TV.
Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum was recently lecturing his critics: “Fiji TV, like all other media organisations, needed to adhere to the Media Code of Ethics and Practice and be balanced and fair, not just in form but in substance,”
The 2000 slogan of indigenous rights has been replaced by “brotherly blood rights” in 2012.
“Good Morning, Fiji-Welcome to The Khaiyum Airwaves”:
What’s new: Fijiwood blockbuster featuring the Khaiyums, and directed by Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum.
Clip 52: Television (Amendment) Decree 52 of 2012.
Editor's Note: It's business as usual at Fiji TV today although there has been no formal word on the lay of the land after Khaiyum's threat to the station after it gave Laisenia Qarase and Mahendra Chaudhry air time.