Reforms to cut costs

MOVING the Sugar Industry Tribunal under the umbrella of the Sugar Ministry was designed to remove duplication of tasks and to reduce costs.

This is the view of Fiji Sugar Corporation executive chairman Abdul Khan.

He made the comment while making submissions to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Economic Affairs during discussions on the Reform of the Sugar Cane Industry Bill last week.

One of the significant changes under the Bill is the dis-establishment of the positions of Registrar of Tribunal and Industrial Commissioner as established under the Sugar Industry Act.

Mr Khan said despite the transfer of personnel from the Tribunal to the ministry and dis-establishment of key positions, the functions of the Tribunal would continue.

“Fundamentally, the new Bill does not change the direction of the Sugar Industry Tribunal,” he said.

“In the past the Tribunal arbitrated anything brought before it and that will still remain.

“However, we now have a dedicated Ministry of Sugar and a structure below the Tribunal that provides the same service.

“There is a bit of duplication and the new Bill removes the duplication so there’s one entity rather than two entities doing the same thing.”

Sugarcane growers, however, remain sceptical of the Government and FSC’s intentions.

The Rarawai Penang Cane Producers Association, an organisation that represents 7000 farmers from Ba, Tavua and Rakiraki, said the independence of the Sugar Industry Tribunal would be compromised if the Bill was passed.

“The Tribunal has been our avenue for justice and solutions whenever problems arose,” president Girish Kumar said.

“Anyone involved in the industry knows the amount of issues we face so we cannot understand how the Tribunal will handle it under the Sugar Ministry.”

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