FIJI CABINET SUSPENDS LITTER WAR

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By Iliesa Sokia

SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 29, 2000 – The Fiji Times/PINA Nius Online)---The Cabinet yesterday suspended a F$ 30,000 (US$ 14,416) joint clean-up campaign by police and the Department of Environment just days before it was to begin.

Frustrated Environment officials were shocked by the decision.

An official said the Cabinet gave no reason for suspending the European Union-funded operation, which would have lasted nine months.

"We are frustrated because we were told in the last minute by the Minister," the official said.

"Cabinet did not consider the workload we have made to prepare for this nine month long clean up campaign. This is a very arrogant move."

When approached yesterday, Environment Minister Ganesh Chand said: "Ask me something else; don’t ask me about that."

An estimated F$15,000 (US$ 7,208) was spent on uniforms, booklets and preparation for Operation Sasamaki.

Special constables were trained by police to enforce the Litter Decree.

Police and Environment officials had organized a march through Suva on Saturday followed by activities at Sukuna Park. Schools and speakers were invited to participate.

Environment Ministry officials said they were verbally informed of the suspension by Dr. Chand at midday yesterday.

"He said it was a directive from Cabinet. We don’t know the reason behind it. He just told us verbally and that’s it," the official said.

Assistant Police Commissioner Jahir Khan was surprised when told of the decision.

Mr. Khan said the force was not informed in advance and had spent money training 120 police to work with Environment officials.

"We, in fact, have already selected and trained the 120 police officers who were to be out in the street booking litter offenders starting this Saturday," he said.

"I really don’t know why they called it off. The banners were put up all around Suva for the launching on Saturday," he said.

Funds were provided to maintain the campaign and volunteer groups were ready for the launching on Saturday at Sukuna Park.

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times.

 

EDITORIAL COMMENT

The Fiji Times Suva, Fiji Islands

March 29, 2000

A WASTE OF TIME

Cabinet’s decision to suspend a national cleanup campaign is ill conceived and poorly timed.

In its usual arrogant manner Cabinet issued orders that Operation Sasamaki be stopped forthwith.

No reasons were given.

All the public and the media knows is that ministers met at Pacific Harbour yesterday and hours later Environment Minister Ganesh Chand directed the operation be stopped.

This effectively means that the Litter Decree cannot be enforced.

Months of preparation and training have been thrown down the drain.

Posters and banners, which were put up around the capital, must now come down.

Special constables trained to enforce the laws will be sent back to their stations.

Guests who were invited to the function and to help clean up along Victoria Parade will have to be informed of the cancellation.

It's a major disaster and somebody must shoulder the blame.

If the Government intends to implement the programmed at a later date, why doesn't it say so?

Surely the Environment Ministry would have known well in advance if there were flaws in the legislation.

According to police all preparations have been within the law.

The officers recruited to enforce the legislation have been sworn in and know their jobs.

A massive publicity plan has been carried out to inform the public.

The question everyone will ask is: What is wrong?

There is no doubt that Fiji is one of the dirtiest nations in the region.

Pollution is fast becoming a threat to the environment, public health and the reputation of this country as a tourist destination.

Serious laws and hefty fines have been put in place to deal with this situation but enforcement has always been a loophole through which many have escaped.

However, all this stands to come to naught with one act of Cabinet.

As usual the Government will argue that it has the mandate to act on behalf of the people.

While this is true it does not allow Cabinet to make decisions without informing the electorate.

The public has the right to know what its elected representatives do and the reasons behind each move made by their leaders.

It's called accountability, a word this Government would do well to learn.

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times.

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