SUVA, Fiji (Dec. 31) - The almighty row between the Department of Fisheries and the nation’s fishing industry operators represents a perfect example of why the civil service has to change its culture, its values and its operations.

All licenses expire tomorrow and the department has decided to examine each and every license issued to ensure that it is genuine before issuing a renewal.

About time too, say industry sources.

But the highly detailed information required by the department takes time to compile. It is not something that can be produced overnight. 

Now the department left it until the middle of this month to commence asking for this information when officials must surely have known that it could not be delivered before December 31.

In fact, at least one firm says it was still receiving requests for information on Monday.

It must be stressed that this is seen as a positive step by many in the fishing industry but the department’s attitude has left just as many aghast.

Despite industry advice that the time to start collecting the data the department required would be in September this year, nothing was done.

Now, at the last possible moment, industry operators have been told to close down because the civil servants haven’t received all the information they require.

In essence they’re saying one of the nation’s most vital industries can close because they haven’t received the paperwork they asked for.

The needs of the department, it seems, come before the needs of the industry and the thousands of people who rely on it for their livelihoods. The officers concerned doubtless see nothing wrong in this. After all they’re the people in charge and their needs come first.

The thought of extending licenses temporarily while they gather their data presumably did not occur to them.

One assumes that common sense will prevail and the fleet will be allowed to sail. But if there was even the slightest notion of service in this area of the government workforce, the whole thing could never have happened.

December 31, 2003,



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