24 Dec 2003

Fiji fishing industry may take legal action over licenses

2:14 pm on 24 December 2003

The owner of Fiji's largest fishing company says he will be seeking legal action if his licenses are not renewed at the end of the year.

Graham Southwick, the managing director of Fiji Fish Marketing, says he's concerned that the licensing committee is made up of three senior fisheries ministry people who are facing allegations of accepting bribes and corruption.

He says he's written to the prime minister suggesting that an extension to the licenses is granted until an enquiry is held into the claims.

Mr Southwick says he doesn't want those three on the committee.

"Plainly it's unacceptable to the industry that they would now determine who should get licenses and who not. More than 50 percent of the licenses issued last year, were issued illegally on the basis that none of the companies fulfilled the criteria laid out by cabinet. And, the potential for that to happen again in the next few days is very high given that it's the same licensing committee and the same people applying."

Graham Southwick.

The fisheries minister, Konisi Yabaki, the permanent secretary, Vuetisau Buatoka, the director and the deputy director are facing allegations of corruption.

Mr Yabaki has categorically denied that he's accepted bribes.