The Peoples’ Coalition Cabinet held its 12th meeting this year where it considered a new policy, the review of two laws, and bilateral arrangements to support ongoing and new projects in the Ministry of Agriculture.
The decisions made at the 12th meeting of Cabinet include the following:
1. Higher Salaries Commission Policy & review of Higher Salaries Commission Act
Cabinet approved a Higher Salaries Commission Policy. The Policy will enable the formulation of relevant legislative mechanisms to re-establish the Higher Salaries Commission (Commission).
The Commission was previously established in 1983 under the Higher Salaries Commission Act to consider and determine the salaries of chief executive officers of public enterprises, statutory bodies and municipal councils (formerly Town Clerks).
The Act was amended in 2011 and the Commission abolished. However, the 2011 amendment made provision for the functions of the Commission to be carried out by the Prime Minister and Minister responsible for Public Enterprises, in determining the salaries of CEOs of public enterprises. The amendment required the Minister to obtain an independent review of salaries and benefits for the position before he made a recommendation to the Prime Minister.
For other statutory agencies, the 2011 amendment required the Minister responsible for appointing a board or Commission to seek an independent review of salary and benefits for the CEO, before making a recommendation to the Prime Minister for that CEO’s salary and benefits. For municipal councils, the Minister for Local Government was required to obtain an independent review of salaries and benefits before making a recommendation to the Prime Minister on the salary for that CEO.
Cabinet recognises that there must be a central coordinating mechanism for salaries of chief executives of public enterprises, statutory agencies, and municipal authorities and approved the Higher Salaries Commission Policy which will guide the determination of salaries of these executives.
The Policy will also guide the Office of the Solicitor – General in reviewing the law, eliciting public submissions via consultations, and drafting a Bill to revive the Commission.
2. Holistic Review of the rules of civil procedures to improve case management in the High Court and Magistrates Court
Cabinet endorsed two reviews for holistic reform of the law and rules governing civil procedure in both the High Court and the Magistrates Court.
The intent of the reviews is to examine whether there is a need to amend the law and rules of civil procedure for better case management and to streamline proceedings.
The two laws to be reviewed are:
Effective law is the foundation for a peaceful nation. They also facilitate investment and business. Investor confidence is boosted by efficient and effective enforcement of contractual rights. With the increase in global trade and investments in Fiji, there is now an influx of cases involving complex legal issues in the High Court and Magistrates Court.
The increase in jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court to hear disputes with a value up to $50,000 has resulted in a great influx of cases involving complex legal issues.
It is vital that modern case management practices are incorporated in both the High Court and the Magistrates Court.
In addition, it is important to note that alternative dispute resolution (ADR) options such as mediation or arbitration are now being utilised in other jurisdictions to resolve legal disputes. These ADR options could divert disputes from the court system and relieve some pressure on the Courts. The reviews will consider making mediation/reconciliation mandatory in our Courts for the expeditious and amicable resolutions of civil disputes. The expeditious resolution of commercial disputes is likely to contribute to investor confidence.
In Fiji, mediation was introduced by the Family Law Act 2003. Mediation has also been practiced in the legal framework for resolution of labour disputes under the Employment Relations Act 2007 (ER Law). The majority of employment grievances and industrial disputes are being resolved via mediation since 2007 under the ER Law.
Other issues that the review will address include making mediation mandatory prior to a matter being heard in Court and the establishment of a separate Division of the High Court to handle commercial disputes. Worldwide, statistics indicate that making mediation mandatory contributes to quick resolution of disputes.
The two reviews will be carried out by the Office of the Attorney General which will engage a legislative drafter to assist in the drafting of a Bill to either amend or repeal the:
3. World Friends Korea Volunteers (MOU between KOICA and Agriculture Ministry)
Cabinet approved a Memorandum of Understanding between the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and the Ministry of Agriculture (Ministry) to allow for the deployment of volunteers under the World Friends Korea overseas volunteer programme.
World Friends Korea is a South Korean government-run overseas volunteer programme that was inaugurated in May 2009.
Once the MOU is executed, the Ministry of Agriculture will be able to request volunteers from World Friends Korea to assist with implementation of advanced technologies to improve production in the agriculture sector.