Former Prime Minister and Fiji Labour Party Leader, Mahendra Chaudhry says it is an insult to the 1500 FNPF pensioners who had their rightful pensions unlawfully and arbitrarily slashed in 2012 to be relegated to the ranks of social welfare recipients by Finance Minister, Professor Biman Prasad.
Chaudhry in a statement said pensions were slashed by 50 per cent by the Bainimarama administration causing untold hardship to retirees many of whom had made financial commitments based on their existing pensions while others were reduced to poverty-level stipends.
“In the Budget for 2023/24, Finance Minister Prasad grouped FNPF retirees with social welfare recipients and provided as compensation for cuts they suffered, a monthly allowance of $115 or $125 for those between 55-69 and 70 and over, respectively.”
“This is discriminatory and, therefore, unconstitutional. Moreover, the Minister has relegated these victims of the former Government to the ranks of social welfare recipients dependent on handouts.”
“This is wrong. It is an insult to our pensioners. They should definitely not be regarded as welfare recipients.”
“Their pensions were slashed arbitrarily and unlawfully in utter breach of their contract with the Fund. There was no prior consultation and they were denied the right to challenge the cuts in Court.”
“The Minister admits the wrong done to them. Yet he fails miserably to accord them justice.”
He said the pensioners do not want charity from Government as money taken from them was rightfully theirs, obtained through their sweat and toil throughout their working lives.
“They want justice through a restoration of their rightful 2012 pensions.”
“If the Government can write off $670m of TELS loans with a stroke of the pen, it must surely heed the cries of the pensioners who were robbed of their right by a dictatorial Government.”
“There are only 1500 of these pensioners according to the Minister. It’s not going to cost the Government anything as it would be a charge on the FNPF.”
“Government must also revert the annuity rate to 15 per cent to ensure workers retire with a liveable income in their old age,” he added.