Local businessman Peterson Boso calls for the removal of CASSI Director because of what he claimed as his inability to handle the Fiji Airways and Solomon Airlines Saga effectively and efficiently.
He claims the standoff between the two airlines would have been avoided, had the Director for CASSI, Mr George Satu done his job properly.
He stated that a number of important regional aviation meeting have been held, which provided the opportunity for this matter to be discussed but, due to the failure of CASSI’s participation in this meeting, this issues were never properly discussed by the appropriate authorities and therefore avoiding all this drama.
“I was in Fiji when the Solomon Airlines Representative and Solomon Islands High Commissioner met with Fiji Civil Aviation authority some months back, I did not see CASSI representative there.
“Solomon Airlines are just operators and do not have much power in negotiations, it is the Government who is the authority here and appropriate bodies should have been present during such important discussions, especially CASSI representatives,” he said.
Mr Boso expressed that though this standoff is about rights, it has greatly affected the private sector.
“I do business with Fiji companies and this saga has greatly affected my business deals. Private sectors are greatly affected by this standoff, and the country will stand to lose financially if this issue is not addressed quickly,” he said.
Mr Boso further claims that Fiji is doing fine economically with or without this standoff and therefore, it is important that CASSI should be smart about addressing this issue amicably.
“We may claim our right but at the expense of our private sector development.”
“Therefore, I call upon the removal of CASSI Director for his inability to handle the situation properly. It seems that the issue is getting worse and worse, and CASSI to stop misleading the public with your explanation,” he added.
Mr Peterson Boso is one of the few Solomon Islanders who currently operates a clothing shop in Honiara, in collaboration with Fiji business houses and would very much want this impasse to be resolved as soon as possible.
When contacted for comments the director declined to comment.
However last week Mr Satu told Fiji Times that the issue stemmed from a request for a new slot for Fiji Airways to fly direct from Nadi to Honiara on Saturdays.
Mr Satu said he refused the request according to the Air Services Agreement (ASA) article 5 (1) and article 8 (1)(2), which bordered on the withdrawal or limitation of rights and principles governing operation of agreed services respectively.
“I have yet to approve the route for Saturdays because this is a new one altogether. The Solomon Islands Government did not ban Fiji Airways’ approved Tuesday schedule. It’s the new slot for Saturday that I denied, referring to Article 8 (1) of the ASA signed on July 10, 1990,” he said from the Solomon Islands.
“There is no ban. It is a suspension of what the Fiji Attorney-General does. He suspended Solomon Airlines flight into Nadi. There is very little impact to Solomon Airlines.
“Solomon Islands gave the Fijian Government (for Fiji Airways) fifth freedom rights to pick passengers from Port Vila to Honiara and vice versa, and even beyond Honiara to Port Moresby.
“The Fijian Government never reciprocated our goodwill to Fiji on the traffic rights.
“There is very little consultation from the Fiji Aviation Ministry with us in regards to changes to the rules or memorandum of understanding to the ASA.”
In a statement last Monday, Minister for Civil Aviation Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said government was waiting for contact from the Solomon Islands Government to resolve the airline dispute so that normal flight schedule could resume.
“Fiji’s position has remained consistent and that responsibility for the dispute rested with the Solomons Government.”
Mr Satu said they are willing to hold discussions to break the impasse but the onus was on Fiji to make the move.
“It’s up to Fiji because Solomon Islands has requested to hold discussions in Fiji on numerous occasions but that could not happen and the reason is only known to the Fiji authorities,” he said.
Attorney General Billy Titiulu last week while in Palau attending the 45th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders with Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo said he hopes to initiate talks with his Fijian counterparts to resolve the air service dispute currently raging between the two countries when he returns home.
Mr Titiulu, who is also chairman of the Solomon Islands Civil Aviation Authority board, said he acknowledged the seriousness of the problem and its negative impact on the travelling public and hopes to get the two sides to sit down and talk when he returns home.
He also explained that the dispute started when a request from Fiji to operate a second flight to Honiara was not accepted.
Prior to the dispute, Fiji Airways operated a weekly Nadi-Honiara service on Tuesdays. Solomon Airlines operated on the same route on Saturdays.
Mr Titiulu said recently they received a request from Fiji asking if they could operate a second flight to Honiara on Saturdays.
“When we received the request, we wrote back and told our counterparts in Fiji that this cannot be possible because Solomon Airlines already operated the route on Saturdays too,” Mr Titiulu said.
“If they had asked for a different day apart from Saturday, we could have considered it. We don’t know why they wanted Saturday when they already knew Solomon Airlines flies the route on the same day.
“We told them that we have to sit down together during our upcoming meeting in Vanuatu and talk over this,” he added.
But the attorney general said Fiji responded by suspending the approved Solomon Airlines flight on Saturdays to Nadi.
“I believe Fiji has overacted to our decision not to accept their request to operate a second flight on Saturdays to Honiara.
“As a result of what Fiji unfairly did to us, we have no option but to also suspend their Tuesday flights to Honiara,” he said.
Mr Titiulu said Solomon Islands and Fiji have a long standing air arrangement that dates back to the 1990s.
He said the arrangement was based on equity and reciprocity.
“It was under this agreement that flights were arranged between our two countries,” he said.
“The actions that Fiji took that resulted in the current dispute is, in my view, unfair.
“It has eroded the long-standing good relationship between the two countries.
“We have always been good to Fiji. We have allowed them to fly into Honiara despite them having no air certificate to flying into our country, which is an international requirement.
“Fiji has not allowed us to pick up passengers on the Vila-Nadi route while we allow them to do that.
“So I think we have been all these time good to Fiji and we expect them to do likewise.
“What they are doing to us now is not fair.”