FijiFirst party secretary and former attorney-general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says a The Fiji Times report published on September 23 about his asset disclosures was malicious and incorrect.
The Fiji Times report said Mr Sayed-Khaiyum had not declared the value of shares he owned in two companies as required under the asset declaration forms filed with the Fijian Elections Office since 2017.
In a 4500-word post on social media, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said yesterday the publication of the report had sought to undermine his reputation while attacking his wife, dependent children and his credibility and dignity.
“The article does not contextualise terms from the court ruling such as ‘healthy bank balances’,” he said.
“And it is unknown where The Fiji Times has picked up the word ‘firms’ from. Under Fijian law, firms are not companies.
“Clearly The Fiji Times and their lawyers, whoever they are, do not understand basics yet embark on conducting ‘investigations’ into six years of declarations which were submitted to and accepted by the Fijian Elections Office.”
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said he had received an email from a Fiji Times reporter on July 13, 2023, about his declarations which “contained a whole lot of misplaced assumptions”.
“It was perhaps an email that was drafted by their lawyers, whoever they are, and clearly without any understanding of the fundamentals of law. And in fact, that is one of the reasons why I didn’t respond to the superfluous questions sent to me.
“While The Fiji Times may have their own proclivities, they must also check whether their lawyers are themselves conflicted in giving them the advice that they are receiving. Such misguided advice can further undermine the credibility of The Fiji Times, unless The Fiji Times is complicit in this lack of professionalism.
“It is obvious from my declarations that my wife and I hold shares in two companies, Abide Pte Ltd and Midlife Investments Pte Ltd.
“As required under law, I declared all the assets that I own and liabilities that my wife and I, along with all our dependent children have.
“The total number of shares my wife and I own, have been declared. I have declared my personal guarantees that I have given in my personal capacity in relation to any or all debts owed by a third party.
“I have also declared the amount of monies received by my wife through the equal distribution of land lease monies when these payments were being paid to her.
“By the way, I wonder how many members of the Coalition Government, who belong to landowning units, and who received equal distribution of lease monies, did in fact declare the receipt of those monies and the amounts?
“There is no definition of the term ‘business transaction’ under the Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures) Act.
“It is incorrect and improper for The Fiji Times to assume that a change in lending facilities is a business transaction, or that I have not declared true and correct information. Again, another reason why the questions weren’t responded to because of such fundamental lack of understanding of the rudimentary.”
In response, The Fiji Times editor-in-chief Fred Wesley said Mr Sayed-Khaiyum was entitled to his views on what we published, but he was not correct in calling The Fiji Times “malicious”.
“We do not write articles out of malice. We provide information in the public interest.
“First, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum was given more than two months to respond to our questions. He did not. He says he did not respond because the questions sent to him were “superfluous”.
“But if he would not respond to our questions and allow us to write a balanced article, why does he attack The Fiji Times now?
“Mr Sayed-Khaiyum complains that he is subject to special scrutiny about his asset declarations. Perhaps he forgets that for many years he was the minister responsible for elections.
“As the minister, he had a special responsibility to set an example about being compliant. Whether or not he was compliant is still the question.”