Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

Allen Lockington is a self-employed customs agent and business consultant who has regular articles published in Fiji. I thank Allen for permission to reprint some of them in this political blog. They remind us that life goes on, whatever the political situation. And it's good to know that.

Let's Enlighten Our People

Our people live all over the world and every time a foreign ship calls into Fiji you can be sure there will be lots of personal effects sent by people to their relatives and friends in Fiji. Churches, charitable organisations, sports teams and schools, get sent similar goods. For friends and relatives who receive the boxes of goodies, it is always a wonderful time. Many live in villages and live well below the poverty line.  Goods that are often sent consist of clothes, shoes, cutlery, pots and pans, electrical items, toiletries, perfume, bath and washing soap, toilet paper, brush cutters, garden implements  and the best of all is food items. I have seen large jars of peanut butter, jam, milk, tinned fish, meat, vegetable, sweets and fruit drinks, amongst many things.



However, we have our border control agencies manning our borders for items that come into Fiji. One of the main threats is food items. Many tins of foods will be confiscated by the authorities because they require permits.   It is a always a sad time for me when I see and child with tears in his or her eyes when they see the Quarantine officers confiscate food items. These are times when I hate my job. There is nothing more sad than a child telling his of her parent, “But dad, uncle promised me that.” We have to also remind our people that the goods will attract import duty, import excise and VAT. There is no way around that even if it is being sent for personal use and the receiver lives as a destitute. It is one of our government's way of collecting revenue. And it is the law. Senders will also need to be told not to send so much goods that the receiver cannot afford to pay for them.  I have seen many personal effects sent to the government auction sale and people left stunned just as if their lives have come to an end because they could not afford and didn’t know they goods were dutiable. 

But we have to protect our borders from the many things that can affect our fauna and flora and especially our agriculture. Many senders and receivers do not know of these rules.  We should enlighten them. We have the schools where our children can be informed and take a little pamphlet home to parents. We have the media, TV, radio, the press and now mobile phones that can send text messages to our overseas relatives and friends. The churches tells their congregation about the "good news" and the good way to live. They too can spread the news about the laws of Fiji, especially the ones that affect them.

We need to tell our embassies overseas to enlighten our people over there not to just pack anything that will only be confiscated and destroyed and good money lost. Many of us are linked to one social network or two and have personal emails. We can also update our people  this way.

The bottom line is if our people are informed about laws and regulations, it will make things easier for them and the authorities, and they not lose good food and money when the goods are destroyed. It's always heartbreaking to see a teary eyed child look up to the border control officer in silence. You can read their unspoken words: “Please, kind Sir, I have never eaten that food.  Can you allow my daddy to take it home with us, please.”

Comments

Anonymous said…
Sir...Mr.Lockington... as a resident in the United States I have found inconsistencies when dealing with Fiji Customs, when we send things home.As you stated people who send stuff home to our beloved Fiji , really need to have a very good idea what they can send and what they cannot send. One way as you say is education.. Williams and Goslings is one of the few shipping agents who receive containers from shippers in the U.S .Maybe Customs should give out information about what foods and other stuff can be sent to our families, to Williams and Gosling, and they in turn can send it to the Fiji shippers in the USA and maybe.. these shippers could give this info to the Fiji community. It is very sad when we send stuff from the USA only to be told by our families that goods have been confiscated because they are prohibited items. I know that the customs people are trying to protect our flora and fauna as you put it, but please help us to help our people in Fiji.

secondly... charges... does the Custom department have a system of charging duty when we send things to our families, Please can they enlighten us.This is another big mystery.
Anonymous said…
Alas, there are indeed inconsistences. A letter from the Minister of Finance now clarifies the fact that second-hand books and kitchenware are to have duty on them when in containers sent by Rotary. Now this is inconsistent with the gifts given by the Chinese and others to villages, etc. Containers have been stalled at Lautoka for about four months now. Fiji local people can't afford to pay duty on such gifts!
Kai Vavalagi

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