Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On
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.”