Ro Filipe calls for inquiry

Fiji Airways aircrafts grounded at Nadi International Airport. Picture: BALJEET SINGH/FT FILE

Opposition member of Parliament Ro Filipe Tuisawau has called for an urgent inquiry into the acquisition of aircraft by Fiji Airways because the future viability of the airline “hangs on a knife-edge situation”.

He said the need for the inquiry was urgent because the national carrier was possibly facing liquidation or bankruptcy as it may be unable to repay loans and make lease payments for recently acquired and leased aircraft.

Ro Filipe said as the Opposition spokesman on industry and trade matters, he was submitting a motion to be tabled at the next parliamentary sitting, from August 31 — September 4, 2020, for Parliament to establish a Special Committee, under Standing Order 129.

“Fiji Airways CEO Andre Viljoen is reported to have said that the airline must find $38m a month to repay loans and leases for the new aircraft, and these contracts are so onerous, that they cannot be returned,” he said.

“The future viability of our national airline, a strategic asset now hangs on a knife-edge situation and facing bankruptcy, because the Bainimarama Government appointed board, have so over-extended itself with ambitious and ill-considered aircraft purchases and leasing, with the urging and full approval of the Minister for Economy, Civil Aviation and deputy Prime Minister honourable Sayed-Khaiyum.”

He called on both sides of the House to “urgently consider the national interest, above their petty party political interest”, and vote for his motion for an inquiry.

“The Government has now been forced to give its sovereign guarantee, as the airline is a strategic asset and the people of Fiji are the majority shareholder.

“It would have been unthinkable before the 2006 coup for our national airline to go into bankruptcy, but unfortunately, there is now a real risk of this happening.”

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