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Fiji Army Peacekeepers File $255m Writ

SUVA (Pasifik Nius): Fiji military peacekeepers who served in overseas missions are suing the government for F$255 million, alleging fraud over pay and allowances from the United Nations, the Fiji Times reports.

A writ was filed in the High Court by troops who did peacekeeping duties in Lebanon from 1978 until the end of last year.

It names the Fiji Military Forces, Minister for Home Affairs Joketani Cokanasiga and the government as defendants.

The soldiers demand:

* Their pay and allowances that the United Nations has been remitting to the government and, which at December 31 last year stood at $255 million.

* Their recreation leave allowance of $US10.50 ($F24.23) per day for seven days every six months, which they claim the RFMF (Republic of Fiji Military Forces) has not paid since 1978.

* Their Fiji National Provident Fund (state retirement scheme) contribution, which is payable from their UN pay of $US988 (SF2280) per month.

"The writ claims fraud as the basis of the claim. It asks the court to award them interest at the rate of 12 percent per annum for the pay and allowances compounded from 1978 and 8.5 percent for their FNPF contribution compounded from 1978," the soldiers said through their lawyer, Tevita Fa.

Cabinet approved an increase in location allowance for serving soldiers from $25 to $30 per day, effective from January 1 this year.

It said a review of the allowance was overdue and that the decision was also in line with the recommendation of a government-appointed Peacekeeping Review Committee in 1993. Home Affairs Minister Joketani Cokanasiga and his permanent secretary, Jeremaia Waqanisau, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

+++niuswire

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