What does Fiji's government want from Fiji Water?

Bloggers and cyber talking heads are speculating whether Fiji’s military government sent the local head of Fiji Water back to the United States.

A government spokeswoman confirmed that the water company’s head of external affairs, David Roth, left on a plane to Los Angeles Thursday night (Fiji time), but would not elaborate on his departure. Fiji’s military leader, Frank Bainimarama, is in China until next week and the spokeswoman said he will address the situation when he returns.

Photo from the Flickr page of Magpie372

Two days before Roth left, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, Fiji’s minister of Defense and Immigration, resigned from the government, claiming differences stemming from the Roth affair. Rumors are flying that Ganilau, who is a personal friend of Roth and his family, refused to sign deportation orders for the Fiji Water executive.

Ganilau has told media outlets that he resigned willingly and that differences existed between him and the government regarding David Roth. But he would not elaborate further.

Fiji Water began bottling in 1996 in the Yaqara Valley in northern Viti Levu, Fiji’s largest and most populated island. One year later, it began exporting the water to the United States. Today, the company has a loyal – if not affluent – following and consumers can find Fiji Water in more than 40 countries. According to its own numbers, Fiji Water generates roughly 20 percent of Fiji’s export income and employs 350 people locally.

The Australian newspaper speculates Roth was may have been expelled by Fiji’s military government which wants to make the position local or perhaps even attempt to access the aquifer where Fiji Water draws its product.

So far, no proof of Roth’s alleged expulsion has surfaced. Nor has any news relating to further government action. TheMax, a commenter on the blog Coup 4.5, told everyone to take a deep breath.

What's the fuzz all about? It's not as if Fiji Water was told to shutdown.

The current leadership have its reasons for wanting Mr Roth removed from Fiji. It could be a matter of breach of work permit or a serious national security issue. We will just have to wait and see when the PM Mr Bainimarama returns from China and clears the air.

Maybe Rt Epeli Ganilau valued his friendship with the Roth's more than doing the right thing as Defence and National Security Minister for this country.

Mr Roth is just a worker at Fiji Water, the company owned by American billionaire couple Stewart and Lynda Resnicks. So for all of you folks jumping up and down, just relax and do your job.

If Roth was actually deported, writes Alohabula1 in Fiji Board Exiles, then the government may have made a major public relations blunder.

We all know Fiji Water did more for branding Fiji internationally than any product that Fiji has ever exported. As far as marketing goes that is a Herculean accomplishment. However it has a flip side which will read internationally as Fiji Water Head has been deported from Fiji for no legitimate reason. This does not conjure up the pretty label images of lovely waterfalls and coconut trees and tropical flowers. It conjures up images of instability, treachery, betrayal, extortion of a legitimate investor. If Fiji does not do something about changing this around quickly several things will happen in rapid fire.
1. Who will ever buy Fiji water again if it is illegally taken away from the investor?
2. What has been previously stated by other poster is it will scare off every investor for the next 20 years.
3. What is the image the world will have of Fiji.
4. Fiji water has done enough PR and community services in Fiji to at least come off favorably in the international view and this is their reward?
5. Doesn't the Fiji govt make tax money from Fiji water, this does not seem like a good time to cut their own income?

More than two years ago Fiji’s government tried to bring about a 20 cent per litre tax on Fiji Water, but the motion was defeated in cabinet after a lengthy fight. Rumors then persisted the water bottler threatened to cease production if the government went ahead with the tax.

Mera Fiji Mahan, commenting in the Fiji Democracy Now Blog says the foreign company should be providing more to the country.

I would like to remind people of Fiji that [Former government minister] Mr. Mahendra Pal Chaudhary stood firm when he introduced taxation on these bloody Fiji Water. What happened to him is history; I do not have to elaborate further. The reach of Fiji Water is very high and people like Ratu Epeli, being too loyal to the country like Mr. M.P Chaudhary, was over powered by traitors. Fiji Water has to pay appropriate tax and cannot just reap off Fiji’s valuable gift (that is clean natural mineral water). The land owners must wake up and start negotiations with other international companies, form joint venture, and open plant next to Fiji Water.

An Anonymous commenter on the blog Fiji: The Way it Was, IS and Can Be argued that the company maneuvered itself into a corner.

The truth is, they've run foul of the political maneuvering that won them their treasured ‘tax-free’ (or pretty close) status.

They deplete our aquifers, sell themselves as a green company, litter our shores with plastic, buy off govt. officials… and now they find themselves unable to buy the govt.

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