by Anish Chand
Details of harassment of a Fijian athlete by a team official while competing in an overseas competition has emerged in a High Court ruling delivered on February 201th 2018.
The President of the Fiji Chess President, Calvin Prasad, according to the judgement, admitted harassing Fiji chess player Hilda Vukikomoala during the 42nd World Chess Olympiad in Azaerbaijan, September 2016.
According to the court judgement, Prasad had admitted his inappropriate behaviour and had attributed it to ‘alcohol’ and apologised in an email he sent to Vukikomoala on 10th September,2016.
The court judgement had re-produced Calvin Prasad's email - "Reading through your email. I am disgusted at my behaviour. I can only imagine the hurt and distress I have caused you. Alcohol is the reason, but not the excuse. I’m embarrassed and accept responsibility. I can’t undo what I have done but can take substantive action to prove my remorse is genuine. The following sanctions will be imposed on me;Suspension from position of President. Suspension from participation in FCF events. Any other sanctions the FCF board considers necessary. I hope you can forgive me."
The court case was between Fiji Chess Federation and Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee.
FASANOC had suspended Fiji Chess after the organisation failed to hold an annual general meeting and also address this issue of harassment.
According to the court judgement, Fiji Chess stated it had taken all the steps to hold an AGM and alleged that FASANOC unlawfully interfering with its functions.
"The lack of transparency into the investigation of the serious complaints received by the Plaintiff (Fiji Chess) had resulted some displeasure to the victims and participants at that event. The membership of the Plaintiff (Fiji Chess) comprised of both adults and minors of both sexes. The Defendant (FASANOC) had initially let the matter resolve through internal mechanisms in Plaintiff (Fiji Chess) but in the absence of satisfactory investigation by an independent body had resulted the Plaintiff being suspended from the membership of the Defendant." noted Justice Deepthi Amaratunga in the judgement.
"Calvin Prasad has participated in the process of appointment of committee to investigate and recommend regarding complaints where some serious accusations were levelled against him. These complaints included some serious complaints of harassment to a female participant, under influence of liquor." the judgement reads.
The Judge notes the FASANOC had not intervened with Fiji Chess affairs, despite them receiving serious complaints about the behaviour of participants including President and Deputy President at World Chess Olympiad.
"Some serious allegations were made to their behaviour in public at the event, including harassment to a female participant of Fiji Chess Team and also manhandling another foreign player at the event. The allegations against Calvin Prasad are serious. He had apologized to Ms Hilda Vukikomoala on 10th September, 2016 through an email and had stated that he was ‘disgusted’ with his ‘behaviour’ and had attributed this behaviour to ‘alcohol’. So there is admission that Calvin Prasad had consumed alcohol and had caused ‘hurt’ and ‘distresses’ to a female participant. This alone is sufficient for further investigation by an independent body and intervention of the Defendant (FASANOC) in terms of its broader vision to promote female participation in sport and its goal to prevent all kinds of discrimination," said Justice Amaratunga.
"This kind of harassment would not only discourage present players but also future players from participating in international level," the Judge noted.
"The Defendant (FASANOC) having a vision to promote female participation in sport and having that included in their Preamble to the Charter, must investigate and take appropriate action as regards to its member bodies. Any kind of harassment to a female member of Fiji Chess Team that participated in World Chess Olympiad cannot be swept under the carpet," said Justice Amaratunga.
FASANOC suspending Fiji Chess "cannot be considered as an unreasonable action," reads the judgement.
Justice Amaratunga says the complaints made against Fiji Chess officials, including the President and others are serious and they involve among other things, harassment of female participant and also consumption of alcohol.
"Such incidents should be properly investigated and proper sanctions be imposed on the relevant persons irrespective of their standing in the sport. The ranking of a player is not an immunity to harass a female player. If that was due to alcohol, again it cannot be a mitigating factor, as such factors are self-inflicted by them. The Defendant had not initiated any investigations and had allowed the Plaintiff to resolve its matters internally," said the Judge
Fiji Chess had failed to address the complaints in a transparent manner, said the judgement.
The Judge struck off all originating summons and the motion seeking injunctive relief by Fiji Chess.