A local supermarket in the capital city has been stopped from trading since Saturday.
Suva’s Food 4 Less supermarket, located opposite the Suva Bus Station, was forced to close its doors following a rental dispute with its landlord, Kelton Investments.
The supermarket’s staff members and owner were barred from entering the building on Rodwell Road.
It marks a bitter turn in a prolonged dispute that appeared to have been settled in an April court sitting this year.
Kelton Investments’ chief executive officer, Anthony Ah Koy, said the measure was taken to ensure Food 4 Less re-paid arrears owed in rent.
But the supermarket’s managing director, Rudra Prasad, has labelled the move “unjust” and vows to continue their battle in court.
On Saturday, the dispute that dates back years worsened. Kelton Investments came and closed the shutters of the building at around 5:30pm while many of the supermarket’s customers were still inside.
Mr Prasad then called in the Fiji Police Force to intervene, a move Mr Ah Koy labelled as “unnecessary”, in what he said was just another “landlord-tenant issue”.
The closure on Saturday now leaves the jobs of 32 employees in doubt.
Police spokesperson Ana Naisoro said Police officers were only present to ensure the dispute was solved “amicably”.
Ms Naisoro said: “Officers were at the scene (on Saturday) just to ensure peace and safety of all parties concerned.
“There was no mention in the court order for Police to assist, which is why our presence there was to ensure the matter was solved amicably.”
High Court Judge Justice David Alfred, in April, had ruled that the supermarket vacate its premises by May 31, 2018.
The supermarket decided it would close for business following Justice Alfred’s judgement.
The judge, however, on Wednesday allowed Food 4 Less to extend its stay in the building until June 30, but ordered that it cleared all payments by 1pm on June 20.
Mr Prasad claims he re-paid the amount owed to the solicitors of Kelton Investments on time, which was part of the court order.
Mr Ah Koy disputes this, claiming that the amount was not correct and that it was not paid to the right party.
“Mr Prasad can continue trading until the 30th of June, as soon as Food 4 Less clears the rent,” Mr Ah Koy.
“We have taken this measure to ensure he remains obedient to the order issued by the Judge.”
But Mr Prasad remains adamant he has followed the order.
He alleges that Kelton Investments “defied” the court, a claim Mr Ah Koy has similarly levelled against him.
“They just took the law in their own hands and now Anthony Ah Koy refuses to talk to me,” Mr Prasad said.
“They welded our back doors. On the next day they came and closed the shutters of our building during peak hours and we ended up losing one hour of sale.”
In response, Mr Ah Koy said: “He has not paid his rent for two and a half months. He can’t expect to stay in a property if he doesn’t pay the rent. Everything we have done is in accordance to the High Court’s ruling.”
The supermarket will remain closed until further notice.