National Secretary, FTUC
The Fiji Trades Union Congress is shocked at the level of hypocrisy demonstrated by the Prime Minister in his speech at the UN Nelson Mandela Peace Summit. The Prime Minister claimed he was inspired by the principles on which Mandela lived and pursued his struggle. He spoke of human rights and how Mandela fought to ensure rights of his people and almost attempted to draw a parallel with his atrocities here in Fiji. This is a total demonstration of disrespect for a great soul like Mandela.
Human rights have been at the center of the Trade Union Movement’s struggle in Fiji for the last decade under his Government’s rule. In fact, the whole world including the ILO has called upon his Government to respect human rights including workers’ rights over this period. We cannot ignore the fact that lives have been lost under this Prime Minister’s rule, people have been incarcerated and persecuted for even attempting to stand up and speak, many have been beaten up including trade unionists, the media has been muzzled and manipulated, intimidation of farmers and the population in general has diminished our freedom of speech, imposition of a Constitution that guarantees absolute immunity for all atrocities committed by him and his cohorts and falsely
claiming in the Constitution that ‘We the People of Fiji hereby establish this Constitution”, imposition of Decrees that violated human rights and workers rights, denial of fundamental freedoms and workers right to strike, protest and the list goes on.
It is ironic that while he was singing praises for respect for human rights, his Government back home denied workers the right to march and protest against his policies on minimum wage, labour law review, individual contracts and denial of collective bargaining by Unions, right to strike and denial of justice to ATS Workers and respect for their rights. These are very fundamental issues for workers. These rights are enshrined in our labour laws and ILO Core Conventions which Government is obligated to respect and indeed undertook to do so on many occasions including signing on to a Tripartite Agreement witnessed by the Director General of ILO. One can only reasonably conclude that the Prime Minister is ignorant of the facts on the ground here in Fiji or is living a lie.
It is time, that the people of Fiji understand that speeches written in the US and edited here by agents of Qorvis, paid for by all citizens of Fiji and read by the Prime Minister are not normally facts but simple propaganda to deceive the world and Fijians. The FTUC calls on all workers at this time to think long and hard about electing a Government that respects workers rights, is committed to decent work and dignity at work for all workers. The task of fighting for these rights can no longer rest on the shoulders of a few trade unionists. It is time for workers to decide their future.
The FTUC welcomes the support of many Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) in Fiji, religious organisations, Chiefs and the community in general for its support in our struggles. These struggles arise only when we have a government that is insensitive, careless and lacks appreciation and respect for fundamental rights. It is this type of Governments that have to rely on handouts during election time to make up for its shortcomings. There is no dignity in handouts nor is there any accountability, a foundation of good governance.
The FTUC is not about to give up on the struggles facing workers in Fiji. This denial of our rights will be reported to the ILO and we need answers as to why we cannot protest and demand for our rights. If those answers cannot be given here, they would have to be given in the international forum. We do not see any reason why this Government has decided to reject our application for a peaceful march and a rally unless they are scared of their own people. The FTUC demands answers from Government on its refusal to grant a permit. We recognize that this is a political decision and not one taken independently by the authorities concerned.