Fiji union leader to defy decree on political parties | Pacific Beat

Fiji union leader to defy decree on political parties

Fiji union leader to defy decree on political parties

Updated 18 January 2013, 15:04 AEDT

Fiji's Trades Union Congress will defy a decree from the coup installed military government and set up its own political party.

General Secretary Felix Anthony says he's prepared to go to jail rather than obey the new law which prohibits trade unionists from being members of political parties.

As well, parties will need more members to register. Up to now they've needed 128 people. Under the new rules, they'll need 5,000.

The country's 16 existing parties have been given 28 days to meet the new criteria and re-register.

Felix Anthony tells Bruce Hill he intends to openly defy the new law.

Radio Australia has sought comment from the Fiji government, but they've declined.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Fiji's Trades Union Congress General Secretary Felix Anthony

ANTHONY: If that means putting me offside with the law, then so be it. But clearly, we cannot accept our political rights being denied. This means we are not going to accept workers rights being denied in this country and a voice for the workers in this country.

HILL: But this decree specifically says trade unionists aren't allowed to found or belong to political parties. If you go ahead with this, aren't you simply going to pay a massive fine or possibly even go to jail?

ANTHONY: Well, if it means that we go to jail, we go to jail, but we cannot accept this decree as it stands. It does not conform with international standards as was promised prior to this decree coming out, and it violates all human rights conventions, and, of course, even talk of returning to true democracy makes absolutely no sense with such a decree in place that actually denies the people of this country the right to fully participate in the political processes.

HILL: So you're actually prepared to pay a legal penalty, a massive fine or possibly imprisonment for this? Is it just you or are there other people in the movement as well?

ANTHONY: Well, I speak for myself at the moment, and I say that if it means that that's what's going to eventuate, so be it. But speaking as National Secretary now, the trade union movement is not willing to accept such injustice.

HILL: Isn't that a dangerous escalation in tensions between trade unions and the Interim Government. It hasn't gone quite that far to defying the law as such until now, has it?

ANTHONY: Well no, we haven't been doing that so far, but I believe that this decree here, I think has crossed all borders and we have not seen anything so draconian as this decree so far. We cannot as I've said accept that the workers of this country and trade unionists have absolutely no political role whatsoever.

HILL: If you do go ahead, form this party illegally, and then perhaps, let's say, go to prison. What would you be achieving by that?

ANTHONY: We will be exploring all avenues as to how we should move forward in forming the party. Let me just say, that I am not the only one here. There were more than 400 delegates over the weekend, that actually took the decision to form a political (party) ???? (inaudible) ??? and, of course, the party that we're talking about is going to, not only be trade unionists and workers. It will be all inclusive. There will be others from outside who will also participate in the party and be members of the party. So this is not going to be a one-man party like other parties in Fiji. It's going to be truly democratic. So we will just have to find ways of working through this.

HILL: But if the penalty for joining this party is breaking the law and possibly going to jail or paying a massive fine. Are people going to be terribly keen on joining your party?

ANTHONY: Well, we'll have to wait and see how this things turns out.

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