Fiji union to defy decree, set up political party | Pacific Beat

Fiji union to defy decree, set up political party

Fiji union to defy decree, set up political party

Updated 22 February 2013, 18:10 AEDT

The Fiji Council of Trade Unions is still planning to set up a political party in defiance of the coup installed military government's rules against unionists being involved in politics.

FTUC General Secretary Felix Anthony says the interim government appears to not want any opposition to it at the elections scheduled for 2014.

The Australian Workers Union this week passed a resolution in support of trade union and political rights in Fiji, something Mr Anthony has welcomed.

The Fiji interim government declined to respond to his comments.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker:Fiji Council of Trade Unions general secretary Felix Anthony

ANTHONY: This is very encouraging and they have been spot on in terms of the situation of workers in the country and the challenges that workers face in the country. Support of this nature is encouraging as I've said and also very energising for the trade unions here in Fiji. In fact, the International Trade Union Movement support for Fiji has been, has been very good and has been ongoing. And there is absolutely no signs of the Trade Union Movement internationally backing off. If anything at all, I think there is discussion of escalating pressure on Fiji in regards to this prevailing situation in the country, in regards to return to democracy, in regards to a free and fair election and, of course, the more recent denial of any form of political rights to trade unionists or to any trade union activist or even employees of trade unions.

Clearly, the situation is worsening in Fiji. We would look forward to all the support we can get from the International Trade Union Movement.

HILL: Could that not be a problem for your union though? The coup-installed military government in Fiji have been able to portray the union movement as somehow tools or puppets of international forces and that you're acting against the economic interests of Fijians and calling for sanctions on the government, which would mean job losses in Fiji, which would affect your own members?

ANTHONY: Well, absolutely not. We believe that any reaction from the International Trade Union Movement would be against the actions of the government, so the government needs to take responsibility for its own actions. It is initiating and inviting opposition from the International Union Movement by taking actions, by denying people they're human rights, by denying people their right to choose their own government.

HILL: At the moment, about three parties have attempted to register as political parties. All the other parties have been deregistered. You're on record earlier as saying, you're going to go ahead and form you're own party, a Workers Party. If you do that, of course, that would be completely illegal, because it's run by trade unionists. Are you still going to go ahead with that and risk legal consequences?

ANTHONY: The Future Trades Union Congress had decided on a political movement for the workers and the fact that there's been this onslaught on the trade unions and the workers of this country by this regime and the workers clearly need a voice to address their concerns.

HILL: If you do go ahead and form this party, it won't be allowed to operate by the interim government. What do you think the elections in 2014 will actually look like politically, what's the political landscape going to be in 2014, based on what's been happening at the moment, as far as you're concerned?

ANTHONY: To answer the first question first is that in forming the political party under the current rules as unfair as they are, as much as we disagree with them, to ensure that the registration of the party goes ahead. There need not be trade unionists who should lead the party and then if any trade unionist should choose to lead the party, then appropriate decisions would have to be taken to ensure that the party is registered and we will ensure that that is done.

Quite apart from that, as the situation stands, clearly the regime does not want to see any credible form of Opposition to its own agenda and clearly what we see now is that the regime is hell bent on ensuring that it remains in power at any cost. And we are not prepared to accept half a democracy in the country, we're not prepared to compromise on basic human rights issues in this country, workers rights in this country. These are fundamentals that need to be observed and these are fundamentals that the international community needs to understand are the very basics and the foundation of any form of democracy that is to come to Fiji.

HILL: That all sounds well and good. How are you going to fight for those principles, if you go ahead and form this party and they put you in jail?

ANTHONY: They will put one or two of us in jail. We're not the only people in this country who believe in rights issues. They'll be many more people who would be willing to stand up and fight this. The fight will go on. Make no mistake, by putting a few people in jail, will not mean the end of the fight. In fact, it might just mean a new start to the struggle.


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