Fiji Trades Union Congress secretary Felix Anthony says the unions want to eventually create a genuinely multi-racial political party.
He says it's not yet been decided if the new party would stand in the September 2014 elections announced by the interim government, or if it would cooperate with the other parties who are coordinating their approach to standing in the election.
Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: Fiji Trades Union Congress secretary Felix Anthony
ANTHONY: The people of Fiji and the workers of Fiji have little choice and what we need really is a political voice that represents a cross section of people and more so the workers of Fiji. It's really a necessity that drives the trade unions at this time to consider a political movement and a political party.
HILL: You've been publicly very scathing about the incident in which copies of the Draft Constitution was seized and the galley proofs were burnt. Do you think given your concerns over the current political situation in Fiji that you're movement and subsequently your political party will be able to stand for the elections in September, 2014, completely fair and free and in an unfettered manner?
ANTHONY: Well, we're not at all optimistic about the elections and a free and fair elections. But we believe that there is a need to be prepared for what may happen and above all, we believe that the people of this country need a multi-racial, united voice and a common cause and we believe that our political movement will be in a position to do just that.
HILL: Everyone in Fiji, the SDL Labour the UPP all give lip service to multi-racialism. They all say they're multi-racial, but everyone knows the SDL is majority Fijian, everyone knows Labour is majority Indian. Is there ever going to be a truly multi-racial party in Fiji or is Fiji genuinely divided by race?
ANTHONY: I think it is important to understand that the trade union movement in Fiji today remains the only democratic institution in the country and truly multi-racial. The makeup of the trade unions in Fiji are multi-racial in nature and always have been since trade unions were born in the country more than 70 years ago. Despite the coups, despite all the political upheavals, that Fiji has suffered over a period of time, the trade unions have survived the onslaught and have remained multi-racial and our meeting on Saturday demonstrated this very clearly where in the room we had a very good mix of union activists and office bearers present. In fact, unlike other political parties, there is no need for the trade union movement to pretend to be multi-racial. We've always been, that's part of our DNA and that's the way the trade union movement's going to be all the time.
HILL: The other major parties, the SDL, Labour and UPP have formed a bit of a united front. They're coordinating with each other on their approach to these elections coming up. They may decide in fact whether to take part or not as a group. Will you be participating in that kind of a united front in discussions with them or might you play a spoiler role, and perhaps if they decide not to take part in the elections because they're concerned, might you play a spoiler role and come in and take advantage of their absence by standing in the elections, even if they don't?
ANTHONY: It maybe a bit too early to make any pronouncements on that, but clearly we would want to be consulted on any decisions that would be made. We will not simply follow the lead of other political parties, that's clearly not our intention. We would like to be treated as an equal partner, if there is going to be any joint decisions taken in respect of the current situation here and it will really be up to the new movement and the political party that will be formed to take a decision on that at the time.
HILL: You're forming a Trade Union-based Movement and then subsequently a party. Fiji already has a Labour Party. Are you forming this simply because you and its leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, don't get along?
ANTHONY: That's definitely not the case. The Labour Party was formed by the FTUC for a purpose. It was never meant to be anyone's personal property. It was meant to be multi-racial. When the party was formed, the party was truly multi-racial, the trade unions backed it, the Leadership and the Management Board the Executive Committee of the party was truly multi-racial, because it was made up of people from all walks of life. Today what we see is something very different. The party is mainly now just an Indian party and is represented mainly by people who belong to the National Farmers Union and colleagues of the leader himself.