PACIFIC UNIONS’ SUMMIT MEETING TO DISCUSS FIJI TRADE BANS June 16,000

PACIFIC UNIONS’ SUMMIT MEETING TO DISCUSS FIJI TRADE BANS

By Andrew Casey LabourStart June 18, 2000

Senior union officials from throughout the Pacific have flown into Fiji to discuss the coup crisis -- which tomorrow will be one month old.

In the lead up to Monday's union summit Fiji media have concentrated their reporting on the effects of the international union bans on the local economy. The Sunday morning Fiji One TV current affairs program - Close Up – today featured a debate between Diwan Shankar, the Assistant National Secretary of the Fiji TUC, and the head of the Fiji Employers Federation, Ken Roberts.

The Rupert Murdoch owned Fiji Times has denounced the Fiji TUC leader, Felix Anthony.

The Times reportedly has suggested Anthony's actions were even worse than George Speight, the leader of the thugs holding hostage the democratically elected PM, Mahendra Chaudhry, and his MP colleagues.

The key export earner, the sugar industry, is now limping along.

Crushing at the main Rarawai mill is a stop-start exercise because there is almost no supply of sugar cane, and a large number of mill workers are absenting themselves from the workplace.

Union leaders from Australia, Japan and New Zealand will tomorrow join colleagues from smaller Pacific Island union movements at the Fiji TUC head offices in Suva for a three-hour meeting.

They will study the recommendations of Ken Douglas, the chair of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, Asia Pacific Regional Organization (ICFTU/APRO) which calls for toughening of the bans.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Assistant Secretary, Bill Mansfield, has flown to Fiji to take part in the talks.

Bill Mansfield will report his findings to the ACTU Congress, scheduled to start next week.

Union delegates from all affiliated unions, and from right around Australia, will meet in the industrial city of Wollongong for what is the peak decision-making body for the Australian union movement.

Almost at the same time that the Pacific union movements meet in Suva the Australian Parliament, in Canberra, will be debating whether trade bans and sanctions should be imposed on Fiji.

Before the start of the ICFTU/APRO meeting in Suva, Felix Anthony praised the efforts of the international union movement in support of the restoration of democracy in his country.

Mr. Anthony said the Fiji TUC had received enormous support from ICFTU/APRO and from the ICFTU head office in Brussels, Belgium.

The Fiji union movement has started to highlight the effect on public administration in Fiji since the military started issuing decrees.

The union movement is circulating around the world damning copies of military decrees, which show the public sector is being 'racialized.'

Indo-Fijian public servants are being pushed aside in favor of less qualified people.

The head of the Fiji Public Service Association, Raj Singh, has asked all levels of Government in Australia and New Zealand to stop cooperation and all technical assistance to the Fiji civil service while this racial-preferment policy is maintained by the new military administration.

Raj Singh was due to be in Australia last week with appointments to see key Federal and NSW politicians and bureaucrats to lobby them for their support.

However, when his union colleague, Felix Anthony, was suddenly detained by the military on Friday morning he cancelled his flights fearing that Mr. Anthony may be held for a long time.

Mr. Anthony was released after being held for three hours in a military camp.

If the crisis is not quickly resolved Mr. Singh will come to Australia after the ACTU Congress to renew his lobbying activity.

Documents Mr. Singh is already circulating in Australia and New Zealand show that from the very top of the judicial system to the lowliest clerical job an insidious warping of the public administration process has begun.

Some foreign judges -- including Australia's former Chief Justice, Sir Gerard Brennan -- have quit their positions in Fiji because of their concern that the independence of the judiciary is now being undermined.

The Fiji TUC has supported the Fiji Law Society in condemning the Fiji Chief Justice, Sir Timoci Tuivaga, for taking part in drafting decrees for the military administration.

The Fiji TUC's Felix Anthony is quoted by the Fiji Daily Post as saying: "We believe the Chief Justice's action has compromised the position and the independence of the judiciary.

"We believe it is wrong and improper for the judiciary to support the military as the Interim Government and to compromise the 1997 Constitution.

"We call upon the judiciary to disassociate itself from the military and to ensure the judiciary remains credible and independent because we believe if that is compromised then the only hope for democracy in this country is gone.

"The Fiji TUC for its part will let its international counterparts know of our position and the situation regarding the judiciary and call for them to take appropriate action," Mr. Anthony told the Fiji Daily Post.

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