PRESS STATEMENT August 2, 2000

Police in Lautoka asked the Fiji Labour Party Office Coordinator Subhas Verma to close the Party Office because it was involved in supporting and organizing the National Day for Peace and Democracy.

While three policemen and one soldier were questioning the Office Coordinator, four thugs stormed the office and demanded that it be closed down - intimidating the official and threatening serious retaliation.

Police officers present refused to take any action to restrain the group who stormed the office in spite of being asked to do so. The People's Coalition expects that those responsible will be brought to justice speedily.

The People's Coalition reminds security forces that the identity of all the thugs are well known and there should be no excuse for not apprehending them speedily.

These intimidations appear to have the support of some people high up in the interim regime. The regime must stop using thuggery and terrorism to intimidate those working for the restoration of democracy in Fiji.

The Fiji Labour Party office will continue to operate as normal. I have been assured by Police Commander Western, Mr. Antonio, that Police will provide security to the office.

Dr Tupeni Baba Deputy Leader People's Coalition



Fiji's top trade unionist, Felix Anthony, and seven or eight other union members were held 'hostage' today for a short period by a group of nationalist 'thugs' apparently angry at the union movement organizing a successful national day of protest.

The thugs invaded union offices in Lautoka - a town in the west of the main island - where Mr. Anthony was talking with union friends about the day's protests against the country's interim government.

The thugs’ invasion seems to have been part of a coordinated plan.

Felix Anthony said the thugs - whose faces he said he recognized from around town but he did not know their names - threatened several times that they would kill him.

"Of course it is concerning. But I will not let people bully me."

The thugs’ invasion of the union offices - and the fact that it took Lautoka police more than an hour and a half to arrive at the offices - was a dramatic illustration of the collapse of law and order in Fiji.

In another part of Lautoka, the People's Coalition office was forcibly shut down when first thugs occupied buildings, and then police and army officers followed to both eject the thugs and shut down the office.

Police told a Labour Party official that the People's Coalition office in that town was being shut down because it was being used to coordinate support for the nationwide one-day stoppage.

The Fiji union movement organized the nationwide stoppage along with a coalition of non-government civic organizations to demand a quick return to democracy.

In what they called a national day of protest, union leaders demanded a return to law and order.

Other groups, including the Employers Federation, say they recognized the national day for law and order, peace and democracy.

The Fiji National Council of Women organized a vigil for reconciliation and peace in the capital, Suva, but the new unelected civilian administration is ignoring the protests.

Meanwhile, in Australia, the Australian Council of Trade Unions has joined an international chorus of union protests calling for the restoration of democracy in Fiji.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow has written to Ratu Josefa Iloilo to express strong support for the Fiji TUC.

"The ACTU appeals to you to ensure that democracy and the rule of law is restored to Fiji as soon as possible within the framework of the 1997 constitution," Ms. Burrow said in her letter to the President.

Andrew Casey 

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