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FIJI: International union wants fair trade sugar labels stripped off

The Fiji regime threatened last year to have the military crush a strike by sugar workers at the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC). Image: Fiji Times

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Item: 8632

SUVA (Pacific Media Watch / Radio New Zealand International / Fiji Village): The Fijian government has again been criticised from all corners - for "political persecution", alleged abuse of worker rights and for restricting political parties from campaigning ahead of the September 2014 general election.

Today, a meeting of the International Trades Union Confederation in Brussels said it did not believe there would be free and fair elections in Fiji and that it was "appalled" at the inaction of the Australian and New Zealand governments over the pending elections.

The ITUC said it would pursue a case against Fiji at the International Labour Organisation.

"You have a situation where the world knows that this government is a dictatorship, that it is actually simply depressing peoples' human rights...and the decrees it's initiated - the forcing of electoral rules that are in the interest of the government. There is no committment to free and fair and democratic elections. If you are on the ground you know that this government has done everything possible to avoid having a free and fair, democratic environment" ITUC president Sharan Burrow told Radio New Zealand International.

The ITUC placed Fiji among "the world's worst country for workers", RNZI reported. Trade unionists who had decided to run as candidates in the coming election had been "forced out of their union jobs" said, and there was no collective bargaining in Fiji, she added.

As a result, the ITUC has asked the Fair Trade body to strip Fiji's 'fair trade' sugar of its label. There will be a meeting in a few weeks time for a decision to be taken, she said.

"You can't pretend that products coming out of Fiji are actually produced in any kind of fair trade environment when you have workers rights violated to the extent that they are in Fiji" Burrow told RNZI.

Political messages
Also today, Fiji Law Society president Dorsami Naidu again criticised the military Electoral Decree, which prescribes a US$27 000 fine or 10 years in jail for anyone caught communicating political messages by telephone, internet, email, social media or other electronic means 48 hours in the 48 hours before voting opens.

"I mean they're saying you can't campaign 48 hours before the elections and yet political parties can have a shed 300 metres away from the polling stations, so you know people are going to go through your polling shed, are you going to talk to them about the weather or are you going to tell them which number to vote on for which candidate?" Naidu said on Radio New Zealand International.

He said the new Electoral Decree would "restrict" political parties and would only benefit the current regime.

Last month, Naidu criticised the electoral decree, calling it an attempt by the regime to "control thoughts and minds prior and during the election process, when we're supposed to be going back to democracy".

He said the surveillance could mean that political parties and individuals would be targetted.

Meanwhile, Roshika Deo, a candidate for the progressive Be The Change party has accused the government's Tertiary Scholarship Loan Board of political persecution after one of her party's volunteers had his university scholarship terminated this week, allegedly for “associating" himself "in political agendas”.

"This action further diminishes the credibility of having a free and fair election, if young people continue to be targeted, which is threatening our political autonomy and creating a climate of fear and intimidation" said Deo.


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Pacific Media Watch

PMC's media monitoring service

Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators.
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