Thursday 2nd May 2019
The National Federation Party has labelled the arrest and interrogation of trade unionists by police, for allegedly breaching the Public Order Act, as persecution, harassment and intimidation by the Fiji Police Force, on the orders from Government.
NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad says Fiji has clearly become a Police State with the guarantors of law becoming a law unto themselves.
“How can talking about a planned national protest and march be construed as breach of the Public Order Act? Similarly, how can workers who gathered to highlight their plight as well as of their families and children after being laid off their jobs, be a breach of the Public Order Act? Worst of all, they were arrested from a private property that happens to be land owned by their Union and then taken for detention”.
“This is sheer lunacy. It is the Animal Farm in motion where some are clearly more equal than others. The Fiji First Government through the Police have unilaterally determined that Unionists and jobless workers have no rights even if it means the destruction of their livelihoods”.
“This is similar to arbitrary arrests and detention of pro-democracy activists by the security forces following the military coup of December 2006. One would have thought that following the resumption of parliamentary democracy, such illegal acts would become a thing of the past.”
“These events are a sure sign of parliamentary and constitutional dictatorship under the pretext of a true and genuine democracy”.
“It is manifestly clear that this Government does not value the hard work and sacrifices of workers and gives scant regard to their rights and livelihood”.
“This year we have had three examples. Firstly, Air Traffic Controllers who were denied their right to better working conditions and salaries. Instead a Washington based firm has been hired to recruit expatriate Air Traffic Controllers who will be paid expatriate salaries”.
“Then we had teachers being threatened with disciplinary action if they support a planned national protest despite being on leave. Now we have over 2000 workers who are unemployed on the pretext their contracts have expired. Even after giving them termination letters, the Water Authority of Fiji adds salt to the wound by putting out advertisements for the recruitment of workers for similar roles”.
“Why didn’t WAF advertise before the contracts ended, as is normally the case?”
“Threats, intimidation and harassment only harden attitudes. Government may think it can succeed in using these tactics to camouflage the fundamental ills plaguing the nation including working workers’ rights, but it will not resolve the problems”.
“The Government would do well to hear the grievances of the ordinary citizens that is resonating throughout the country”.
We call upon the Police to immediately release all the unionists and workers who have been arrested and detained.
Professor Biman Prasad