News and Editor's Comments Friday 12.8.11
|A-G.Welcome smile; unwelcome decree|
Anti-Bainimarama government supporters constantly claim a lack of balance on this website. The accusation is not true. When the 'good' news from Fiji is not reported, I publish it. Credit is given when credit is due. When there's nothing but 'bad' news, it is reported also, as today's postings show.
My assessment of the current situation is that Government could be risking all that has been gained from nearly five years of lofty ideals, hard work and sacrifice. They are passing the ball to their opponents, many of whom have far less lofty ideals. Government would quickly regain lost ground if it were to lift (or at least significantly modify) PER, re-think the Essential Industries Decree, and urge the FNPF to implement its reforms as gently as possible.
TRADE UNIONS NOT BANNED BUT ... The A-G is absolutely right in saying that trade unions are not banned by the new Essential National Industries Employment Decree which some have claimed is a violation of trade union rights. “Nowhere," he says, "does it say that trade unions in Fiji are banned. There is no law that actually sets that out."
But he is absolutely wrong in implying that the new decree does not infringe on the previous rights of the unions affected. The decree (and subsequent government action) make it difficult for a union to collect member subscriptions and for union leaders to enter their members' workplaces. You are free to join a weakened union with no teeth. It is disingenuous for the A-G to say otherwise. The new "bargaining units" are no substitute for a union.
He is also correct in saying the two unionists who were recently arrested were not arrested because they were trade unionists, but because they had breached the Public Order Act that holds people responsible for actions likely to damage the state. Their appeal to overseas unionists to support their opposition the the Essential Industries decree certainly falls into this category.
But, realistically, what else could they do? The A-G said, “We all need to think as loyal citizens and take the country forward.” He is right again but loyalty should be reciprocal and does not assume submission to an unfair decree.
In all of this, the A-G is playing with words. The Decree is anti-union and the union leaders, unlistened to in Fiji, had little choice other than to act as they did. And this, irrespective of what we might think of them personally. It's the principle that's at stake. Here's another report on the issue from FijiVilllage.
The ILO team is now in Fiji. There are no restrictions on who they can meet.
PERMIT PERMITTING. Recently, commenting on the temporary detention of two trade unionists for breaching the Public Emergency Regulations, the Ministry of Information said all they had to do was apply for a permit. It sounded so easy you'd wonder why people would risk detention by not applying.
But it's not easy. Applications involve a far lengthier and more difficult process than the Ministry infers, making it no wonder people don't apply, especially for spur of the moment meetings.
Here's the process.
Step 1. Complete a form from the District Officer's office, write a covering letter, include a copy of your intended programme and proof of payment for the use of the venue. You may also be asked for a list of participants.
Step 2. The police will now investigate the application and maybe come back to you for more details before making their yes or no recommendation. First time applications can take more than a month and subsequent applications at least two weeks.
Step 3. Wait at least two weeks and then contact the police. Sometimes the permit can sit on someone's desk at the police station for a few days, and no one will phone you to say when it's ready.
Step 4. Hopefully, collect the approved permit application.
You can see why PER is so unpopular!
ILTB TENANTS EVICTED. The i-Taukei Land Trust Board Northern Division branch has started evicting tenants who failed to pay their land rental.