" I will not be signing the ACTU’s petition..."

Dear Croz,
Along with many other Trade Unionists, I have received a message asking for support of an ACTU campaign which purports to defend human rights in Fiji.
Here is the response I have sent to the ACTU.
All the best,
Dear Ged,
Unfortunately on this occasion the ACTU has the situation in Fiji wrong. As offensive as all democrats find a military regime, the party and trade union opposition to the Bainimarama government in Fiji does not have clean hands either.
The trade union officials who are, quite rightly, opposed to many of the restrictions imposed by the regime have been mostly supporters of a political party the Fiji Labour Party which is undemocratic, unrepresentative-except of a few cane farmers and long-term party hacks-and definitely not a desirable alternative to the present government. Indeed the FLP is in the process of forming an electoral alliance with the most reactionary ethnic Fijian/itaukei party which includes all `the born to rule’, anti-Indo Fijian chiefs.  The alliance is purely opportunistic and represents a return to the past which produced the military regime in the first place.
Since you purport to know `the facts about the real situation’ it is incumbent upon you to provide accurate data. However your figures on the proportion of the population living under the poverty line are dubious, with the figure probably closer to 35-40%. (Establishing poverty estimates in a country where the bulk of the population lives on smallholdings is extremely hard and the accurate poverty figures for Fiji are probably similar to many countries with this demographic feature, including PNG and others in the South Pacific.) There is no evidence that whatever the correct figure is has been brought about by military rule. Increasing poverty has been a feature of Fiji since the early 1990s at least.
It is a pity to see the ACTU, a progressive organisation, simply following the stupid, ineffective and counter-productive foreign policy position adopted by the Australian and New Zealand governments. 
Instead of sanctions which is all these governments have managed to implement, the ACTU should try to break from the official position and recognise the need to democratise the regime. Otherwise the ACTU will remain as ineffective as the ANZ governments in influencing what happens in Fiji. 
The Bainimarama government has been very successful in establishing international credibility within and outside the region, which should tell the ACTU that its campaign will not succeed. Since the post-election government in Fiji is as likely as not to be dominated by a Bainimarama-led party, the ACTU should now try to work out how to affect this future regime rather than simply opposing and offending its key members.
So I will not be signing the ACTU’s petition and will be doing all I can to tell others whom I know to do likewise. 
Scott MacWilliam  


Principle or Politics? said…
Yes. The policies have failed miserably in the last 6 years. Why should they succeed now? And why still engage with Indonesia, China and Saudi Arabia? In Saudi Arabia its apparently a deportable matter to be too good looking.All we have are countries so driven by ego and the need to engage in political bullying that they dare not lose face by reversing their policies. So they dig deeper and deeper into holes of their own making. I think we should move away from PIF and Commonwealth and every other organisation which has proved themselves too weak to act on principle. Hey, Canada is right, at least we can recognize a principled decision even if we don't agree with it.
Junta slurpers union said…
Who is this Scott MacWilliam? He sounds like another has been academic? Is he spruiking as an individual junta slurper or is he speaking on behalf of a trade union in support of this human rights abusing dictatorship? If it is the latter it would be nice to know the trade union that supports such a terrible dictatorship whose leader has openly sanctioned torture?
Anonymous said…
Oh please Junta Slurpers. I will be more impressed with the unions if they hadn't jumped in with the "junta" in 2006 and if they hadn't started criticizing only after they lost those lucrative jobs on government boards and committee. Sour grapes, and happy to take pickings when they were being given out by the "torturer".Even more impressive would be a trade union campaign against Indonesia for deaths in West Papua.But hey, we only kick the small guy right? And we only kick the guy who took our precious four wheeled drives and per diems away. When drunk at the United Club, we must all suddenly become born again human righters.
The Three Idiots - Fiji's Unions said…
As usual, when you can't attack the argument, attack the man. Where do these intellectually challenged people come from Mr Walsh, and why do they find your blog? Aren't they happy on C 4.5?
Scott MacWilliam said…
I,Scott MacWilliam am a long-time academic, former staff association/trade union official who was associate professor at USP when the George Speight-led takeover occurred in Fiji. Instead of leaving Fiji, MacWilliam stayed to continue teaching, researching and acting as vice-president of the staff association on behalf of colleagues, and defending freedom of speech at the university. David Robie has referred to this last role in his descriptions of the fight for press freedom in Fiji during 2000-2001. When at USP I helped organise conferences which sought to promote democracy in the South Pacific at a time when this was not always easy. I also wrote and spoke against the takeover, providing a contrary view to those who defended Speight and racist nationalism in academic and other circles.
Before coming to Fiji I have lived in the Philippines, where I was born and spent almost three years in a series of Japanese concentration camps, the UK, Canada, the USA, Uganda, Kenya and Papua New Guinea. I was jailed in Uganda during the Idi Amin period and was deported, which probably saved my life. I have had extensive experience of both civilian and military rule, which has provided me with comparative information about types of government.
My response to the ACTU call for a boycott commenced with the phrase: `As offensive as all democrats find a military regime, the party and trade union opposition to the Bainimarama government in Fiji does not have clean hands either'. This reflects my view of both the government and the main party opposition currently jostling for power in Fiji, when being political means choosing between alternatives. I am also willing to defend this view publicly, as an individual, without hiding behind a pseudonym, wearing the coward's disguise of anonymity.
The Duty to Protect and the Law on Misconduct said…
Mr McWilliam, the story of your life before you came into Fiji provides you with the credentials to permit you to exercise your choice in this matter. Because what has taken place within Fiji now ranks with some of the events within the countries you list on a scale of seriousness. These are multi-jurisdictional crimes which merit 30 years penalties in the United States of America.

The trafficking of women, young girls and boys both within and allegedly out of Fiji is being supported by evidence. The fact that those who are able to provide evidence have been systematically ignored, then harassed and have witnessed perjury within the courts, uninvestigated and unpunished makes the situation even more tragic (for the victims) and unconscionable for those who have tried to seek help over five years.

We are suffering from multiple ills and we are being made (!) to believe that such ills are mitigated by the provision of water running out of the taps and roads with temporarily crumble-free surfaces. Who shall put a price on a ruined human life? You were born in the Philippines, you say. You were placed in concentration camps. We boarded in school with victims of such camps and know the deprivations and the trauma endured. However, we have women and children within Fiji who have suffered also from grievous bodily harm enforced upon them. Will regional union action assist such victims of coercion and enforced acts? Human slavery? Both the Philippines and Thailand feature as source countries for trafficked females. We are on the tip of an ice-berg and until recently no recourse has come our way. Fijian women were duped and trafficked into Iraq - the Green Zone of Baghdad. No one paid any heed in 2007 as Fijians were lured into harms way: quite unsuspecting, their passports removed and they were preyed upon. Not only by bombs and the risks of warfare but also by multiple others. We have eye witness accounts from Kirkuk in the North.

Please exercise your conscience as you see fit. Your story is important to us. It reminds us of the horrors that wait still for those in power who exercise indifference. Surely, a component of the Law of Misconduct and the Duty to Protect? We shall recall the precise channels which were followed in 2007. Knock, knock. Was anyone At Home?
Anonymous said…
Mr MacWilliam
Perhaps you should see if you can get published in that outstanding academic journal and junta slurping rag the Fiji Sun? You could tell them how you won the Battle of Waterloo?

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