Friday, September 02, 2011

NZ Unions Begin Protest in Support for Democracy in Fiji


 NZCTU President Helen Kelly speaks to protesters

Blessed with warm weather, around 50 union members and Fiji pro-democracy supporters demonstrated in front of the Fiji High Commission offices in Wellington today. It marks the start of a campaign to promote action against the illegal military regime in Fiji. It was also in support of union workers in Fiji, two of whom had earlier appeared in court today on bogus charges in contravention of the draconian Public Emergency Decree.


Waving placards, banners and flags, protesters stood just outside the gate of the Fiji High Commission offices listening to a number speeches and shouting for democracy and freedom in Fiji. 

Helen Kelly, President of the NZ Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU), called for tourism boycott in Fiji and confirmed ongoing collaboration with other unions to support counterparts in Fiji. She also informed the protest that two union members in Fiji had been arrested and were to appear in court earlier today. Their court case had since been adjourned to next week after the State objected to the release of the travel documents for one of them, Daniel Urai.

Other speakers included Green Party MP, Keith Locke and Wellington Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement Interim President, Sai Lealea. Mr Locke called for NZ to take up Fiji's case at next week's Pacific Island Forum Leaders meeting in Auckland. He also questioned why Foreign Minister, McCully, was not at the protest to show NZ's disgust at the situation in Fiji.
Sai Lealea addressing protesters

Sai Lealea reminded protesters of the worsening situation back in Fiji and how much people there will derive inspiration knowing that others overseas are standing up for them. Just being able to protest today was a reminder that those in Fiji are not able to do so. He stated that the protest was not directed at the people of Fiji but at "the military regime that has been terrorising the people of Fiji since the 2006 coup". For that, Sai thanked union members for joining in the fight for freedom and democracy in Fiji.

Similar protests are also planned for other cities in Australia and in Europe marking a global campaign of action against the Bainimarama regime. A protest march is being planned for Auckland to coincide with the Pacific islands Forum meeting next week. Other protests were to take place today in Sydney and Canberra in Australia. 



Helen Kelly with Sai Lealea & Adi Samanunu

NZ Unions are also planning further actions around the time of the World Cup rugby games without necessarily calling for a boycott in attending or watching the games. 

A suggestion could be the "wearing of white arm/wrist bands" by those attending any of the Fiji games as a mark of protest for democracy in Fiji.

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