Sunday, January 13, 2013

International Union Warns Fiji: Military Constitution Not Acceptable

Sharon Burrow

The International Trade Union Confederation today called for international condemnation of Commodore Bainimarama’s rejection of Fiji’s draft Constitution, a constitution which would restore rights and freedoms to the island nation.
The democracy and rights and freedoms of all Fijians are under threat, and the military-led regime is standing in the way of Fijian democracy.

Despite 7000 submissions and the drafting of a Bill of Rights that would restore democracy to Fiji, the military has starkly rejected the Ghai draft, despite international concern.

The Constitution was an opportunity to overturn recent restrictions on rights and freedoms in the form of Decrees set forth in December 2012 which saw media censorship, increased military powers and imposition of heavy restrictions on the rights and freedoms of Fijians.

ITUC General Secretary Sharon Burrow said that her recent visit to Fiji brought home the severity of the anti-union decrees which were issued last year.

“It is clear that the Fijian people are suffering under the injustices of a repressive and controlling military regime. The Constitution was a chance to restore rights to Fijians, and the fight for those rights is not over yet.

Fiji’s unions, led by the FTUC and supported by key civil society figures, yesterday launched a fight back with the launch of a new political party, a party that will be multi-racial and inclusive of young people and communities.

“The military-led regime has systematically repressed the important role that human rights defenders, trade unions and a free media play in civil society; and individuals who criticize the government now face harsher penalties and in some cases, lifetime imprisonment. The FTUC is determined to stand up for democratic rights and freedoms, but international governments can also do more.

“If Commodore Bainimarama is not committed to a rights-based constitution and an independent transition to democratic elections, then he must be recognized by the international community for the dictator he is and stripped of all recognition including his role as chair of the G77.

“Fijian workers and civil society leaders are determined to take back democratic rights and freedoms. The ITUC stands with them,” said Ms Burrow.


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