FTUC: PM’s praises abroad for human rights “ironic”

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FTUC national secretary Felix Anthony. Picture: FT FILE/REPEKA NASIKO

THE Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) says it is ironic for Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama to “sing praises for respect of human rights” at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) while his Government denies workers the right to march and protest on key issues.

In a statement released yesterday, FTUC national secretary Felix Anthony said Mr Bainimarama’s comments at the UNGA were, in his view, disrespectful to one of the world’s foremost champions of human rights.

“The Fiji Trades Union Congress is shocked at the prime minister’s speech at the UN Nelson Mandela Peace Summit,” Mr Anthony said.

“The prime minister claimed he was inspired by the principles on which Mandela lived and pursued his struggle.

“He spoke of human rights and how Mandela fought to ensure rights of his people. This is a total demonstration of disrespect for a great soul like Mandela.

“Human rights have been at the centre of the trade union movement’s struggle in Fiji for the past decade under his Government’s rule.

“In fact, the whole world including the ILO (International Labour Organization) has called upon his Government to respect human rights including workers’ rights over this period.

“It is ironic that while he was singing praises for respect for human rights, his Government back home denied workers the right to march and protest against his policies on minimum wage, labour law review, individual contracts and denial of collective bargaining by unions, right to strike and denial of justice to ATS (Air Terminal Services) workers and respect for their rights.”

The FTUC’s application to hold a march through Suva City and rally at Sukuna Park today was approved by the Suva City Council and Fiji Roads Authority but denied by the Fiji Police Force. Divisional Police Commander Southern senior superintendent Abdul Khan wrote to Mr Anthony on September 27 saying the FTUC’s bid for a march and rally had been declined with no explanation given.