Right to protest | Anthony criticises Sayed-Khaiyum’s claim

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Protesters with their banners and placards during their march from Flea Market through Victoria Pde to Albert Park last month. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) general secretary Felix Anthony says former attorney-general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum seemed to have a memory lapse in saying that people were allowed to march and protest under the FijiFirst government.

In responding to Mr Sayed-Khaiyum’s comments in The Fiji Times that the only time permits for marches and protests were denied was when the proposed event was politically motivated or presented some level of risk.

While appearing as a guest on The Fiji Times’ online platform, The Lens @177, Mr Anthony said Mr Sayed-Khaiyum seemed to have forgotten “what his administration was doing to the people of this country”.

“We have this on record, we applied about eight or nine times to march in Suva and on all those occasions, we were denied the right to march. Without explanation whatsoever,” Mr Anthony said.

“We usually got a letter from the police, just a one-liner to say the application had been denied, and usually that would come a day or two before the planned march.

“Quite apart from that, the only march we were allowed was for ATS (Airport Terminal Services) in Nadi. That was the first application, and I think the administration got scared because we had applied for 3000 people to march and about 8000 to 9000 people turned up. They thought that marches would really be much more than that.”

Mr Anthony said that under “their very own” 2013 Constitution, Fijians have the right to protest, right to assemble and right to freedom of speech.

“But that administration, including the former A-G, denied the workers those rights and it’s laughable that he should then complain that he was not allowed to march when he disallowed every other citizen in this country, during his time, to not even assemble, not to even march.

“Then of course, even when we had the 200 workers who turned up at FTUC, to seek assistance from FTUC as to what could be done about their plight, he sent in the police to try and get people out of the FTUC compound.”

Mr Anthony said he found it rather funny that members of the previous administration seemed to forget what they were doing when they were in government.

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