Australia has reacted quickly to condemn the arrest of Daniel Urai and Dinesh Gounder under the Public Emergency Regulations.
In a statement, the Acting Foreign Minister, Martin Ferguson, said: “This is another example of the draconian Public Emergency Regulations being used to restrict basic human freedoms. The spate of arrests and beatings in recent months are further evidence that this is a brutal regime."
He said Australia’s acting High Commissioner to Fiji met yesterday with the acting Permanent Secretary of the Fiji Ministry of Foreign Affairs 'to convey Australia’s concerns about the safety of Fiji workers, and the welfare of the two trade unionists.'
"The Acting High Commissioner made it clear Australia was watching developments closely.”
The statement said Australia continued to be deeply concerned at "the deteriorating situation in Fiji. Since 2006 the Bainimarama regime has abrogated the constitution; detained political leaders; sacked the independent judiciary; censored the media; and restricted meetings of civil society, including church groups."
Ferguson said that despite commitments to hold elections in 2014, it is not clear that the regime intends to make good on its promise saying the "restriction of labour rights is part of a concerted campaign to curtail the human rights of the people of Fiji. The rights of workers in Fiji have been targeted through a series of decrees restricting labour rights, the most recent of which was aimed at essential industries."
FTUC General Secretary, Felix Anthony, says Urai and Gounder were simply doing their job and didn’t need to apply for a government permit to assemble.
“Normally if you had a public meeting you’d have to apply for a permit [but] this was not a public meeting,” he told Pacific Beat. “[Mr Urai] was on his routine visit to [a] resort to deal with some disciplinary measures that members had. We don’t believe that this called for any added permit whatsoever.
“This is absolutely unjustified and this is just another attempt by the authorities to intimidate unions, and attempt to try and ensure that there is absolutely no union activity whatsoever.”