#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2011-08-07

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Illegal regime revokes FTUC permit two days after telling ILO it's not out to hurt unions or workers

CROCKODILE SMILE: Liar Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum grabs chance to press the flesh.

FELLOW LIAR: Bainimarama and ILO.
More proof today that the unelected Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum and Frank Baimimarama are liars and running scared.

Just days after telling the ILO and the international community they are not trying to destroy the trade union movement, the gruesome pair today stopped the Fiji Trades Union Congress from meeting in Nadi, to discuss the Essential Industries Decree.

Just yesterday Fiji media reported se gana vuli Bainimarama as saying the regime was not trying to ban unions or rob workers of their rights - something his handler Khaiyum had insisted under the same front page banner headlines just days before.

Today, Nadi police moved in to disperse the FTUC's planned three-hour meeting and shuffle people out of the hotel premises, not even allowing them to have morning tea there. 

Fear is no doubt at play and why not? Both know they are despised because of the way they have tried to 'remake' Fiji for the supposed better while they and their own live by their own rules and cash in on the spoils of war, all the while protesting they're misunderstood.

Yesterday at a meeting with the ILO delegation led the Deputy Director General, Guy Ryder, Bainimarama extolled the virtues of his junta saying "reforms are necessary and that the government has not banned trade unions or taken away workers' basic rights."

On Thursday, Sayed Khaiyum claimed misinformation was being spread by several quarters and he wanted to meet the ILO delegation to clarify the "misinformation that has been told to the international community by individuals who have got self interest".

Quote: "Also they will be able to see the various laws put in place and we will clarify any misconception they may have regarding the Decrees."

Using words like "tragically hypocritical", Khaiyum claimed that some unionists who have been going overseas talk about the rule law but are themselves breaking the law.

But the ILO and, indeed, the whole world can see again today that these unelected, gutless wonders intend to keep turning the screws on the people of Fiji, so they can stretch out their time as a pretend government.

Woe the international teams to Fiji who buy into the Bainimarama and Khaiyum propaganda. As the people of Fiji know, it's a crock.

Pictured: FTUC's permit application and the FTUC statement denouncing the cancelling of today's meeting. 

Editor's note: The picture of Khaiyum with father-in-law, Bill Gavoka, was taken at this week's funeral for Gavoka's daughter.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Jumpy junta worried Fiji Methodists will cause 'disturbances'

Key Methodist Church leaders are being taken in and being spoken to by the military junta, worried they might be 'making trouble' at its conference at the end of this month.

NEUMI LEWENI: Warning Methodists.
Reverend Manasa Lasaro was interviewed at the Nasinu police station last evening by the director of operations for police. He wasn't held but he was grilled about the conference, its agenda and possible protests.

Lasaro says he stood his ground. "They know what the agenda is, that has been made known to them but they still wanted to make sure church members don't deviate. They said they have heard that there will be disturbances. I told them there have been no disturbances in any of the years the conference has been held."

About a thousand Methodist Church members are expected at the Suva conference in just over ten days. It will be the first time members will be able to hold a conference since 2007, when the military dictatorship banned the gatherings.

The junta is showing all the signs of being scared of its own shadow. 

It yesterday urged the Methodist Church to 'promote unity and equality' with military spokesperson Colonel Neumi Leweni telling Fiji Village 'the RFMF has been reliably informed that there are elements within the church that have been planning to utilize the upcoming church conference to instigate instability.'

He said "the law will take its course if a member or delegate of the Methodist Church of Fiji conference engages in any unlawful activities".

Leweni said the church Secretary has been told the meeting will be cancelled should members deviate from the original agenda. Methodist Church Assistant Secretary, Reverend Tevita Nawadra, was reported as saying no political issues will be discussed in the conference.

Fiji unions meeting with ILO reps 'fruitful'

The Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions and the Fiji Trades Union Congress have met with the International Labour Organisation representatives who are visiting Suva.

FTUC General Secretary Felix Anthony
The two umbrella unions met the ILO jointly and presented their concerns about several employment-related decrees produced by the illegal regime.

The regime recently introduced the Essential Industrial Services Decree and the State Public Services Decree. Both threaten the rights of workers, wages and working conditions negotiated over decades of collective bargaining.

In a letter sent by FICTU to its affiliates and friendly organisations, its general secretary Attar Singh, says workers rights are enshrined in several ILO conventions and must be respected.

FICTU General Secretary Attar Singh
"We cannot sit back and allow such onslaught on our fundamental rights, won over decades of struggle by us workers and leaders gone before us. We have a responsibility to defend these rights. We must fight back to save the wages, working conditions, quality and dignity of all workers."

The meeting lasted almost two hours and was described by the high-powered delegation as "fruitful".

Headed by the ILO's second in command, Guy Ryder, the Delegation is meeting with the regime's dictator, Frank Bainimarama, today.

Coming up .... Jumpy junta presses church leader for reassurance this month's Methodist Church conference will be trouble-free.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Two more powerful organisations show support for Fiji unions

STRENGTH IN GLOBAL NUMBERS: PSI affiliate, Service Employees International Union, leads Los Angeles County Employees in 2009. 

More good news for Fiji - two more powerful international labour organisations are putting their might behind the country's beleaguered trade unions and their officials.

The first is the Public Services International (PSI), which has penned a strong letter to the illegal regime logging its concern about the gazetting of the new Essential Industries Decree and the planned amendment of the Public Service Act.

The letter by PSI's general secretary, Peter Waldorff, also tackles Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum's controversial plan to scrap the check-off system for the sector and misinformation about the Civil Service Act.

A letter dated August the 4th to the self-appointed prime minister Fank Bainimarama says: "PSI regards this matter as the latest in a series of vindictive attacks on public sector unions by the interim administration."

PSI is a global union federation of public sector trade unions and has 620 affiliated unions in 160 countries, representing 20 million workers. It is officially recognised as an non-government organisation for the public sector in the International Labour Organisation, and has consultative status with the United Nations ECOSO and observer status with the other UN bodies such as the UNCTAD and UNESCO.

The organisation has led successful campaigns against major corporates including the mining giant, Rio Tinto, carrying out simultaneous industrial action in London and Melbourne (see pictures to the right of page).

The other movement to come behind Fiji's trade union movement is the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM), another powerful global union federation of trade unions. ICEM represents 467 industrial trade unions in 132 countries and has a membership of more than 20 million workers.

The organization, which is based in Geneva,  represents workers employed in a wide range of industries, including energy, mining chemicals, pulp and paper and many others.

ICEM's strongly worded letter to Fiji's illegal prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, condemns the arrest of FTUC president, Daniel Urai, and says: " The harassment and intimidation of trade Unionists is truly unacceptable to ICEM affiliates around the world."

The letter, which is signed by general secretary Manfred Warda, warns the military dictatorship to back off. Quote: "On behalf of 20 million members in 132 countries ... I send you notice that we will  mobilize all our resources to condemn these vicious attacks from your government."

ICEM Letter to Bainimarama

Editor's Note: Technical glitch with the PSI letter but we will publish it as soon as possible

International Union mounts massive campaign against Bainimarama regime

Sharan Burrow
The International Trade Union Confederation is investigating if legal action can be taken against the military dictatorship for failing to adhere to the principles and rights of the International Labour Organisation.

As a member of the ILO, the Fiji regime has a commitment, through the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, to respect, promote and realise the fundamental rights set out in the organisation’s core conventions.

Moves to limit fundamental workers’ rights in Fiji are also at odds with commitments made under the Cotonou Agreement which defines the European Union’s relations with 79 countries from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, including Fiji.

The General Secretary of the ITUC, Sharan Burrow, told Coupfourpointfive yesterday the Essential National Industries Employment Decree is a severe blow to workers rights.

"We think that the decree is an affront to the fundamental principles and rights to which Fiji is required to adhere to as a member of the ILO.  

"The decree, in many important Fijian industries, essentially eliminates the right of freedom of association, collective bargaining and to strike," she said.

Ms Burrow said the ITUC has taken a number of actions to stand up for the workers of Fiji.

"We called upon the prime minister directly to repeal the law, filed a memo on the law with the ILO and, on the basis of that law and the arrests, and was able to mobilize and ILO delegation to Fiji.  

"We are also coordinating an international campaign against the government of Fiji which has as its aim the restoration of fundamental rights in Fiji, including repeal of that and other recent decrees."

Ms Burrow said the ITUC is activating all of the ILO mechanisms it can to put pressure on the regime.

"We are also seeking to generate substantial political and economic pressure on the regime to reverse course and restore basic rights, including labor rights.  We are also investigating to find other points of leverage using domestic and international law."

Sayed Khaiyum to use the ILO meeting to 'clarify' the truth

Fiji's illegal Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum says he is looking forward to meeting the ILO delegation arriving this afternoon because he wants to clarify the truth.

The ILO is sending a group to Fiji following the deteriorating trade union rights situation, especially with the recent Decree which curbs workers rights and makes trade unions defunct.

Sayed Khaiyum says there is a lot of misinformation being spread by several quarters, Fiji trade unionists and international organisations and he wants to meet the ILO delegation to clarify the "misinformation that has been spread and told to the international community by individuals who have got self interest".

"Also they will be able to see the various laws put in place and we will clarify any misconception they may have regarding the Decrees."

Sayed Khaiyum said he also wants to clarify to the ILO that the recent arrest of unionists Daniel Urai and Dinesh Gounder were not because they are unionists but because they broke the law.
He said he finds it "tragically hypocritical" that some unionists who have been going overseas talk about the rule law but are themselves breaking the law.

“These two gentlemen have been charged and the matter is before the courts and so you let the court decide. The question is, are you going to interfere with the judicial process? “We have seen people who have been in Fiji being charged with various offences - the charge has either been dropped; the court has not found them guilty or they have been discharged.

“Let them go through the judicial process. If the matter has merit, it will succeed; if it doesn’t, the independent judiciary will find them not guilty. It’s very simple,” he said.

The ILO delegation arrives in Nadi at five o'clock this afternoon.

Coming Up ....the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation speaks to Coupfourpointfive.

Hindus restricted from celebrating religious festivals

Pooja or prayers at a Hindu home

Hindus in Fiji will now have to apply for a permit from the regime for small gatherings to observe religious festivals at home.

Just as Christians celebrate Christmas and Muslims Prophet Mohammed's birthday, Hindus celebrate Lord Rama and Lord Krishna's birthdays in April and August. 

The regime says gatherings are not allowed under the Public Emergency Regulations.

But Hindus are questioning why they're being targeted as church services on Saturday's and Sunday's do not need permits. Similarly they say, Muslims do not need a permit to gather for their weekly prayers every Friday. 

Dewan Chand Maharaj
Coupfourpointfive has been told that the largest Hindu religious organisation in Fiji, the Sanatan Dharam Pratinidhi Sabha, should be condemning this move by the regime but it won't because the President of the Sabha, Dewan Chand Maharaj and Secretary Vijendra Prakash, are key supporters of the regime.

Vijendra Prakash
A letter has been sent to Coupfourpointfive to show how Maharaj and Prakash have been taking advantage of the situation by telling Hindus that unless they are members of a mandali that is affiliated to the Sanatan Dharam, they will not be allowed to celebrate any religious festival at home. This is even though they have been doing so for many years.

The letter written in April also says that any Hindu or mandali wanting a permit must obtain written consent from at least 15 of the mandali, members or neighbours and even the nearest church pastor in an area where the religious occasion will be observed. 

In contrast, a Church does not need written consent from its neighbours or the Hindu mandali.

In the letter, Prakash says these conditions are important for the "promotion of national unity as per the National Charter (Peoples Charter). The Sabha was a active participant in the Charter process through Majaraj while Prakash served as an Administrator of Suva City Council.

But the Sabha's stance of religious persecution even violates the illegal Peoples Charter that says "we recognise the freedom of our various communities to follow their beliefs..." and places priority to "equality and dignity of all citizens" and "respect for the diverse cultural, religious, and philosophical beliefs".

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

British unions to ask UK sugar giant to press Fiji dictatorhsip to end labour rights abuse

More international trade union muscle coming Fiji's way. United Kingdom umbrella union urges giant London refinery, Tate and Lyle, to take up Fiji cause. See story below from the Trades Union Council website.

Unions press Tate & Lyle to challenge work rights abuses in Fiji


The GMB and TUC are today (Monday) calling on Tate & Lyle sugar refineries in London to challenge the Fijian military government to end the rapidly escalating labour rights abuses in the country.


Last Wednesday (3 August), President of the Fiji Trades Union Congress Daniel Urai and another union leader were arrested on charges of holding a union meeting without a permit.

On the same day, the military government introduced the Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree, which, according to the Fiji Trades Union Congress, 'will effectively abolish all trade unions in Fiji'.

The decree bans the right of unions to represent workers in collective bargaining and effectively prohibits industrial action, among other restrictions. It voids all current collective bargaining agreements within 60 days and cancels all wages council orders relating to minimum terms and conditions of work in key national industries.

Tate & Lyle in the UK has significant leverage over the regime in Fiji, purchasing 100 per cent of its sugar exports. The military government has a controlling stake in the industry, which is the country's biggest exporter and source of employment. Many labour rights abuses have taken place in the sugar industry.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber and GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny, whose union represents workers at Tate & Lyle in London, wrote to management on Friday (5 August), calling on them to press the military government to end the labour rights abuses in the country.

Brendan Barber said: 'People would be horrified to know that the sugar in their cup of tea this morning may be propping up Fijian generals busy jailing or harassing ordinary working people. Now this new decree is tearing up decent working conditions for Fijians, and is a death sentence for their trade unions.

'The dictatorship is totally dependent on its trade with Tate & Lyle here in London. The company need to use this enormous leverage over them to press the Fijian government to respect human rights.'

Paul Kenny said: 'Tate & Lyle is a good employer here in Britain. We are calling on it to make sure that workers in the cane fields and sugar mills in Fiji where it sources from can enjoy the same decent working conditions.

'Tate & Lyle publicly claim to be 'operating to high social, ethical and environmental standards in all circumstances'. Let's hope it can now put those words into action.'

NZCTU discussing action on Fiji

Peter Conway
The New Zealand Council of Trade Union says it hasn't lost sight of Fiji.

Its secretary Peter Conway told Coupfourpointfive it is engaging with key labour groups like the ILO and ACTU about what can be done to help Fiji.

"We have had several meetings of affiliates and are considering a range of options to support workers in Fiji.

We are in regular dialogue with ACTU. And we have been in contact with ILO asking them to support an investigation/mission. We have also conveyed our views to the NZ Government at both ministerial and officials levels."

Coupfourpointfive asked the NZCTU  what it was doing, about the latest moves by the military dictatorship to crush trade unions with the introduction of its new Essential Industries Decree.

Conway told us: "The NZCTU is supporting a campaign in respect of human and trade union rights in Fiji. We are going through a process of preparing material for union members and discussing options for activity with our affiliates.

"We have said that before any industrial action is considered we would discuss that matter with members (obviously) but also employers and the NZ Government given the circumstances. Our preference is for combined pressure from workers, unions, employers and governments."

Conway has also welcomed news of an ILO delegation heading to Fiji saying "we have been calling for the ILO to get more actively involved so this is good news".

He is attending a meeting of Aviation unions in Auckland today and tomorrow to discuss the situation in Fiji.

ILO reported to be 'beserk' over regime's new union decree

Officials at the ILO are said to have gone 'berserk' after the regime's introduction of the draconian decree to curb worker and union rights  in Fiji.

Coupfourpointfive has been told that since last week, the ILO has held several meetings to discuss Fiji and list possible actions it could take.

The deteriorating trade union rights situation in Fiji has been under consideration by the  ILO for some time. 
As first reported by this blog, the Education International and FICTU affiliate, the Fijian Teachers Association first complained to ILO in July, 2009, followed by further complaints.
A decision to send an ILO Mission to Fiji was made in 2010 after the Governing Body of the ILO at its 309th session in November, considered these complaints.

Among other complaints in that report, the Committee considered complaints against the dismissal of Tevita Koroi, the president of the Fijian Teachers  Association, for making a statement at the launch of the Movement for Democracy in Fiji and the arrest and detention of FICTU general secretary, Attar Singh, the vandalising of his home and car and two arson attempts on Mr. Singh's union office in Suva.

The Committee also noted complaints on restrictions on union meetings, freedom of movement of trade unionists and restriction on union's right to express opinions through the press.

The ILO delegation are preparing to depart for Fiji and are expected to touch down in Nadi tomorrow afternoon.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

ILO heading to Fiji this Thursday

Guy Ryder with Burma's pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi

The International Labour Organisation is sending a delegation to Fiji following the regime's new employment decree which drastically curbs worker's rights and makes trade unions defunct.

The ILO Director General, Juan Somavia, says he is seriously concerned about the latest developments and  is sending a high powered delegation on Thursday to investigate how the ILO could help save worker's rights and the future of unions in Fiji.

Somavia said the Essential National Industries (Employment) decree makes it impossible for trade unions to function normally.

He said these developments come on top of long-standing ILO concerns about the exercise of trade union rights in Fiji.

The delegation will be led by  Guy Ryder, thee Executive Director of the Standards and Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Sector.

Ryder is a former General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation.

ILO statement on decree

Amnesty International condemns removal of Fiji worker's rights

Amnesty International has called on the illegal regime to repeal a decree that would drastically restrict workers' rights and to immediately cease the harassment of union leaders.

The human rights watch dog group says the regime's new decree on employment laws, violate international labour law and Fiji’s human rights obligations.

"The Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree published in the government Gazette, would take away nearly all collective bargaining rights, severely curtail the right to strike, ban overtime payments and void existing collective agreements for workers in key sectors of the economy including sugar, aviation and tourism. 

"The Decree also authorises employers in government-designated enterprises to dictate working conditions while denying their workers the right to a voice through independent unions."

It says the regime claims the measures are needed to ensure the development, viability and sustainability of industries that are essential to the economy, but the best way to achieve these goals is by respecting the fundamental human rights and dignity of those whose labour underpins these enterprises. 

"As it is, Fiji is failing in its duty to deliver decent work to its people. Forty percent of Fijians are reported to live below the poverty line of $1.25 a day, and more than half of those in full time employment earn wages below the poverty line. Independent trade unions are sorely needed.

"Fundamental human rights are at stake, including the right to freedom of association and assembly, and the right to organise. Amnesty International stands steadfast in solidarity with workers in Fiji and the Fiji labour movement in their struggle to defend their rights."

Amnesty statement

Former Fiji lawyer gets top job at human rights organisation

Fiji's former Law Society President, Graham Leung, has been appointed Director for the Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers within the International Commission of Jurist (ICJ).

Leung has been vocal against the regime and had called on the judiciary to oppose the regime's Legal Practitioner's Decree in 2007. 

He did not seek registration under the decree, which required all lawyers to register with the regime in order to get their  licences.

The role of the Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers  is to safeguard the independence and bolster the effectiveness of judges and lawyers in the administration of justice, particularly for the advancement of human rights.

The International Commission of Jurists is dedicated to the primacy, coherence and implementation of international law and principles that advance human rights.

Graham Leung appointed director CIJL

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fiji's improved ratings belies grim reality of shonky deals


NAISOSO DEAL: Bob Lowres (right.)
What the world knows and what is really happening in Fiji are two different things.

The international rating agency, Standards and Poor's, today revised its foreign currency long-term sovereign credit rating on Fiji to B from B minus. (see release below)

But a close look at the way the military dictatorship is doing business and therefore affecting the economy shows its methods are questionable, if not rotten to the core.

Revelations today of another business scam under the well-used pen of Fiji's pretend attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, this time involving New Zealand and Australian investors.

Insiders have revealed to Coupfourpointfive that tax claims by Tabua Investments and investors for the Radisson Apartment hotel on Denarau Island were illegal and inflated.

While investors are not entitled to claim tax on land, the way the deal was set up by the Finance Ministry allowed Tabua to do just that and claim on the original piece of land (the original price was $30,000) 76 times.

Individual Apartment Unit Holders also made dodgy claims for the 55% Tax Claimable Allowance to the value of $29 million, which those in the business say is impossible because there is no way it would have cost that much to build one apartment.

The development of the Radisson Resort Fiji on Denarau Island was spearheaded by Tabua Investments and "funded by Westpac, one of Australia’s leading commercial banks and built by Fletchers, the premium construction company of New Zealand and Fiji."

Readers, you can see for yourself who invested in the exclusive 135 bedroom Radisson Resort by opening the file below, titled Hotels Projects Approval 2008.

Meanwhile, digest this: As with most of the evil in Fiji, the root of it is the head of this illegal government. Insiders say they suspect Sayed Khaiyum was already looking at his two land blocks in Naisoso (and the $426 million approved concession), when the Radisson Apartment application by Tabua Investment came along.

Sources say the scam works like this: A letter from the Ministry of Finance for such approved concession application is taken to the bank by the so-called "investor" as a form of "government guarantee" for a loan to build a hotel or apartment knowing very well that the money loaned will be repaid by government through the approved tax concession.

One source told us: "I suspect this is another reason why the election has been dragged to 2014, so that such deal and project could be effective and to gain value cumulatively. For instance, for Naisoso, $426 million in concession means $50 million plus in claim loss per year over 8 years according to the Income Tax Decree 2009 Schedule 11. If the election is held soon or next year, then the accumulative loss will not be fully claimed and another government might come in and nullify all the Decrees that have been made and Khaiyum, John Prasad, Nur Bano etc will lose their money making schemes."

In a FBC story on May the 22nd this year, under the heading "Naisoso to rake in $400m", developer Bob Lowres said he expected the development of "beachfront, private and  riverfront home-sites, a 26 berth private marina, a 5 star and a 4 star hotel, apartments, residential homes and amenities" to be completed by 2017 and that most of the money will be in foreign earnings.

“We’ve set ourselves a pretty aggressive agenda - in terms of development. The only thing that will see that drag is if something happened and none of us know about – like the global financial crisis or something like that - but we are on track.” (see FBC story below)

Hotels Projects Approval 2008

Naisoso to rake in $400m