#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2011-12-11

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Khaiyum invites wrath of powerful trio

BATTING FOR FIJI: CTU president Helen Kelly middle. pic Sai Lealea
They're the union leaders he likes to call 'ladies' but between them they wield quite a bit of power regionally. Throw in a third, with even more clout, and you could be up for more than you bargain for.

The illegal attorney, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, has been unapologetic about refusing to allow into the country the five-member delegation of union leaders Ged Kearney and Helen Kelly.

But both have emerged from the experience of Tuesday more committed and determined to help Fiji workers and the labour movement reclaim the freedom and conditions pre the coup and the Essential National Industries decree.

This was Kearney's pledge yesterday: “We can assure Mr Bainimarama that we will not be intimidated by his tactics and we will not back down in our mission to defend the rights of Fijians.

“It is unimaginable that the Fiji Government continues to defy basic human rights in the face of growing international outrage.

"But their actions only make us more determined to safeguard the human and labour rights of Fijian workers and their communities."

Kelly voices a similar promise, urging New Zealanders to boycott Fiji altogether. 

In a joint statement with the influential group, Business NZ, her union urges the regime to take immediate steps to restore workplace rights, allow freedom of association and comply with recommendations of the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and its tripartite Committee on Freedom of Association.

"The CTU has raised our serious concerns about the severe restrictions on work rights and the arrest and detention of union leaders," says Kelly. 

"And the ILO has repeatedly called on the regime to bring its law into line with Fiji's international obligations. It is now time for the government of Fiji to show that it will respect human rights at work".

The high profile Australian and New Zealand unionists now have behind them Sharan Burrow, the general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation - the world's largest trade union.

In astatement, the ITUC, which has a global membership of 175 million workers thanks to 311 affiliates in 155 countries, says the refusal by "the Fiji authorities to allow an Australian and New Zealand trade union delegation to enter the country today shows the country is sliding deeper into dictatorship”.

“The Fiji regime has maintained that it is open to outside scrutiny, but this denial of entry tells the opposite story," says Burrows.

"Try as the military authorities might, the spotlight will continue to shine on their violations of workers’ rights and other basic freedoms. Todays’ events will only increase pressure on the regime."

The ITUC says Kearney and Kelly had planned to meet Frank Bainimarama "to seek a fresh dialogue on human and labour rights in Fiji, and had also planned to meet Fiji trade union counterparts, church leaders, and other civil society and business representatives.

"Instead they were refused permission to enter the country on arrival at Nadi airport and deported without any access to consular assistance. Delegation members’ mobile phones were confiscated until their departure."

Khaiyum might think he's got the better of the unions but he may well find himself paying more than just a one way fare to Sydney if the 'ladies' act against him.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Regime paid first class fare of delegation to go back to Sydney

The military regime might have felt it had the upper hand when it sent the Australian and New Zeland trade unionists back on the same flight they flew in on, but it had to pay for the privilege.

Trade union leaders Ged Kearney and Helen Kelly and three others were forced back to Sydney yesterday afternoon when the illegal attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, refused to allow them to pass immigration.

He claimed the team who wanted to talk to unions, employers and the regime to establish itself where and how widespread the abuse of human and workers rights was, had prejudged Fiji.

Kearney and Kelly got the better of him, though. 

Kelly, the president of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, sent a text to New Zealand confirming they were being ordered out but revealed the regime had to pay their return fare.

Her text message to Fairfax Media said: "On plane home. Took phone. Refused to let us in and we refused to pay for departure. They paid and held up plane for hour." 

Khaiyum has confirmed her story in interviews, including the one he did with ABC's drive time host, Steve Chase (see earlier story on Coupfourpointfive), admitting they had to cough up so the flight could take off. 

Khaiyum admitted to local media today that it was the only way to get the delegation out of Fiji: “We also understand a couple of the delegates were travelling business class and they insisted on travelling back on business class so the Fijian government had to ensure that that actually happened. That was financially catered for by the Fijian government.”

FICTU hails delegation as regime clings to sovereignty

The Fiji Island Council of Trade Union has thanked the Australian and New Zealand trade unionists who took risks to get into the country to investigate the abuse of human and workers rights.

In a statement general secretary, Attar Singh, says the regime's decision yesterday to refuse ACTU and NZCTU permission to enter Fiji shows it has no desire to discuss or resolve the current issues on trade union and human rights violations.

Singh says the decision is consistent with the regime's refusal to respond to ILO's findings based on complaints from the union movement including FICTU and the global federations from as far back as 2009.

"It must be understood that the violations of trade union and human rights arising from the Constitution abrogation, PER, media censorship,  several recent employment related decrees including the Essential National Industries (Employment) decree  and attacks on trade unionists, their families and properties, as determined by the ILO last month, need urgent discussion and resolution."

Singhs says the delegation was "only seeking to assist in this by gaining a better and first hand understanding of the issues."

"That is why they sought to meet not only the union movement but a wide cross section of people including the regime leadership, employers, NGOs and the churches.

"Refusing them entry into the country upon arrival at Nadi has deprived us all of such an opportunity and confirms that the allegations made by the union movement and the findings of the ILO correctly represent the reality on the ground."

Singh says FICTU was looking forward to meeting the delegation and is saddened at the turn of events.

"We thank the leadership of both, ACTU and the NZCTU for making the trip in the face of adverse utterances from the regime and the associated risks. They have shown courage and commitment to help us. They will be forever respected for this.

"And we call on them not to be deterred by the events  but to continue their efforts to help restore our rights through peaceful means."

The five-member delegation, led by ACTU president Ged Kearney and the NZCTU president Helen Kelly, was turned back from Nadi airport yesterday afternoon.
The illegal attorney-general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, today insisted the regime has "always been open to constructive dialogue" and that the delegation "are simply trying to please their Fiji mates such as Daniel Urai, Felix Anthony and a couple of others who are behind the scenes."

“In reality, the workers are not denied their rights in Fiji.
The Essential Employment Decree is not exploitative or derogative.

"In fact, so far all the agreements reached had no Government interference; it had been successfully negotiated between the employer and the employee, without the interference of professional trade unionists."

Khaiyum also said Daniel Urai's claims the regime had  no legal basis to deny entry to the delegation was naive." It is the sovereign right of all countries to decide who should enter their country."

FTUC has also retailiated today with national secretary, Felix Anthony, rejecting Khaiyum's claims union leaders are in it for their own survival.

"The current Trade Union leaders did not grab power from the people. They were elected in a very democratic fashion unlike the AG. We challenge the AG to stand for elections and seek the mandate of the people before he has the audacity to speak like an elected representative of the people. 

"Union leaders posses more mandate of the people than the AG ever did or probably ever will. It is time he remembered this before attempting to lecture to the people of Fiji."

Sayed-Khaiyum tells ABC News Radio's drive time presenter, Steve Chase, delegation deserved what it got

NZ, Aust unions sent back

FTUC responds to Khaiyum's claims

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fiji regime stops Aussie-Kiwi delegation at airport

(talk about it in our chat room or comment below)
The Australian Council of Trade Unions and its New Zealand counterpart, the Council of Trade Unions, have been sent home on the same flight they arrived on.

The five-member delegation landed at Nadi airport at two o'clock but was not allowed through Immigration. Their passports and phones were confiscated. 

Sources told Coupfourpointfive the Virgin Blue Flight is preparing to take off about now, after a two-hour delay because of the incident.

The ACTU leader, Ged Kearney and the CTU president, Helen Kelly, confirmed this morning they were going ahead with a planned three-day visit, despite Fiji media reports warning they would not be allowed in.

The illegal attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, claims the mission has prejduged Fiji so there is no point in them being allowed in to investigate allegations of labour and human rights abuse.

Kelly told New Zealand media this morning they would head to Suva regardless of the threats.

Kearney had tweeted the following message: About to board plane to Fiji. Intend to talk workers, employers and church groups about rights abuses. Govt threatening to refuse us entry!

The regime was quick to publicise its decision to refuse to let the delegation into the country.

Both the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation and Fiji Live were primed to report the incident with Khaiyum confirming to them the delegation had been sent home because it "wasn't welcome in the country because of their lack of integrity and credibility and their pre-conceived ideas about Fiji.'"

He told them: “They did board the plane, the plane did arrive in Fiji, but they have now been put back on the plane that’s going to return to Australia and they are about to board the plane to go back to where-ever they came from."

He added: "Everybody knows that the Bainimarama is supportive of improving the lives of all Fijians, is supporting the policy and program of creating more, of sustaining jobs." 

Khaiyum also attacked FTUC leaders Daniel Urai and Felix Anthony for being at the airport to meet the New Zealand and Australian unionists.

He claimed they and "and some of their other mates who seem to be in the background are only here to create a circus, they (are) only here to disrupt things."

Report: Fiji forces sex workers to parade with traffic cones on heads

BAINIMARAMA SOLDIERS: Abusing and torturingcitizens.
WELL-KNOWN GOON: Ben Naliva with Sharon Smith Johns

More goon behaviour from the RFMF: Report says sex workers made to parade with traffic cones on their heads and declare "I will never sell myself again". 

By Jonathan Pearlman in Sydney
Citing concerns about the growth of the sex industry, the regime has rounded up sex workers, taken them to a military barracks and forced them to squat and do duck-walks and roll in mud. 

A report by Australian researchers on the crackdown says the practices "amount to torture", including publicly shaming the women and subjecting them to sleep deprivation. One of the women said the abuse made her feel she was "somewhere like Hotel Rwanda". 
The report, by researchers at the University of New South Wales, examined the treatment of workers since the introduction of a "Crime Decree" last year which gave the security forces powers to detain people suspected of selling sex and made it illegal to employ or live with a prostitute. 

The rules were brought in by Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 2006. 
Since the decree, Fijian sex workers have been rounded up and taken to military bases, where they have been forced to strip and then been sexually assaulted or forced to roll in mud, the report found. 

The women have usually been detained for 24 hours. 
"They burnt our wigs, bra and they told us to roll on the wet ground covered with damp soil," said a woman, named only as Magda. "They punched us. They kicked us. They didn't charge us, they just tortured us." 

Another woman said her group was woken every three to four hours and forced to squat and do "duck walks" for 30 to 40 feet. 
"We were made to place a cone that's used for traffic on our head and then they put the wigs right on top and they tell us to leap one leg up to our knees and pull our ears and keep on saying 'I will never sell myself again." 

There were also reports of women being were forced to roll in mud before being then taken to the sea, where soldiers threw bottles at them and told them to "Go in the sea, wash their pussy".
The sex industry is rife in Fiji, with some reports saying rates of prostitution are equivalent to those in Thailand. 

The report said the army crackdown, mainly around the Fijian city of Lautoka, followed the introduction of the new criminal laws. It said the laws had driven the sex trade underground and worsened working conditions for women, who were less able to insist on condom use. 

"It is clear that the army is acting outside the law in detaining and abusing sex workers, and that the detention and punishment of the sex workers occurs without due process or regard for human rights," the report said.

"A heightened fear of brutality and harassment from law enforcement agents has reduced sex worker opportunity for negotiation with clients, including condom negotiation." (The Telegraph)

Monday, December 12, 2011

NZ trade unionist 'a mischief maker'

'MISCHIEF MAKER': Helen Kelly at a protest at the Fiji embassy in Wellington several months ago.

The murmurs have turned to open hostility with the regime's illegal attorney today describing the president of the New Zealand Council of Trade Union, Helen Kelly, a 'mischief maker' after she confirmed she intends to be part of tomorrow's three-day fact finding mission to Suva.

The joint venture between the umbrella groups for New Zealand and Australia trade unions is aimed at verifying claims of workers' rights and human rights abuse.

Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum yesterday said the delegation was not welcome and would be barred from Fiji; today he has described Kelly's visit as a mischief maker.

Khaiyum told Fiji Live the delegation has already judged and condemned Fiji.

“They are not interested in finding out the truth as they have already set their mind after listening to Fiji Trade Union Congress (FTUC) national secretary Felix Anthony and a couple of his accomplices."

An angry Sayed-Khaiyum today claimed the delegation has no credibility.

“The arrogance and condescendence of these trade unionists demonstrate beyond doubt that they are simply interested in their own agenda, not the welfare of ordinary Fijians, long term sustainability of jobs and the creation of jobs in Fiji."

Kelly and her Australian counterpart, Ged Kearney, say if it doesn't have anything to hide, the regime shouldn't be opposed to the delegation.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

ACTU: fact finding mission to go ahead despite murmurs of a ban

Australia and New Zealand unions say they intend to go ahead with their plans to send a delegation to Suva, although it's heard the regime may have applied a ban.
Fiji media are today reporting the delegation will not be permitted to enter on a three-day mission to investigate allegations of human and labour rights abuses.

The illegal attorney general Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum is quoted by Fiji Village as saying the regime has noted that even before they had arrived, the Australian Council of Trade Union had taken a position and planned to move a resolution at the Australian Labour Party Conference to place Fiji on the same blacklist as Burma and Zimbabwe.
He said the regime had been willing to allow the delegation into the country on the belief there would be 'free and frank discussions on all issues without any formed ideas or positions taken'.

Khaiyum says the regime has written to ACTU president, Ged Kearney, seeking clarification about just how independence and genuine the visit will be.

But in a statement released this afternoon titled What is the Fijian Govt trying to hide? Kearney said ACTU and the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions were seeking clarification but intended to go ahead with the fact-finding mission, the result of requests from Fijian unions and civil society groups.

“Australian  and New Zealand unions have been open about the intentions of this visit, but this reported ban on travel into Fiji can only add to perceptions that the regime is attempting to prevent scrutiny from the rest of the world.

“We are responding to an open invitation from the Fijian Government to visit their country, and are concerned at these unconfirmed media reports that we will be denied the opportunity to have meaningful discussions about human rights concerns.

“The purpose of this delegation is to talk to Fijian workers, unions, church and civil society groups, employers and business representatives about serious allegations of repeated breaches of human and labour rights by the Bainimarama Government.

“There has been global reporting and condemnation of the unelected Fijian Government’s increasingly hostile attitude to human rights, particularly labour rights.

“We have also sought meetings with Prime Minister Bainimarama which we hope would be the beginning of a fresh dialogue about human and labour rights in Fiji."
Kearney said the two umbrella unions had held a teleconference this morning and it was agreed the visit would go ahead.

“We have been invited by Fijians to investigate the true situation in Fiji, and we don’t want to let them down. 

"We have held concerns for working people on Fiji since the enactment of a series of decrees which have abolished the minimum wage, and effectively banned collective bargaining and union representation. Senior union leaders in Fiji have been arrested and detained in recent months, in what appears to be a campaign to intimidate anyone who challenges the regime.

“This is on top of other breaches of human rights, particularly freedom of expression, including a bans of church meetings, harassment and violence towards opposition politicians, religious persecution, and a clampdown on media.”

ACTU and NZTU not welcome in Fiji: AG