|ILO CHIEF: Juan Somavia|
It claims the three member team led by Sierra Leone judge, Abdul Koroma, was not 'ejected, expelled, deported or forced to depart Fiji in any way'.
In a statement released yesterday that rattles on rather obliquely about 'terms of references', the regime insists it has a 'policy of openness and transparency to outside scrutiny by organizations such as the ILO and it welcomes such visits as long as they are conducted by an independent delegation with no predetermined outcomes and a focused agenda'.
It then proceeds to invite the delegation back, pretty much on its own terms.
The regime was clearly playing a rather dangerous game which has backfired, and is now spin doctoring to make out once again it has been misjudged.
The Fiji Trades Union Congress has called it right.
The national secretary, Felix Anthony, says: "If the regime as the AG claims is doing the right thing and respecting workers’ rights, it should have no difficulty in defending its position at the US Trade Hearings or at ILO. One asks, why is the AG talking about loss of jobs as a result of the US Trade Hearings if he is confident of the regime doing the right thing?
"Clearly the AG is convinced that his “cock and bull” story on labour rights is not going to be palatable to the international community. The AG has demonstrated his lack of understanding and knowledge on International Labour Rights Issues and is taking his brief from the authors of the ENI Decree which breaks every rule in the book on labour rights.
"Today we have in Fiji more workers unemployed and underemployed than ever in our history. Today we have more people living in poverty than we ever had before. An indictment on the current regime. These are some of the real issues that the AG should be addressing instead of name calling and blaming others."
The director-general of the ILO, Juan Somavia, has also denounced the regime's action saying it will fuel international solidarity with FTUC and the Fijian Teachers Association, and highlight the critical situation of freedom of association in Fiji.
And in a rare occasion, the Australian government has shown open support for FTUC, following a call from the Australian union, ACTU, to tackle the regime about aborting the ILO mission.
A statement under the heading 'Australia expresses concern over ILO team’s departure from Fiji', from the Department of Foreign Affairs an Trade is brief but clear.
The Australian Government has today expressed concern to the interim Fiji Government over the departure this morning of an International Labour Organisation (ILO) team from Fiji following a dispute over the terms of reference for the ILO’s fact finding mission.
Australia’s acting High Commissioner to Suva has met with Fiji Government officials in relation to the ILO mission and to reinforce concerns generally about labour and human rights in Fiji.
The ILO’s mission to Fiji was seen by the international community as a step toward improving and upholding workers’ rights.
It is regrettable that the ILO’s mission has not proceeded.
The Australian Government calls on the Fiji Government to work with the ILO to agree to terms of reference so that the organisation can return to do its job.
The ILO mission was being undertaken in response to complaints made by Fiji trade unions and on the basis of agreed terms of reference with the Fiji authorities.