Commonwealth: Fiji pretends there was a better party to go to, anyway
A third of the world’s Heads of Government (and a small trade union delegation) are gathering this week in Perth, Western Australia, for the twice yearly Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), presided over by the Queen herself. And yet, what’s this? Fiji’s Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama is proud to announce that he’s been invited to speak at the ‘prestigious’ International Telecommunications Union ‘Broadband Leadership Summit’ in Geneva instead. His Attorney-General (who is the one who really runs the country) says it is a great honour to have been invited, and shows what progress Fiji is making. Presumably that includes the newly introduced Essential Industries Decree which bans strikes and collective bargaining in the Fijian telecoms industry?
Here we begin to see the issue a little more clearly. The Decree is the latest in a long line of repressive measures introduced by Fiji’s military dictatorship, and is another example of what got Fiji suspended from the Commonwealth in 2009. Which is the real reason Frank is in Geneva this week instead of Perth: his peers don’t want him there – suspended countries can’t attend.
However, straight out of the guide to being a dictator (in this case remarkably similar to the guide to being a whining teenager with no friends) Frank maintains he’s too busy because he’s been invited to a much better party down the road.
The Commonwealth Trade Union Group delegation (the largest ever at a CHOGM) will be urging the other Heads of Government to include some rather stiff words about Fiji and its repression of trade unions in their final communique. And the International Trade Union Confederation has agreed an action plan to step up our solidarity with Fijian trade unions, whose President Daniel Urai is in Perth to tell delegates about how he was arrested just for meeting with his members.
Meanwhile, in Geneva, global union federations are plotting (sorry, preparing) to greet Frank when he speaks to the ITU conference. Especially the unions which are now effectively banned from representing telecoms workers in Frank’s back yard.