Trade unionists learn something vital about Fiji – it doesn’t have a democratic government

So who coughed up the money to teach trade union leaders something the rest of us already knew?

The lesson is that Fiji is not a democracy.

Alf knew that without having to get on a plane and fly there.

But Helen Kelly, president of the CTU, flew there with a bunch of Aussies to find out the hard way, presuambly with tickets paid for by hard-working union members.

For a while, she went missing and maybe caused some anxiety (but only within the CTU, Alf imagines).

It issued a media statement to say –

We are trying to ascertain what has happened to Helen Kelly, CTU President, following her arrival in Nadi today.

The latest report is that she was held at the airport and not allowed to proceed with the planned visit.

Her cell phone and SIM card was confiscated at the airport so that she could not communicate.

We understand that she is on a flight out of Fiji tonight, to Australia.

Kelly had been part of a delegation of Aussie and Kiwi trade unionists, and they are now kicking up a fuss about the Fijian government refusing to let them into the country.

Not letting them in seems eminently understandable, when you know that …

The four delegates had planned a three-day visit to investigate allegations of human and labour rights breaches by the Bainimarama government.

Just what business is it of the CTU and its Aussie counterpart to be investigating these matters?

They have got a bloody nerve, the way Alf sees things. Bloody busy-bodies.

No doubt this comes from having sheilas in positions of power within the union movement.

But according to Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney, another of the delegates, when the group arrived at Nadi International Airport on Tuesday afternoon they were told to go back.

“Our passports and our phones were confiscated at customs and we were held in the customs area and forced to get back on a plane,” Ms Kearney told AAP at Sydney Airport.

Oh dear.

So they wouldn’t have learned anything about working conditions in Fiji (as if it was any of their business).

No. But they did learn something about the way the country is governed.

“What it actually confirms for us is that there is not a democratic government in Fiji.

“The only reason we can gather that the attorney-general (of Fiji) did not want us to go to Fiji is that we had views that were different from his.

“It has cemented in my mind that Fiji is not the island paradise we think it is.”

Ms Kearney said the unions now need to find new ways to engage with the Fijian people.

Dunno why they have to do that.

If they are going to feel the urge to engage with the Fijian people, then why not engage also with the Chinese people, or the Zimbabwean people, or the Indian people, or the people in umpteen other countries where labour laws are on the lax side.

Besides Kelly and this Aussie bimbo who has discovered a lack of democracy in Fiji, the union delegates were the president of the State Public Services Federation across the ditch, David Carey, and an ACTU unionist, John Ryan.

The group was hoping to talk to Fijian workers, unions, churches and business leaders.

The expedition at least has given Aussie Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd soemthing to yap about.

“The Fiji interim government has missed an opportunity to demonstrate that it is not afraid of international scrutiny,” Mr Rudd said in a statement.

“The Fiji interim government has in recent months targeted trade union leaders and introduced draconian laws restricting the rights of workers. As sadly anticipated, the Fiji interim government has not taken this opportunity to make a start on badly needed improvements to workers rights.”

Rudd said Australia had an ongoing commitment to promoting labour and human rights and ensuring that trade unionists remained free from intimidation.

Fair enough.

But does this ongoing commitment cover every country in the world?

Or just those countries that Australia is big enough to bully?

The president of the Fiji Trades Union Congress, Daniel Urai, who was meant to meet the delegation, said the deportation is illegal, by the way.

Let’s see what he happens if he lays a complaint with the police.

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