“Trade unionists, public officers and government ministers” Letter to Editor, 11 May 2014.
Letter to Editor (The Fiji Times, Fiji Sun, Island Business, Republika, Ashwin Raj)
(11 May 2014)
Unionists, Public Officers and Government Ministers
The Fiji Times (11 May 2014) reports Mr Felix Anthony (Leader of the PDP) objecting to the Political Parties’ Registration Decree which classifies trade unionists as public officers. Mr Anthony is surely quite correct in pointing out that trade unionists are not paid from the public purse, and that they are responsible only to their members who have the ultimate right to determine the course that the organization and their CEO takes.
The Fiji Times also reports that the Elections Minister (Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum) is claiming that the Decree was put in place to ensure that unionists did not misuse members’ funds, that trade unions have “enormous conflicts of interest when unionists are also politicians”, and that “in the past many trade unionists have used members’ funds for political advancement”.
If Mr Khaiyum’s logic is correct, that it is the height of hypocrisy that he refuses to apply the same logic to himself and his Prime Minister, both of whom their Constitution refuses to label as “public officers” even though
(a) their salaries have been paid for by public funds (the taxpayers are the members)
(b) they have been disbursing all public funds for the last eight years
(c) the public does not know whether they have been “misusing members’ funds” (since the Bainimarama Government refuses to release the Auditor General Reports for the last seven years); and
(d) now that most of the Bainimarama Ministers have declared that they will become politicians for this coming elections (contrary to their earlier promises) it is clear now that for the last seven years they also have been behaving like politicians, by disbursing members’ (taxpayers’) funds for their political advancement (and they continue to do so on a daily basis).
In sum, all of Khaiyum’s allegations against trade unionists like Felix Anthony apply far more to himself, Bainimarama and other Ministers like Luveni, Usamate, Naupoto, and the other Ministers who are going to stand in the forthcoming elections.
Moreover, if Khaiyum’s logic was extended, then the management of all publicly listed companies, universities, statutory boards, public enterprises, etc should also be called “public officers” and the Political Decree applied to them, in order to protect their “members’ funds”.
Such hypocrisy by the holder of a genuine public office is sad, but understandable given that he has been and continues to be an integral part of an illegal government built on a military coup.
But it is a sadder indictment of professional organizations like the Fiji Law Society and The Fiji Institute of Accountants, who annually parade themselves as socially responsible organizations, yet abjectly refuse to point out the obvious contradictions in government legislation (such as Political Parties Registration Decree), and refuse to speak out in defence of the basic civil and human rights of Fiji citizens, including that of unionists like Mr Felix Anthony.
Professor Wadan Narsey