The Fiji Trades Union Congress president, Daniel Urai, says the charge of sedition against him is a joke. The union leader is currently on bail after being charged under a section of the Crimes Act in relation to urging political violence and inciting communal antagonism against the government.
The FTUC's secretary, Felix Anthony, was detained by police and questioned earlier this week, but he's been released.
Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: Daniel Urai, Fiji Trades Union Congress president
URAI: I think what the government is trying is to do is weaken the trade union movement in Fiji. Right now they are targeting to have no organisation or nobody in this country to oppose things they are doing illegally as it is in this country. They're trying to stop all forms of opposition and now they're trying to silence the union movement in Fiji.
HILL: Is there anything that you can say about the case against you, the sedition case?
URAI: Yes, the manner in which I have been questioned and which the police seem to want to charge me on is laughable. Initially when I was questioned by the police, I thought it was some form of a joke, because under normal circumstances, people who are taken into police custody or the military custody are people that they would have had found out that they were doing something, but everything I was questioned on was based on hearsay and a lot of bull really the charges are laughable they don't have any evidence.
I think the whole idea is that find reason to put us into prison for the time being, irrespective of the charges they know cannot hold, but it is just to try and weaken our resolve in terms of our upkeep of the trade union movement in this country.
HILL: Were you surprised to find that you were charged with sedition and not some lesser charge?
URAI: Yeah, it's surprising, because once you charge anyone with sedition, obviously there has to be some 200% proof of something that you've done in order to be charged on such a serious matter.
HILL: Is there anything that you have done that you think might
lend people that you were trying to undermine the government? I mean you are
part of the union movement which is calling on overseas unions to take actions
against Fiji, which could be construed as against the interest of the country, I
URAI: Well, I think they're trying to take us in just because of the unions' call to our international counterparts to take action against the government who has breached all protocols in terms of all international laws, who have breached all the co-conventions that Fiji had ratified with the ILO and the trade union movement is a body in Fiji that are calling out to the international and that are reporting on all these breaches, that is why I think they are trying to charge us with sedition based on the fact that we are telling the world the truth about the government of this country has breached, in terms of international human and trade union rights.
HILL: Well, you've suggested they've charged you with sedition to intimidate the union movement. Is that going to happen, is the trade union movement going to pull its head in a little bit perhaps as a result of this?
URAI: The Trade Union Movement has been in existence before the birth of the current people who are running this military government. The Trade Union Movement will remain. Governments will come and go, but we believe the trade union movement in this country will remain. We will have to fight, but those are part and parcel of terms of being trade union leaders, in terms of looking after the interests of workers and of the people in general and in terms of their rights in this country.
HILL: Your case has received quite a bit of international support from unions, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, and they've suggested the Australian and New Zealand governments actually moved towards imposing trade sanctions on Fiji as a result of this crackdown. Do you think that's a good idea?
URAI: The sooner that happens the better, because for whatever reason, some governments have held back on trade bans thinking it'll affect the people. However, the people of this country are affected anyway. Imposing the trade bans will shorten that suffering in a way, because it will enhance and also ensure that this country moves into a democratic system of governing in as quick as possible event.
HILL: Your comments in this interview have been pretty robust. Do you think you're going to get into trouble with the government for having said what you've said?
URAI: Well, I'm already in trouble for no reason with this government. As long as I believe that what I'm saying is true and is right according to international laws in terms of the law that should be practiced in this country, I really don't bother about what they want to say and do.