Unlawful detention of National Secretary and NUW Union members
The National Secretary of Fiji Trades Union Congress, Mr. Felix Anthony, has been taken into custody today, May 1st, 2019, at 4.20 pm from the Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations Conference Room, Suva. Mr. Anthony was part of a tripartite meeting when Police officers walked into the conference room and arrested him. Representatives from government, employers and ILO Officers witnessed the arrest.
Currently, as of this evening of 1st May, Mr Anthony is being held in custody at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in Suva and interrogated on alleged breaches of the Public Order Act. We have informed that Mr. Anthony will be required to stay this night at the Police Station. He will be further questioned tomorrow (Thursday) morning. Mr Anthony addressed hundreds of terminated workers of Water Authority of Fiji at the FTUC Headquaters today where they gathered after riot and uniformed police removed them from picket sites and arrested them from union owned property.
The Police have today also denied without charges 29 members of the National Union of Workers (NUW) who are employees of the Water Authority of Fiji, together with 1 union staff. These workers were preparing to picket on union owned land and were rounded by riot police. These persons, as of now, remain in custody. We call upon authorities to immediately release the Workers as they have not breached any law and exercised their right to peacefully assemble and protest.
The FTUC affiliates will continue to demand the immediate release of the National Secretary as we believe that this is a clear breach of human rights, as stipulated in the Fiji Constitution in the Bill of Rights. This detainment is clearly in contravention of ILO Convention 87 Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise and Convention 98 on Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining. This detaiment also restrains Mr. Anthony from representing the WAF workers in Court tomorrow. It also prevents Mr. Anthony from planning and preparing for the nationwide protest on May 3rd and the March on Saturday 4th May 2019. We are of the view that these scare tactics used by public authorities is aimed at deterring full participation in the planned union events of protests. These arrest paint a much clearer picture of the deteriorating human rights situation in the Country as several other unionists were detained the previous night and released after questioning.
The FTUC, supported by international solidarity organisations, is exerting full pressure aimed at the release of the National Secretary from detention without further delay. We call upon all Human Rights institutions to lobby against this UNLAWFUL detention and join the call for release of these members and our trade union leader. We demand that government respect workers’ rights and immediately stop the harassment of union members and officials.
FTUC National Executive Board
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