September 29, 2012

Beddoes says to Regime spokesperson Sharon-Jones Smith that attacking Shamima Ali does not absolve the authorities from its responsibility

Press release from UPP Leader Mick Beddoes
Statement No 22 September 28 2012

UPP Leader Mick Beddoes says it is Sharon Smith Johns is who is out of touch with reality, not Shamima Ali and attacking Shamima Ali for her statements on the issue of ‘excessive force’ does not absolve the authorities from its responsibilities in the matter.

Beddoes said in a statement today that ‘attacking Shamima Ali for her stated position on the excessive use of force on the escapees’ will not absolve the authorities of its responsibilities in the matter and it is Sharon Smith-Jones who is ‘out of touch’ with reality.

Beddoes said it is the Police and Prisons departments are responsible for keeping prisoners in jail, so it is the police and prisons who must take responsibility for the ‘escape’ and it the Police and Prisons department who are responsible for the recapturing the escapees.

If the Police had seen fit to abrogate its responsibility to the military, then they must explain to the people why they felt this was necessary?

What happened, how did they escape in the first place, which official authorized the level of force to be used in their recapture? Why was the military roped into what is essentially a police and prisons area of responsibility, these are the questions people are asking and these are the questions Sharon-Jones Smith needs to answer without distorting the ‘truth’ with deflective attacks on people like Shamima Ali.

Everyone citizen, despite his or her station in life, has a right to life, and must not be arbitrarily deprived of life, our 1997 constitution provides for this under the Bill of Rights and I do not expect the provisions in the planned new constitution to erode in any way the rights of our citizens.

Sec 25 (1) says, every citizen has the right to freedom from torture of any kind, whether physical, mental or emotional, and from cruel, inhumane, degrading or disproportionately severe treatment or punishment’ this includes prisoners or escaped prisoners.

Beddoes said he did not condone their alleged actions since escaping, and sympathizes with those people who have been traumatized by their alleged actions, but their actions do not justify the brutality meted out by the authorities in their recapture.

Beddoes said that as angry as one might be against the escapees, and the alleged violent actions they conducted, we cannot and must not forfeit our sense of humanity because they are human beings too and they have the same rights as the rest of us.

For the authorities to have had to resort to such excessive force to recapture the handful of escapees, even when the authorities would have had a huge advantage in terms of manpower, weapons and other resources at their disposal, compared to the relatively lightly armed escapees, says more about the authorities inability to deal with such situations despite their advantage, then it does about threat that the escapees really posed at the time of recapture?

If there is anyone in authority who is able to show leadership, responsibility and transparency in this matter, now’s a good time to step up and start telling us the ‘truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

Authorized By Mick Beddoes

Fiji authorities criticised over prisoner capture

Updated 28 September 2012, 17:33 AEST

A Fijian human rights group has called for an investigation into allegations recent prison escapees were brutally beaten by authorities.

The five escaped prisoners have been accused of staging several robberies while on the run. It has been reported the men are now in hospital being treated for injuries sustained during their recapture.

The Fiji Coalition on Human Rights has told local media the alleged beatings were a "gross violation of human rights".

"The rights of all people should be recognised regardless of who they are," Fiji Times quoted chairwoman Shamima Ali as saying.

The president of the United Peoples Party, Mick Beddoes, said the government had serious questions to answer.

"They're saying they don't want to apologise, they obviously are eluding to the fact that perhaps the amount of force was excessive," Mr Beddoes told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program.

"I mean nobody's condoning what the escapees have alleged to have done. And let's not forget, I'm not aware that these people have actually been found guilty of the break-ins and the activities that they are alleged to have been committed.

"Surely the due process says that they've got to be caught, brought back, and then they've got to face the full spectrum of due process."

ACP-EU JPA PRESS RELEASE on the fact-finding mission to Fiji

26 July 2012/ACP-EU JPA: First and foremost, the Mission expresses its gratitude to the Government and people of Fiji for making this Mission possible. The Mission is also thankful to all the stakeholders whom it has had the privilege of meeting and the frank and open discussions with all of them. This will assist the JPA to have a better understanding of the political situation in Fiji. The mission will submit its full report to the Bureau of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) at its meeting that will be held in Brussels in September 2012, and will eventually be made available to the Government and all the political stakeholders.

Fiji is a Member of the ACP Group of States and a signatory to the ACP-EU Cotonou Agreement, which inter-alia, provides that the essential elements of cooperation are democracy, good governance and human rights. The JPA, which is one of the joint institutions of the Cotonou Agreement, sent a fact-finding mission to Fiji, in order to better understand the democratic challenges of Fiji, and to assist in the local and international process of finding a solution to the political problems that have plagued the people of Fiji in the last 25 years. The JPA is interested in seeing that Fiji returns to democratic and parliamentary democracy.

The purpose of the Mission is to find out the progress on the process for the restoration of democracy, the holding of free and fair elections, and eventually, effective and truly representative parliamentary democracy. The JPA mission acknowledges that the process for the restoration of democracy depends on the people of Fiji themselves.  The international community can provide advice and financial and technical support to the efforts of the Fijian people to find a solution and create a stable and sustainable democratic system.

In this regard, the process of Constitution making and electoral process is extremely important. The process must lead to the establishment of strong and effective institutions of governance, namely, an effective legislature that is able to oversee and scrutinise government action and provide checks and balances to the executive, as well as an independent judiciary.

While refraining from making specific recommendations for the constitution making process, the JPA mission believes that this must be guided by the general and commonly accepted international norms and values of democratic government and constitution making, such as consultation, dialogue and inclusiveness. In order to be credible and legitimate, this constitution making process must be widely representative and have the support and confidence of the people of Fiji. The process must lead to the holding of free and fair elections, which must be based on an electoral system that is open, transparent and representative.  The process must promote national reconciliation and the foundation of a democratic and just society firmly established on the rule of law and respect for human rights.

The JPA mission believes that measures must be provided for the people to effectively contribute to the process and civic education will therefore be extremely important in this process. In this regard, it is important to guarantee the freedom of the press, freedom of association and respect for human rights, while underlining that the important process of constitution making cannot take place in a climate of fear and intimidation. The JPA mission takes note that the Government is taking steps to help address this.

ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly

Report stresses civic role

Friday, September 28, 2012

THE report emanating from a joint African Caribbean and Pacific Joint states & European Union fact finding mission to Fiji has acknowledged the people of Fiji have an important role to play in restoring the country to democracy.

The report released earlier this week has been well received by the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly and the Fijian government.

Responding to the report, the Bureau of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary expressed satisfaction with the mission's observations and recommendations. The report acknowledged that the process for the restoration of democracy depends on the people of Fiji themselves, according to their own social, economic and political priorities.

Commenting on the report, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ratu Inoke Kubuabola said there were hopes the report would change perceptions of Fiji. Our ambassador to the EU will be forwarding this report to the European Commission for its consideration and hope that its positivity will fast-track a complete change of perception that has been so far coloured by Australia and New Zealand and the Pacific Islands Forum, Ratu Inoke said.

He said the report acknowledged the work undertaken by government to move the country towards elections in 2014.

Overall, the report is positive, satisfactory and recognises the commitment that government has demonstrated to continue along with the processes outlined in the Roadmap, Ratu Inoke said.

The sentiments expressed by those opposing individuals alluded to in the report were expected and the language in the report suggests to me that even these individuals recognise the practicality of the situation and the importance of proceeding towards elections in 2014, he said.

Double standards

17:32 Today (28 September 2012)
Report by: Shireen Lata

The Consumer Council of Fiji is accusing a foreign company for practicing double standards when buying jewelry from locals.

Council CEO – Premila Kumar says the survey was conducted by the consumer watchdog this week.

She says Secured Gold Buyers who have been getting locals to sell their gold, silver and platinum for cash are giving different prices at different locations.

We have done a very quick survey by using a 18K gold jewelry which was of 3.4 grams. We went to Secured Gold Buyers in Suva as well as in Nadi and we used the same jewelry to get the price from our local gold stores.

What we found out that the Secured Gold Buyers offered $95 for the same jewelry in Nadi whereas they offered $130 in Suva.

The Council is now baffled with the prices offered by the company and adviced consumers not to be lured away by the company.

So what I am saying to the consumers that you must shop around and just do not get carried away just because that there is a foreign company in the country who is trying to buy foreign jewelry, at the end of the day what should matter to the consumers is the best price.

The council has received 41 complaints against goldsmiths in the last five years.

September 28, 2012

Election Registration Clerks clean voter list of duplicates

Elections Office

Registration clerks are carrying out the adjudication process in which the voter list is cleansed of duplicates.

This process is being carried out under the supervision of CODE Inc. which is the company that designed the biometric voter registration solution for the Elections Office.

September 27, 2012

China trying to ensure resources supply in Pacific

Updated 25 September 2012, 17:16 AEST

To find out how significant the statements made by Wu Bangguo are, Clement Paligaru spoke to Brij Lal, Professor of Pacific History at the Australian National University.

He asked him if the comment about powerful nations in the region bullying Fiji is a clear reference to Australia.

Presenter: Clement Paligaru

Speaker: Brij Lal Professor of Pacific History at the Australian National University

Fairtrade International, ITUC, TUC, IUF Joint Statement

Trade Union Congress Letter: 05 March 2012

FTUC Press Statement: 20 September 2012

U.S. to review trade benefits for Ukraine, Indonesia, Iraq

June 29, 2012|Reuters

WASHINGTON, June 29 (Reuters) - The U.S. Trade Representative's office on Friday said it was placing trade benefits for Ukraine, Indonesia, Iraq and Fiji under review and would continue trade benefits for Sri Lanka that had faced possible suspension because of labor concerns.

The reviews are under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, which waives U.S. duties on thousands of goods from 128 developing countries, subject to those nations meeting certain eligibility requirements.

AFL-CIO Applauds the Acceptance of GSP Cases Concerning Iraq an

Celeste Drake

The AFL-CIO applauds the acceptance of the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) cases concerning Iraq and Fiji.  We believe that putting the labor laws and labor enforcement record under review in both countries will help workers in their efforts to exercise their fundamental rights—including the right to organize and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions. 
GSP is a program designed to promote economic growth in the developing world by providing preferential duty-free entry for up to 5,000 products when imported from one of 128 designated beneficiary countries and territories. To keep the benefits, countries have to meet certain requirements, which include efforts to ensure that workers can exercise fundamental labor rights.  In an effort to improve international workers' rights, the AFL-CIO works with our brothers and sisters around the world to file complaints against governments that do not live up to their end of the bargain.  
Sri Lanka is a GSP country that has been under review for its labor rights situation for several years.  The AFL-CIO is concerned about the announcement that the Sri Lanka review will be closed.  The government of Sri Lanka has made progress during the period the GSP review has been open, but we believe much more effort is needed to improve the ability of workers to exercise their fundamental rights.  The reforms to date, including increased fines for unfair labor practices and union access to the Export Processing Zones through new facilitation centers, will require continued monitoring to ensure proper implementation and enforcement.  The AFL-CIO notes that the governments of the United States and Sri Lanka have agreed to continue to work together on labor concerns under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) and encourages the United States to vigorously scrutinize the implementation of these reforms in that body. 
We will be monitoring the progress of the newly established Labor Affairs Committee of the TIFA and will be hearing from our brothers and sisters in the Sri Lankan labor movement to report on the government’s progress—or lack thereof.   We stand in solidarity with the workers of Sri Lanka in their efforts to support themselves and their families with decent jobs and justice in the workplace and are ready to refile a GSP case if the government of Sri Lanka fails to live up to its commitments.


NOVEMBER 17, 2009

Testimony By Embassy of the Republic of the Fiji Islands

Statement of the Embassy of the Republic of the Fiji Islands
The Embassy of the Republic of the Fiji islands wishes to express its appreciation to the Subcommittee on Trade of the House Committee on Ways and Means for convening this hearing on this vital subject.
The Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) is the oldest and most broadly based of the U.S. preference programs, first enacted by Congress in the Trade Act of 1974.  Today, 131 developing countries are beneficiaries, with forty-four countries receiving additional benefits as least-developed beneficiaries.  All GSP beneficiaries receive duty-free treatment for nearly 3500 tariff lines, and least-developed countries receive duty-free treatment for an additional 1400 tariff lines. 
The GSP program provides preferential duty-free treatment for 3,448 products from Fiji. In 2007, Fiji exported $69.7 million to the United States under the GSP program. The products mainly consist of mineral water ($56.7m), molasses ($4.3m), raw cane sugar (3.4 million), dasheens ($1.8m), and cane molasses ($1.6 million). Imports are up 32.percent over 2006, when $52.8 million in goods were imported from Fiji under GSP. Approximately 45.6 percent of all U.S. imports from Fiji in 2007 entered under the GSP program. This compares to 36.2 percent of all imports in 2006. In 2008 Fiji exported $70,055,968 to the United States under the GSP program and from January this year 2009 to September this year 2009 Fiji has exported $34,245,733 to the United States under the GSP program.
Preferences programs like GSP assist developing countries like Fiji in our efforts to build up domestic industries and increase exports. However these preference programs also help U.S. businesses and families.  They are a major source of imports and products for U.S. businesses, including small- and medium-sized companies, and include important partnership opportunities between U.S. workers and businesses, and workers and businesses in beneficiary developing countries.  Imports under these programs also lower costs for U.S. consumers and producers.  For example, in 2008, duty-free treatment under GSP resulted in a total savings of approximately $850 million. In 2005, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 75 percent of U.S. imports entering duty-free under GSP were raw materials, components or equipment used by U.S. companies to manufacture goods either for domestic consumption or export.  The Chamber also found that GSP is particularly important to U.S. small businesses, many of which rely on the program’s duty savings to compete with much larger companies.  Maintaining lower costs for US small- and medium-sized enterprises is particularly important as companies struggle to recover from the economic downturn.
The GSP however is weeks away from expiring. We submit that the stability of GSP which is the US’s largest program is essential to it being effective. When the US has extended its programs in the past sometimes it is only for a few months or a year.  No one who has ever run a business would want to invest in a climate that is so unstable.  Such programs need to be long-term. In view of the very short time remaining before the program expires on December 31, 2009, we would propose that Congress provided immediately a five-year extension or some similar long term period.
Thank you.

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Fiji

Title2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Fiji
PublisherInternational Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date6 June 2012
Cite asInternational Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Fiji, 6 June 2012, available at: [accessed 27 September 2012]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 861,000
Capital: Suva
ILO Core Conventions Ratified:
29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations  2012
Threats: 1
Injuries: 4
Arrests: 5
Dismissals: 2
Documented violations  actual number of cases may be higher

The Fijian government, led by a military junta since a 2006 coup d'etat, launched an aggressive campaign in 2011 to dismantle the trade union movement by use of brute force, by jailing trade union leaders and by issuing executive decrees that together have deprived most Fijian workers of their fundamental international labour rights.

The Fijian government has been led by a military junta since a 2006 coup d'etat.
The media are still heavily censored. Article 16 of the Public Emergency Regulations places all media under government control, by requiring that all broadcasters and editors present any materials that may be published or broadcast for prior review. 
Military personnel are present in all media outlets and screen all news. Comments by the public, trade unions and civil society organisations are denied publication. Many trade unions have stopped sending out newsletters for fear of sanctions.

On 18 November 2011 the Charitable Trusts Amendment Decree (Decree 48) was enacted. The Decree gives the Prime Minister unchecked discretion to cancel the incorporation of the board of any charitable organisation that receives any government funding if the Prime Minister "is satisfied that the charitable trust has failed to achieve its objects, or that the board of trustees have acted contrary to the objects of any such charitable trust." If dissolved, the trustees must furnish within 14 days their certificate of incorporation and a list of all assets and liabilities or face a FJD5,000 fine and/or two years imprisonment. Numerous Fijian NGOs are chartered under the Charitable Trusts Act; they are deeply concerned that Decree 48 will be used to usher in a crackdown on civil society organisations that are perceived to be critical of the government. The Citizens Constitutional Forum, an NGO coalition forum, has denounced the decree.

Trade union rights in law
Many excessive restrictions exist despite recent improvements. Freedom of association is secured in the Constitution, and the Employment Relations Promulgation (ERP) 2007 adequately protects workers against anti-union discrimination. However, the Registrar has discretionary powers to refuse to register a union with an "undesirable" name, as well as to cancel the registration of a union in cases provided by the law. Furthermore, a new Decree adopted in 2011 excludes a number of categories of public employees from the scope of application of labour legislation.

While the ERP promotes and encourages collective bargaining, legislation adopted in 2011 allows non-union representatives as collective bargaining agents. The same legislation provided that all existing collective agreements were null and void 60 days after it entered into force, and new agreements were to be negotiated by the parties before the expiration of this deadline, otherwise the employer was entitled to unilaterally implement new terms and conditions through a new collective agreement or individual contract. Furthermore, according to the new law, employers may renegotiate all their collective agreements if they are considered to be in financial distress; if bargaining fails to result in a new collective agreement, the employer may submit its proposals for a new or amended collective agreement to the Prime Minister for review, and the Prime Minister shall make a decision on the new terms and conditions of the new or amended collective agreement.

The right to strike is limited:a strike can not be called in relation to union recognition, and must always be approved by more than 50% of the paid-up members. In addition, unions are required to give 21 days' notice prior to calling a normal strike, and 49 days in "essential" industries. Furthermore, the names of all the strike participants must be communicated to the Ministry of Labour, which also has the right to declare an existing or proposed strike unlawful, in which case the dispute is referred to arbitration. Both the Ministry and the employers can also impose compulsory arbitration when the strike is not considered to be in the public interests or could jeopardise the economy. Trade unionists can face criminal charges and risk imprisonment if they persist with strike action.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice
A de facto ban on trade union activity:
The Public Emergency Regulations (PER) of 2009 gave unchecked powers to the regime to ban much public assembly in Fiji. In 2011, the regime selectively denied requests for meetings, using the excuse that the meeting convenors were opposed to government policy. In other cases, the police revoked previously-awarded permission and then broke up the meetings.

In the most extreme case, the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) President, Daniel Urai, and Nitin Goundar, an organiser for the National Union of Hospitality, Catering and Tourism Industries Employees (NUHCTIE), were arrested, detained and charged under the PER for meeting with trade unionists at the hotel where they worked to prepare for collective bargaining. The case remains pending at year end, though the government has yet to produce the required disclosures including the identity of the person or persons accusing the two of violating the PER (which is required in order to proceed with the case).

It remains unclear whether those charged under the PER will continue to be prosecuted following its repeal. Trade unionists reported that the government instituted a de facto ban on trade union meetings immediately following the visit of Guy Ryder, ILO Executive Director of the Standards and Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Sector, in August 2011. Essentially all requests are either denied or simply never acted upon before the date of the proposed meeting. Far from being just a nuisance, the ban has had far reaching implications on industrial relations (except in those very few cases where employers continued to cooperate with the unions in spite of the PER).

Essential Industries Decree undermines trade union movement:
The Essential Industries Decree of 2011, which currently covers the financial sector, telecommunications, civil aviation and public services, severely restricts trade union rights. On 13 September, ILO Director General Juan Somavia denounced the decree, stating: "By going ahead with this Decree the government has demonstrated the same lack of concern for the views of the international community as it has for the rights and aspirations of its own people. That means reversing this and other restrictive labour decrees, a return to dialogue with trade unions and employers, an end to assaults on and harassment of trade unionists, and the immediate restoration of basic civil liberties."

Memos surfaced in 2011 suggesting that the decree was written for the regime by a U.S.-based law firm, whose fees were paid for in part by Air Pacific, the Fijian national airline; 46% of its shares are also owned by the Australian air carrier Qantas.

Two articles of the Essential National Industries Decree in particular have devastated trade unions in the sectors concerned. First, Article 2 of the decree provides that the bargaining unit must consist of 75 or more members. In many cases, there are fewer than 75 workers in a job classification, eliminating the right of such workers to form a unit under the decree. Second, Article 7 requires that bargaining unit representatives be employees of the employer with whom they are bargaining. In most cases in Fiji, there is little leadership, institutional structure or expertise at the branch level, with union leadership and technical capacity centralised at the national union level. These people are employees of the union and not of any of the employers where their members are employed. Thus, the relationship between the union leadership and the rank and file is effectively severed by the decree. Those union representatives who attempt to support the bargaining efforts of inexperienced new bargaining units can face stiff penalties and prison terms under the law.

Employers in sectors not even covered by the decree have invoked it in order to justify elimination of dues deductions, unilateral changes to collective agreements and refusal to bargain.

Workers are resigning from unions en masse, as they either see no use in belonging to an institution that cannot effectively represent them, are threatened by management to leave the union, or resign out of a general fear that trade unionism is a dangerous undertaking in Fiji today. The decree also bans the automatic deduction of trade union dues from workers' salaries (unless the employer agrees to do so). Some leaders predicted that their unions would not be able to hold on financially for too much longer unless the situation changed quickly.

Army keeps close control over sugar mills:
Since 2009, sugar mills have been occupied by the military, which has assumed control over many aspects of their operations  including human resources. The Fiji Sugar and General Workers Union (FSGWU) reports that the military has assumed the power to discipline and fire workers. The President of the FSGWU  Ba Branch was beaten by military officers on 18 February 2011, along with Felix Anthony, the national secretary of the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC), and again on 22 June. In conjunction with the second attack on the president, he was suspended from work for two weeks without pay and was transferred from his job as a locomotive driver to that of a general employee in the track shop (which implied a drop in wages from USD4.17 to USD3.64 per hour). The military stated that the reason for the transfer was his status as a trade union leader.

The military interrogated the union president on a monthly basis in 2011, accusing him of sabotaging the Fijian sugar industry. He reported that the soldiers told him that "if you make one wrong move, we will kill you." In June 2011, the Commissioner Western Division (a civilian post occupied by a Lieutenant-Colonel) announced at a meeting with mill workers that there is no longer a union representing mill workers. In November 2011, HR manager Subril Goundar told the union president that he would no longer recognise him as the representative of the workers. On several occasions, Mr Goundar called in workers to his office to discharge or discipline them; there was no investigation or any consultation with union representatives. The grievance machinery and progressive discipline machinery in the CBA, which remains in force, has been ignored. Workers who are caught talking to the union president have been threatened by management and the military with discipline or discharge.

Despite annual wages increases provided for in the CBA, Mr Khalil reports that there have been no wage increases for several years. Further, overtime provisions are routinely violated, with workers either not being paid the overtime premium (1.5-2x) or not being paid at all for overtime work. Indeed, the CBA is respected only in the breach. Cases have been filed over dismissals and other breaches of the CBA. 

However, these cases are slow to be processed, if ever. The Ministry, which receives the cases and provides mediation, often delays action on the cases for months on end.

Widespread violations in sugar cane plantations:
The Sugar Cane Growers Council was disbanded in 2009. With the dismantling of these various institutions, unions allege that the cane growers have been completely side-lined from the industry, over which the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) now has total monopoly. Furthermore, since it is no longer obliged to cooperate on industry matters, it has begun to withhold vital information that growers are entitled to under the partnership provisions. Further, the National Farmers Union, as the largest trade union representing cane growers, was prevented from holding its general body meeting and branch annual general meetings in 2011. These meetings, which are generally held before the onset of the crushing season, are used as a forum to discuss problems farmers face as harvest gets underway. In recent months, they have been unable to hold any meetings at all. In 2010, dues deductions were also halted.

In 2010, the Labasa Cane Producers Association (LCPA), which covers cane growers in the Northern Division, was created. According to trade unions, the LCPA is not a representative institution of cane growers and is under the influence of the FSC. Trade unionists were also adamant that they were not consulted about the formation of the LCPA. FTUC also reports that the military intimidated and threatened farmers into joining the LCPA  while at the same time the government instructed the FSC to stop dues deduction from NFU members. Farmers were also told that by joining the LCPA, they would get a higher price for the cane supplied to the FSC which did not in fact materialise. The NFU also states that access to services has been restricted if the farmer is not a member of the LCPA.

The LCPA is established under the Industrial Organisations Act. Article 3.1(iii) of the LCPA constitution provides that officials of any other industrial association or political party cannot be office bearers of the LCPA  meaning that no trade union officer can ever be part of the governing body of the LCPA. Similar cane producer associations are planned but not yet established for the other cane growing regions. The Western Division is expected to be next.

Rights of civil aviation workers denied:
The Essential National Industries Decree (ENID) has severely affected the membership base of the Transport Workers Union (TWU), which represents cabin crew, baggage handlers and engineers. Roughly 90% of TWU members are employed by Air Pacific. Article 2 of the ENID defines a "bargaining unit" as a group of at least 75 workers employed by the same employer. However, only the cabin crew collectively number more than 75 workers.

All other groups fail to meet that threshold and are thus ineligible to form a new bargaining unit. These workers have individual contracts that were drafted and imposed by management. Dues deduction was also eliminated. With the elimination of the non-cabin crew members, the union lost 50% of its members overnight  roughly 250 workers. The cabin crew have a bargaining unit which was recognised by management. However, under Article 7 of the ENID, the leaders and staff of the TWU, who are not employed by Air Pacific, cannot represent the bargaining unit and engage in bargaining on their behalf. It is reported that members are under strong pressure to withdraw from the TWU. Within the 60 days provided in the ENID, Air Pacific imposed a new CBA which diluted the wages and took back previous gains with regard to overtime pay, meal allowances, clothing allowances, annual leave, sick leave, etc.

There are 78 pilots for Air Pacific, just over the minimum required to form a new bargaining unit under the ENID. The decree gave the parties 60 days to negotiate a new agreement. The union signed a contract with Air Pacific at 4am on 9 November after lengthy and difficult bargaining. The situation forced the union to accept major concessions in the new agreement. These include reductions in annual leave, sick leave and the elimination of long service leave. The contract also contains deep cuts to travel and meal allowances which reduce significantly the amount pilots are compensated. The union bargained with the company on the basis of the old numbers which reflected poor profitability. However, just after the agreements were signed between Air Pacific and the various bargaining units, Air Pacific announced greatly improved profits for the company for the previous year. The union believes that the timing of the profit results was intentional and that the union was intentionally misled. If the results had been released earlier, the arguments given for the application of the ENID at Air Pacific wouldn't have held.

Air Pacific is also a major client of Air Terminal Services (ATS), which provides ground handling services at Nadi International Airport, including line maintenance, catering and cabin services, freight sales and handling. ATS is owned by the Government of Fiji (51%) and its employees (49%). Its workers are represented by the Federated Airlines Staff Association (FASA), which has a chair on the ATS Board.

Rajeshwar Singh, FTUC representative on the ATS Board, was removed from the board on 31 December, just days after being reappointed unanimously. The government claimed that he breached his fiduciary duty to the ATS board because of his meeting with Australian trade unionists urging a boycott. Mr Singh does not deny the meeting but rejects the allegation that he called for a boycott. FASA reported that permits to meet were routinely denied for no reasons, and in some cases in the past permits were granted and then revoked at the last minute once the union had taken on the costs of renting meeting space. They also believe that their telephones are monitored and are thus very circumspect about what they say.

Fiji's top trade union leader subjected to beatings and threats:
Felix Anthony, National Secretary of the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) and General Secretary of the Fiji Sugar and General Workers' Union (FSGWU), was arrested, threatened, insulted and beaten up several times by government agents.

On the evening of 12 February, three military officers took him from his home to military barracks in Lautoka, before taking him back home. During the transfer officers threatened him and his family.

On 18 February, Felix Anthony was told the Prime Minister wanted to meet him at a sugar mill in Ba, in Western Fiji. He attended the meeting with two other trade union leaders, including the president of the Ba branch of the FSGWU. Following the meeting the three union officials were beaten by army officers. Mr. Anthony's eardrum was damaged as a result of the beating and the two other trade union leaders also needed medical attention. They were released that evening under threat of further violence. On 1 April, Felix Anthony was again threatened by one of the military officers who had already given him a beating.

When the FTUC nominated Mr. Anthony to participate in the 100th session of the International Labour Conference in June in Geneva, the government failed to submit his credentials (he was finally able to participate thanks to the help of the ITUC). On 4 November, he was again held in police custody (without charge) while the police searched his union's offices and his home.

Felix Anthony was prohibited from travelling abroad in the last few months of the year, without any justification by the regime. He lodged a complaint against the government because of the ban, but the clerk of court refused to register it.

FTUC President arrested twice on baseless charges: On 3 August, Mr Daniel Urai, President of the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) and General Secretary of the National Union of Hospitality, Catering and Tourism Industries Employees (NUHCTIE), and Nitin Goundar, an organiser with NUHCTIE, were detained and questioned at the Nadi Police Station, apparently for having met with union members regarding pending collective negotiations. They were released on bail on 4 August. On 29 October, Mr Urai was arrested again, this time at the airport upon his return from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia, where he spoke out against human and trade union rights violations perpetrated by the Fijian government. He was again released on bail, but was accused of "inciting political violence by urging to overthrow the government". Mr. Urai is subject to a curfew that restricts his freedom of movement in the country. By the end of the year the case concerning the two charges against him had still not been heard.

Freedom of Association Committee again calls for the reinstatement of Mr. Koroi: In November, the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association again recommended to the government that Mr. Koroi be reinstated immediately to his previous role as principal, with no loss of salary or benefits. Tevita Koroi, President of the Fijian Teachers' Association (FTA) and a member of the Council of Pacific Education, was fired from the public service on 30 April 2009. On 10 December 2008, the Fiji Public Service Commission had informed Tevita Koroi that he was suspended from his position as principal. The Commission criticised Mr. Koroi for speaking out publicly against the military coup. (see the 2011 edition of the Survey).

Government refuses entry to international union delegation: On 13 December, an international trade union delegation, led by ACTU Australia President Ged Kearney, was refused permission to enter the country on arrival at Nadi airport and deported. Delegation members' mobile phones were confiscated until their departure. The delegation had planned to meet Prime Minister Bainimarama to seek a fresh dialogue on human and labour rights in Fiji.

GSP Pressure: In December 2011, the AFL-CIO submitted a country practice petition to the US Trade Representative urging that Fiji be withdrawn from the list of countries benefitting from the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) until the government respected the conditions regarding internationally recognised workers rights.

Fiji will not compromise labour principles

07:28 Mon Sep 24, 2012
Report by: Devendra Narayan

Fiji will not compromise its core labor principles, despite being in danger of losing millions of dollars in benefits under the Generalized System of Preference.. GSP trade with the United States.

The State is confident of defending itself against a petition by a union, which has asked the US to punish Fiji for its labor reforms.

Thirty nine companies and 15,000 workers livelihood depends on this single hearing in the US.

The Fiji Trades Union Congress had filed a petition in December last year… asking the US to impose sanctions on Fiji because of various reasons, which include the introduction of the Public Emergency Regulations (PER) and the Media Decree.

Industry and Trade Ministry Permanent Secretary Shaheen Ali says the Fiji Delegation to the US is expected to highlight the positives implemented by the Bainimarama government.

“Improvement in roads airports, so all this things are important, sometimes people don’t have appreciation from outside, we will let them know and of course they are watching and observing and commending the political process that is going on which is the voter registration process and constitutional process.”

Fiji’s total exports bill to the US stands at around one hundred million dollars and if the decision by the US goes the other way round, Ali says livelihoods of 75,000 people will be at stake.

Fiji has enjoyed duty free access to US markets under the GSP system since 1976.

GSP removal will hurt workers: FMF

17:04 Today (27 September 2012)
Report by: Shalveen Chand

One of Fiji’s biggest manufacturers FMF Foods Limited believes the removal of the United States Generalized System of Preference will affect its employees.

CEO Ram Bajekal says the duty free exports into the US market have seen FMF have an exponential growth with exports reaching the million dollar mark.

He says if Fiji does get delisted then it will certainly have effects on FMF’s 900 or so employees.

“Anything that hurts trade – hurts us and anything that hurts us, hurts our employees. We are just a shell. We are made up of our employees.”

Bajekal adds the US market is a tough market and the duty free entry of Fiji’s good into that market helps the country.

While some trade unions believe this is the way to teach the government a lesson, the state sees this as a political move where only the innocent workers will suffer.

Fiji hopes for GSP continuance

01:23 Mon Sep 24, 2012
Report by: Shalveen Chand

There is hope that the United States makes a constructive decision when deciding on the Generalised System of Preferences for Fiji.

Permanent secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office Colonel Pio Tikoduudua says the government has responded to the United States, after unions lobbied to remove Fiji from the GSP.

He says the government does not want to see loss of jobs leading to bigger social and economic woes.

The GSP is a matter of the United States and labour law and how they deal with the issue. I would expect they dea; with this issue in a constructive manner. The matter that is before the GSP has been raised by the trade union movement in Fiji, and we the government have prepared a response to that.

Trade unions have asked for the suspension of GSP, which gives preferences to exports from Fiji.

The government is hoping that this won’t be taken as it would affect 15,000 workers in the country linked with different industries which export to the American market.

Fiji’s election plans discussed

13:05 Today (27 September 2012)
Report by: Edwin Nand

Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola is holding high level meetings in New York on Fiji’s election plans.

Last night he met with Deputy Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat, Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba at the United Nations.

This was to follow-up on a number of issues that were discussed in Suva at the Commonwealth Secretariat’s visit to Fiji earlier this year.

It also explored ways in which the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Fijian Government can cooperate on implementing Fiji’s Roadmap to the 2014 elections.

The Commonwealth has confirmed it’s willing to assist with software for the Ministry of Finance’s debt management system.

It also wants to help in any area of competency that the Government may require in preparation for elections.

The Commonwealth Secretariat has indicated they want to send another delegation at the end of the constitution consultation process.

Paet discussed acquittal of Estonian citizen with Foreign Minister of Fiji

Juhan Tere, BC, Tallinn, 26.09.2012

At a meeting with Foreign Minister of Fiji Ratu Inoke Kubuabola in New York on Tuesday, Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet expressed his satisfaction over the fact that the charges against Estonian citizen Risto Härmat, who was arrested in Fiji in May 2011, were dropped, Estonian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Urmas Paet and atu Inoke Kubuabola. New York, 25.09.2012. Photo:
"Harmat's situation was very complicated because the court hearing kept being delayed and an actual discussion of the case never took place," he added.

The Fijian authorities accused Risto Harmat of treason for helping accused coup plotter Colonel Tevita Uluikakeba Mara escape the country.

According to the accusation, the Estonian citizen took Colonel Mara from Fiji to Tonga with his boat.

Foreign Minister Urmas Paet also sent a letter to his Fijian colleague a few months ago, asking him for help in resolving the Harmat case.

During their meeting, the foreign ministers also discussed co-operation in international organizations, especially in the UN.

"We hope that Fiji will support Estonia’s candidature to the UN Human Rights Council during the elections taking place in November of this year," Paet noted.

The European Union is a long-time co-operation partner of Fiji. The EU has supported the development of Fiji’s rural life and education system. After the coup d’état in 2006 the interim government promised that elections would be held in March of 2009. Now the Fijian interim government has promised to carry out democratic elections in 2014.

From September 25 until October 1, 2012, Paet takes part in the opening week of the 67th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York and the European Union ministers' week taking place within the framework of the opening week. Paet has bilateral meetings scheduled with the foreign ministers of Thailand, Cabo Verde, Uzbekistan, and Georgia. There are plans for Estonia to establish diplomatic ties with Burma, Yemen, and Lesotho.

Paet will also participate in a meeting that will focus on issues related to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The foreign minister will participate in a meeting of transatlantic countries as well as a meeting that will focus on the political dialogue between the USA and the European Union.

Foreign Minister Urmas Paet will participate in a roundtable taking place at Columbia University and take part in a meeting on the UN initiative R2P (responsibility to protect). He will also meet with representatives of the American Jewish Committee and give a speech at the Forum of Small States (FOSS).

Fiji’s democracy progress report well received by ACP-EU

Publish date/time: 27/09/2012 [11:11]

Fiji’s report on progress towards democracy and reforms has been well received by the ACP-EU Joint parliamentary assembly.

This follows a report by the joint ACP & EU fact finding mission that visited Fiji this year to assess the reforms currently being implemented by Government.

Responding to the report, the Bureau of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary expressed satisfaction with the mission’s observations and recommendations.  

The report acknowledges that the process for the restoration of democracy depends on the people of Fiji themselves, according to their own social, economic and political priorities. 

The Bureau had met in Brussels this month to deliberate on the report which also looked at the progress made by authorities to return the country to constitutional order and parliamentary democracy.

The Bureau remained confident that the Fijian people can find solutions to the political issues that confront them and build a better society for present and future generations.

Fiji’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ratu Inoke Kubuabola said the report acknowledges the work undertaken by Government to move the country towards elections in 2014.

Kubuabola said Fiji’s ambassador to the EU will be forwarding the report to the European Commission for its consideration and hope that its positivity will fast-track a complete change of perception, that has been so far coloured by Australia and New Zealand and Pacific Island Forum.

Story by: Sofaia Koroitanoa

Learn to use constitution

Nanise Loanakadavu
Thursday, September 27, 2012

FIJIANS need to give the constitution the power to do things.

Constitution Commission member Penelope Moore told students of Gospel School for the Deaf in Samabula yesterday many people in Fiji do not understand how the constitution works and the role it played.

"People need to learn how to use this document for their own good," Ms Moore said.

She said all laws in Fiji would need to support the constitution, therefore it was important that people participated in the consultation process.

Ms Moore said people needed to make use of this opportunity to make their voices heard on what they felt should be included in the document.

"This is a people's document for the people of Fiji.

"Unless you understand or practise what it says, then the document will not be able to solve your problem individually."

The commission's visit to the school was to raise awareness of how special needs people could make constitutional submissions.

Start with families: Naivalurua

September 26, 2012 | Filed under: Fiji News | Posted by: newsroom

Police Commissioner Brigadier-General Ioane Naivalurua admits there are still many barriers in the Fiji Police Force to achieving their operational objectives.

He made these comments this week at a Labasa workshop aimed at building relationships between couples in the Fiji Police Force.

“We are going through very difficult times in the Fiji Police Force, challenging in the sense that we are trying to improve the organisation. We are trying to improve, and move forward but we cannot do at this point in time unless we break barriers,” Brigadier-General Naivalurua said.

However, he remained optimistic that these barriers could be overcome.

“Barriers that I have identified, we are trying to break them and rectify right now. There are other hidden barriers, and this will take some time before these barriers surface.

“If you can remember during my first speech as a Commissioner of Police in 2010, I clearly stated my intention. And that was to improve the Fiji Police Force.”.

The Commissioner emphasised the importance of building lasting families.

“This is why we are here today. For the sake of the organisation this workshop is envisaged to assist in building a good, honest and trusted organisation. The family aspect is an integral part of our organisation and I believe that once that foundation is solid, then the organisation will be solid and we should be able to have a Force that has good, honest and trusted officers.”

Don't ask for trips

Luke Rawalai
Thursday, September 27, 2012

ANY police officer who walks into the commissioner's office with a tabua to seek an overseas posting will be kicked out, says Police Commissioner Brigadier General Ioane Naivalurua.

He has also warned his officers not to use the purchase of their new homes as an excuse to take part in these missions.

"We have sent 1222 police officers to overseas missions and yet this is not reflected in the organisational performance," Brig-Gen Naivalurua said. "We need to send people who have a clear sense of purpose to overseas missions.

"When they return from these missions, we need to slot them within the appropriate departments of the organisation where their newly-acquired knowledge and skills would be applicable."

Brig-Gen Naivalurua said when he first started with the force, he noticed that the officers accepted a low standard of work.

He said people chosen for mission duties must be disciplined, have a clean service record and must pass the required fitness levels.

In addition, officers over the age of 50 would not be sent abroad accept at his discretion. "We need to be professional and fair when we are determining the conditions under which to send our personnel overseas," he added.

NGO questions why military was involved in recapture of escapees

Publish date/time: 27/09/2012 [17:17]

The government said NGO Coalition Chairperson, Shamima Ali is out of touch with the plight and welfare of women in the country.

The statement comes after Shamima Ali raised concern on why the military was involved in the operation to recapture the five prisoners as she said this is the role of the police in a democratic country and the military should not be part of it.

She said they are also concerned about the alleged brutality during the recapture of the prisoners.

However Permanent Secretary for Information, Sharon Smith-Johns said if Ali was in touch with the situation she would have been aware about the fear amongst the women after the prison breakout and the violent robberies and break-ins that occurred last week.

She said everyone including the girls and women of the country were very concerned about their safety last week as these prisoners are hardened criminals and were carrying out daylight raids.

The government said the military's involvement was necessary to ensure that everyone is protected. 

Smith-Johns said the soldiers were told to ensure that the women in the country also feel safe to move around.

She said Ali would not be speaking like this if she was one of the female bank tellers who was traumatized by the armed robbery last week. 

Smith-Johns also said the break-ins and robberies were pre-planned in prison.

She stressed that the military's involvement was to provide security and to protect the people of the nation. 

Smith-Johns said all the women in Fiji, especially in Suva appreciated the assistance provided by the police except Ali and her politics. 

She said if Shamima Ali was concerned about women's safety and monitoring the news, she would have found out that these people were carrying cane knives, crowbars and bottles.

Smith-Johns said these things were also used on the officers when the prisoners were arrested off Uduya Point last Friday.

Meanwhile Shamima Ali said she stands by the NGO Coalition's statement as she said that the women in the country do not feel safe all the time.

Ali maintains that the military should not be involved in such operations.

When asked on the government's statement that Ali would not be speaking like this if she was one of the female bank tellers who was traumatized by the armed robbery, she said this is nothing new.

Story by: Vijay Narayan

NGO calls for rights probe

Dawn Gibson
Thursday, September 27, 2012

THE NGO Coalition on Human Rights is calling for an investigation in light of the alleged brutality used against recent prison escapees.

The coalition is citing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), stating that rights of each individual must be respected.

Coaliition chair Shamima Ali said the alleged beatings breached human rights

"The alleged beating of the escapees is a gross violation of human rights. The rights of all people should be recognised regardless of who they are," she said.

"The Universal Declaration of Human Rights applies to every single person and clearly states that everyone has the right to a fair, independent and public trial (Article 10).

"And that torture, cruelty and degrading treatment or punishment are not allowed (Article 5)."

Ms Ali said although the specifics or extent of the escapees' injuries remain unclear, the threat to their human rights still remains.

"We are concerned about the use of excessive force and brutality because while reports are sketchy it seems these men are unable to appear in court."

The coalition is also questioning the use of what the police have termed "reasonable force".

"We would like to question the involvement of military officers in the apprehending of prison escapees as this is police work and they should have the capacity to do their mandated work with independence and without interference," Ms Ali noted.

She said the fact that there was an ambulance present at the scene could be a possible indicator of intended injury

"We have heard of recent health emergencies where there were no ambulances available and yet in this situation, there was an ambulance ready. This is highly suspicious," she concluded.

The coalition, recognising that the actions of the escapees were indeed "somewhat foolish and they must face the consequences", the law must also hold members of the security forces accountable for their actions associated with the capture of the escapees.

September 26, 2012

PM will not be at UN meet

September 26, 2012 | Filed under: Fiji News | Posted by: newsroom

The Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, will not be attending the 67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly that started in New York yesterday.

In a statement released yesterday, the Ministry of Information clarified that the PM would not now be attending this meeting because of pressing domestic issues. The PM had asked the Foreign Minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola – who is already in the United States – to make the speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Fiji’s behalf.

Last Friday at the Sheraton Fiji Resort, Denarau, Commodore Bainimarama confirmed to Fiji Sun that he would be in New York this week to attend the UN meeting.

However, this has changed and Ratu Inoke who had left the country for New York on Monday, would be delivering Fiji’s address.

West floods bring back haunting memories

13:04 Today (26 September 2012)
Report by: Christopher Chand

Memories of the devastating floods earlier this year in the western division came back to haunt residents in flood prone areas of Ba and Lautoka today as heavy rains left most communities under water.

Some families were forced to quickly move their livestock and belongings to higher ground.

FBC journalist Christopher Chand is in Ba and filed this report:

“Heavy rain has flooded areas in ba and Lautoka. We can confirm that certain irish crossings and bridges are under water.

Although rain has eased, residents fear that more rain will bring in more flood.

It is estimated that the Moto Bridge is under three metres of water. Heavy machinery has been brought in to clear the debris.

Water sup[ply has been disrupted because of broken pipes."

7 appear for harbouring

17:04 Today (26 September 2012)
Report by: Shalveen Chand

Seven people charged with harbouring escapees appeared in the Suva Magistrates Court this afternoon.

The three women and four men have been remanded in custody after their bail application was refused.

Taniela Yauyau, Laisa Elder, Livai Nabulu, Unaisi Ciri, Epeli Qaqa, Merewalesi Sikudimuri and Asaeli Vulanunumi are all charged with harbouring.

Accused two, Laisa Elder is also charged with receiving stolen property.

Merewalesi Sikudimuri’s counsel told the court that she had a one year old child and husband was a fisherman, and she needed to be on bail to look after the child.

The State informed the court that Unaisi Ciri and Epeli Qaqa are on bench warrant and have been evading court.

The court was told that police are still investigating and that all should be remanded.

They will appear again on October 9th.

Police defend use of force

Nasik Swami
Wednesday, September 26, 2012

THE police have confirmed that "reasonable force" was used to capture four prison escapees at Uduya Point outside Lami Town last Friday.

Assistant Commissioner Rusiate Tudravu told The Fiji Times, three of the escapees remain admitted in the Colonial War Memorial Hospital and one was in police custody.

As a result of "reasonable force" being used, the escapees were unfit to attend court on Monday when their case was called. "Reasonable force was used," ACP Tudravu said.

"The escapees resisted arrest and in order to get them, the operation officers used reasonable force which is why they are now under observation at the hospital."

ACP Tudravu said the injuries suffered by the escapees were minor.

Asked whether guns were also fired, he declined to comment, saying only that the operation was a joint one with the military and the Corrections Service.

ACP Tudravu said escapees Solomoni Qurai, Tevita Sugu, Josaia Usumaki and Epeli Qaraniqio were under police guard at the CWM Hospital.

He said they were a threat and would remain under guard until fit for interrogation. ACP Tudravu said the police joint operation with the military and Fiji Corrections Service would be called off in a few days time.

And as a result people should expect less roadblocks and checkpoints around the country.

ACP Tudravu said in an attempt to capture the five prison escapees who escaped from the Naboro medium facility last Monday they boosted their presence around the country.

Checkpoints were erected around the Central Division.

Members of the public have been urged that if they see any suspicious activities happening around them, they should immediately contact their nearest police post or police station.

The four are expected to appear in the Suva Magistrates Court on October 1 before Chief Magistrate Usaia Ratuvili.

Meanwhile, permanent secretary for Information Sharon Smith-Johns said: "The Fijian government does not condone the excessive force used in the apprehension of recaptured prisoners who escaped from Naboro Prison on Monday night."

Ms Smith-Johns said such incidents were unfortunate and the government made it clear that behaviour of this nature was unacceptable.

"We are investigating the circumstances," she said.

World’s largest gold buyer in Fiji

17:18 Tue Sep 25, 2012
Report by: Shireen Lata

An international company claiming to be the world’s largest gold buyer – has set up in Suva claiming their operations are legitimate.

Secured Gold Buyers – Team Leader – Angie Hills says they will be in Fiji for a month with an intention to buy gold, silver and platinum from Fijians.

Hills says Fijians will get a chance to sell their jewellery which they do not use now.

It gives the opportunity to the Fijian people to get rid of jewellery which they are not using anymore and puts more money into their pocket and this is good for everyone.

She says they will not purchase stolen jewellery.

When anyone brings their jewellery, what we do we look at what type of jewellery it isand then we look if it is 14k, 18k, and 22k. We also have testing solutions to identify what type of jewellery it was.

Hills says they are taking finger prints and recording the IDs of anyone who turns up to sell their valuables.

So far, the company’s visited Samoa, Guam, Tonga and American Samoa.

Heavy rain causes flooding in Lautoka

07:28 Today (26 September 2012)
Report by: Devendra Narayan

Heavy rain in the western division has seen a number of houses in Lautoka already under water.

Lovu Seaside resident Veena Chand says they’ve been experiencing heavy rain from as early as 3 this morning.

The sudden change in weather has resulted in the flood.

“The rain started at around 3 this morning and we tried our best to save the chickens and other stuffs, in our area around 15 houses are under water and also we can see that the areas close by more than 30 houses are under water.”

Meanwhile the Motto Bridge in Ba is under 3 feet water.

This was confirmed to FBC News by Ba resident Viam Pillay.

We spoke to the Nadi Weather Office who says a statement will be released soon.

Fiji to probe alleged prisoner brutality

Updated 25 September 2012, 16:58 AEST

A human rights group claims prison escapees were badly beaten during their recapture.

The Coalition on Human Rights says the five men were unable to appear in court today because they are reportedly in hospital.

The group says the military's involvement should also be investigated as it should have been a police matter.

"This is very sinister for us," Shamnima Ali from the Coalition on Human Rights told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat.

"We are actually questioning the military involvement in the alleged brutality, but also the involvement in the work that is normally in a democratic country, police work,"

She said the police claim the men may fallen and injured themselves during their recapture.

Government probe
Fiji's Ministry of Information has released a statement saying the Fijian Government does not condone the excessive force used in the apprehension of recaptured prisoners who escaped from Naboro Prison on Monday night.

Permanent Secretary Sharon Smith Johns says such incidents are unfortunate and the government makes it clear that behaviour of this nature is unacceptable and it is investigating the circumstances.