September 21, 2012
Fiji says 'miscommunication' to blame for ILO expulsion
Updated 20 September 2012, 19:35 AEST
The International Labour Organisation has strongly condemned the expulsion of its delegation to Fiji, saying the move will put the spotlight on Fiji's human rights record. The UN agency had been invited by the interim government to investigate claims by local trade unions that workers' rights were being curtailed. But the group was following "miscommunications" about its terms of reference.
The International Labour Organisation has strongly condemned the expulsion of its delegation to Fiji, saying the move will put the spotlight on Fiji's human rights record.
The UN agency had been invited by the interim government to investigate claims by local trade unions that workers' rights were being curtailed.
But the group was told to leave Fiji on Wednesday following "miscommunications" about its terms of reference.
Juan Somavia, the ILO's director-general, called on the Fiji Government to reconsider its decision.
"[The] Government’s unilateral decision which puts a greater spotlight on the critical situation of freedom of association in Fiji and only fuels international solidarity with the Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions," he said in a statement.
Fiji's interim government insisted the ILO delegation was not "ejected", "expelled", "deported" or forced to depart the country in any way.
In a written statement, Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the group was asked to leave at the earliest opportunity.
He said this was to make way for a future ILO visit under new terms of reference laid down by the interim government.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said Fiji welcomed such visits as long as they were conducted by an independent delegation with no "predetermined outcomes" and a focused agenda.
The director of the ILO's office in Fiji, David Lamotte, told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat the terms of reference had been agreed on prior to the delegation's arrival in Fiji
"The mission started its work on that basis and already had a productive meeting with the Ministry of Labour," he said.
"And that morning of the first day, the mission was asked to cease all meetings and later that night a new terms of reference were provided."
Local unionists say they cannot understand why the ILO delegation was asked to leave.
"I can't see how the Fiji Government or anybody could dictate to the ILO what they should be doing or what they should not be doing," said Attar Singh, general-secretary of the Fiji Islands Confederation of Trade Unions.
"ILO has a constitution, it has got its role and it must fulfil that role in accordance with the ILO's rules."
Australia's acting high commissioner to Suva has met officials from the Fiji Government about the ILO mission and general concerns about labour and human rights in Fiji.
The Australian Government said it was regrettable that the ILO's mission has not proceeded because it had been seen by the international community as a step towards improving workers' rights.