4 Apr 2007

Fiji Human Rights Commission to probe effects of British seizure of Vatukoula gold mine

9:47 am on 4 April 2007

The Fiji Human Rights Commission has taken up complaints of human rights abuses of gold miners going back to 1991 when they went on Fiji's longest ever strike.

Commission director Dr Shaista Shameem says the complaints were lodged in 1999 when the commission was first set up but they could not begin their work earlier because a number of issues were still in court.

The miners went on strike in February 1991 with the Emperor Gold Mining Company locking them out and eventually sacking them despite an arbitration award in their favour.

The Fijilive news website says the former miners are now claiming 18-million US dollars in compensation.

The claim relates to breaches of constitutional provisions of the miners' right to life, right to fair labour practices, right to organise and collective bargaining, and right to freedom of association.

Dr Shameem has invited Emperor, and the high commissioners of Australia and Britain to a meeting to try and resolve the issues.

It is alleged that the Australian government failed to provide Emperor, an Australian registered company, with health, safety and human rights guidelines on its operations in Fiji.

The case against Britain relates to environmental and land rights issues when the colonial government appropriated the Vatukoula gold mine site in 1936.