Dateline Pacific evening edition for 5 May 2014
Anthony's party looking to stay one step ahead of Fiji regime; mining watchdog worried by state of emergency in Porgera; grassroots business participation is encouraged in PNG; and nearly 90 sailors are to graduate in Kiribati.
Fiji's People's Democratic Party says it will have to remain one step ahead of the Fiji regime as it sets up its apparatus for the general election.
The party elected a staunch regime critic and long-time union chief, Felix Anthony, as its leader over the weekend and it is now looking at setting up offices in Lautoka and around the country.
The party's General Secretary, Aman Ravindra-Singh, told Sally Round the party has been under significant pressure since it began.
AMAN RAVINDRA-SINGH: Our leader, Felix Anthony, has already been targeted by the military regime, so that's no secret and there have been laws specifically put out by this regime which have specifically targeted the union leadership, and one of those particular laws has declared (this is the political registration decree) that all union officials are public officers - it's just wrong in principle and not acceptable and it is also clear discrimination on a unionist's ability to associate or be involved in any political party. So our leader has had to take that difficult decision, he has resigned under protest and he has been duly elected to the role of party leader.
SALLY ROUND: As someone who has been so criticised and even taken in and - according to him, beaten up, he's laid a police complaint - does that put your party under any particular pressure in any way?
ARS: Yeah, absolutely it does. The PDP has been under pressure from the moment we were formed. In fact, the irony of it is when Felix Anthony as the general secretary of the Fiji Trades Union Congress made the announcement that the Trades Union Congress was going ahead to form its own political party, I think in a matter of four to five days the regime had put out a new decree which had declared that all union officials were public officers and therefore had to resign their position to be part of a political party. So it's just clear [that] since then there has been at least three more amendments to the Political Parties Registration Decree, and the latest one was [that] you could not even be seen to be present at any political gathering. That is how difficult the lives of unionists have become under the laws which keep on being changed. Unfortunately, what we have is a regime which continues to change the goalposts and it's specifically targeting trade unionists. It is plainly clear that the harassment has continued and the PDP particularly has been singled out and we have been put under a lot of strain and a lot of pressure with unfortunate decrees which have no basis legally.
SR: So your strategy now then is what?
ARS: We've just come out of our national convention and now we have a clear mandate. We have a very able, committed and well known leader who is now going to lead the party into elections on the 17th of September. The strategy for PDP is unfortunately other people who are very much part of the party but who are so far unable to be involved due to the draconian decrees which violate basic human rights of the citizens. It will come down to them making the choice and when they do, and if they do, then definitely it will be up to them which party they join or which party they work with.
SR: What would you say is your support base? Are they mainly workers? Is it a blue collar support base?
ARS: Just because the Fiji Trade Union Congress formed the People's Democratic Party, there's a common misconception that we only have the support of the workers. Yes, we do have the support of the workers in this country, but also, our support base is across the board; not only workers but professionals, youth and NGOs and different sectors of the community.
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