Fiji unionist steps down to contest elections
The prominent Fiji trade unionist, Attar Singh, has stepped down in order to contest this year's elections.
A prominent trade unionist in Fiji has resigned from his position so he can contest September's elections.
Attar Singh stepped down as general secretary of the Council of Trade Unions on Friday, a role he's had since its inception in 2002.
Mr Singh says it was a difficult decision, but one he had to make in order to advance workers rights in Fiji and remove restrictions that have been placed on unionists by the current regime.
ATTAR SINGH: It is important for us to remember that this is a decision that hasn't come easy and as a result of several discussions we've been having within our own union and also within FICTU, and all this arising from several draconian and what might say are several suffocating decrees which have made it very difficult for unionists like us to carry out our duties towards membership and the unions effectively. We have tried very hard to try and get some of these decrees repealed or amended, but the regime has been steadfast, we even went as far as the ILO (International Labour Organisation). So in these kinds of circumstances it's very difficult to carry out your work as a trade unionist and if we are to see any change we decided that the only way to do it is through the political process.
JAMIE TAHANA: OK so you're very much pursuing politics on the trade union/worker card here to get elected?
AS: Well, my agenda as a trade unionist has been to fight for worker rights and worker issues and worker dignity in the workplace and I think I'll be pursuing my election to parliament largely on that basis.
JT: You've tried this a couple of times before haven't you? In 1999 and 2001.
AS: That is correct.
JT: So what's different this time?
AS: Well, at that time we had an alternative vote system in Fiji under which one could only enter parliament with the majority of the votes in a constituency, the system now offers better opportunity and also at the same time I think the political environment is such that trade unionists like me who have been vocal and standing up to dictatorship from day one are recognised as people who have been principled in their belief and approach and I think it is time that people recognised that role I played and I'm sure that the people will recognise it and vote.
JT: And do you have enough time before the elections with the whole registration process as a candidate and stuff?
AS: Well, for elections I think one can look at it in different ways, I mean one could look at it and say that the amount of time you get for elections is sometimes not sufficient, but I think three months is a reasonable time, although the obstacles, if any, will be found in the actual electoral system and the ballot papers that are being used but I think we have to find ways to work around them.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: