Declined permit application raises serious concerns, says FTUC

THE declining of their application for a permit to march through Suva City on Saturday “raises some very serious concerns”, says the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC).

On July 1, FTUC said it had applied for a permit to assemble and march.

FTUC national secretary Felix Anthony said in a statement that despite the law requiring them to make an application seven days before the march, the FTUC applied about 40 days in advance — meeting all additional requirements (not required by law) by July 13.

Just two days away from the scheduled march, he claimed they received a letter from the Fiji Police Force declining their application with no reasons stated.

“The Police Commissioner must explain why he has chosen again to decline our application to march,” Mr Anthony said.

“There must be accountability in every branch of Government. Simply to say that the application is declined is not good enough. In fact, why is it that we even need to apply for a permit to exercise our fundamental rights.

“This happens in countries that have dictatorship or an autocratic government.

“This is our fifth application that has been rejected.”

Mr Anthony claimed this clearly showed that the relevant authorities were not interested in hearing the people of Fiji nor see them demonstrate their opposition to certain policies that affected them.

“The people who elect are entitled to be heard. It is not sufficient for Government to be silent on these matters. It must explain its position or simply tell the people that it is scared of protest marches and not hide behind the police.

“It cannot pick and choose which laws should be applied.”

Mr Anthony said FTUC would not be deterred from pursuing its duty to fight and protect workers’ rights.

“We say that the police have absolutely no role in industrial matters. The Commissioner of Police needs to understand the role of the police.

“The FTUC condemns the decision of the police and this Government as unacceptable in any democratic society.

“It invites all rights-based organisations to seriously consider the implications of this situation including the Fiji Law Society that has an obligation to uphold the laws and to stand up to this atrocity. The FTUC will meet to consider how to pursue its concerns and will do so without giving up.”

Asked by this newspaper yesterday about the reason behind decling the application for a permit, Police Commissioner Brigadier-General Sitiveni Qiliho said: “FTUC applied, not the media, so we will reply to FTUC.”

He said the Fiji Police Force would not go to the media to reply to FTUC, however, they would respond directly to the union body.

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