Union head quits Fiji Labour Party
The head of Fiji’s largest trade union body has quit the Labour Party.
Fiji Trades Union Congress secretary Felix Anthony has criticised the FLP for not being multiracial and for what he says is the autocratic style of the party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry.
He says he will be calling a meeting of the FTUC soon, and their options will be examined, including the possibility of setting up their own political party.
Felix Anthony tells Bruce Hill the Labour Party of today doesn’t represent the country’s workers.
Speaker:Fiji Trades Union Congress secretary Felix Anthony
ANTHONY: The party was formed by the Fiji Trades Union Congress to further the interests of workers and of course all the people and this was formed to be a multi-racial political party and be an inclusive party. What we see today is that while we have a few people as officers of the Labour Party, the party does not remain fully multi-racial. It lacks internal democracy and I believe that the party really has been hijacked by the leader of the party and is actually trying to serve his interests alone.
HILL: What specifically are you concerned about when it comes to the leadership with the way that Mahendra Chaudhry is running the Labour Party?
ANTHONY: Well, his style of leadership is very autocratic, lacks internal democracy, and of course the party no longer remains truly multi-racial and we don’t believe that the party and Mahendra Chaudhry is any more able to credibly represent the views of the workers of Fiji.
HILL: Could your concerns about the leadership have anything to do with your ambitions to be leader and that being stymied and the leadership possibly going to Mahendra Chaudhry’s son now?
ANTHONY: Absolutely not, that is not a concern, nor am I ambitious to become the leader of the Labour Party. My concern is that one has to understand that the party was formed by the Fiji Trades Union Congress in 1985, when the government unilaterally imposed a wage freeze.
Today the Trade Union Movement is in a more precarious situation with all the decrees in place, trade union rights, workers rights being denied and this is when we need a strong and determined political voice in the country to ensure that workers rights are restored and not only restored, but promoted, and also democracy. We don’t believe that Mahen is in any position to do that, more so with the distractions about his own personal brush with the law and the cases that are pending in relation to some funds.
HILL: So where does the Labour Party stand now and what are you doing in the Trade Union Movement? Is this you personally speaking or you as the head of the Trade Union Movement, have you left the party, are you still within the party, where does the Trade Union Movement stand in relation to the Labour Party.
ANTHONY: Well, we’re at the moment exploring our options. I intend to call an Executive meeting of the Fiji Trades Union Congress fairly soon and a decision will be taken in that regard.
HILL: Is it possible that you might set up an alternative party to represent the Trade Union Movement?
ANTHONY: Well, I think all options are on the table at this stage.
HILL: Does this not perhaps give the critics of the party an excuse to say look, the Fiji Labour Party is tearing itself apart. It makes it less likely they might get elected at future democratic elections?
ANTHONY: Well, the critics will always have their say no matter whether there are issues or non-issues, so we will not let the critics determine for us what is best for the workers of Fiji and, of course, best for the country