|BOB CARR: Taking Inoke Kubuabola's word|
Fresh concerns surfacing with the release of the full decree detailing what political parties can and can't do. (see document in previous story)
The Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions says the decree will not only wipe out all of the country's political parties within 28 days but allows the regime to make a killing financially.
Under the decree, all the net assets of political parties will go to the 'state' if they're not registered after the required 28 days starting from tomorrow (Friday January 18).
FICTU's General secretary, Attar Singh, suggests this may be the real purpose behind the decree.
"Why should party assets built over years of operation transfer to State when an application is refused? Should it not be distributed in accordance with the rules or decision of the party itself?"
The Political Parties Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosure Decree punishes political parties in a number ways, not least the $5005 registration fee. There's also $10,000 penalties if offences are committed once the party is formed.
Singh says FICTU also has strong concerns about the membership requirement saying the regime's approach is misleading.
"We need to differentiate between party membership and party supporters and voters. Not all thousands of supporters are party members. And they shouldn't be. This is so that voter can choose between parties during elections, unlike members who although free to leave generally form party branches, etc to advance parties policies.
"Secondly, a national membership requirement denies people the right to form regional or issue based parties. We have had many regional parties in the past. They will find re registration impossible. Similarly, single or narrow issue based party will find the requirements quite difficult to meet."
Singh says the requirements and the timing of the decree are aimed at diverting the attention of all opposing the new constitutional direction to concentrate on internal matters but also to make existing political parties dysfunctional and unlawful during this period and beyond.
"This means that political parties cannot be represented in the Constituent Assembly even if they wished although decree 58 entitles them representation. It is the final decree to ensure total control by eliminating all political parties and opponents."
The national secretary for the Fiji Trades Union Congress, Felix Anthony, has meanwhile confimed it's going ahead with its plans to form a political party.
"The FTUC remains committed to the workers’ cause and will commence work on the formation of a political party that is truly multiracial and adheres to the core values of social justice and democracy.
"Wide consultations have been held and a vigorous process was adhered to, which culminated in the decision to form a political party at the Special Delegates Conference of the FTUC. The will of the people must remain paramount."
Under the decree all trade unionists either elected or appointed, do not have any political rights to be a member of a political party, to hold office of a political party, to engage in any political activity or to even indicate support for any political party.
"This is tantamount to telling workers of this country that they cannot have a political voice of their own and a direct attack on democracy," says Anthony.
"The Workers of Fiji elect their leaders, fund their unions and determine issues that they need addressed. The workers of Fiji have seen their rights not only erode but totally denied in many areas and have had enough.
"This is precisely why they have decided to form a political movement that would champion their cause and democracy. Trade Unions are democratic institutions and can only operate fully to their potential in a democracy."
SDL, the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua, has told media it does not want to change its name and is exploring how it can avoid doing this while complying with the decree.
Australia's foreign minister, Bob Carr, today meanwhile maintained his earlier stance the Bainimarama regime be given a chance to deliver on its promise of an election.
In spite of concerns from Fiji people and criticism of Carr, at a press conference he told Australian media there was no need to change tack.
"My optimism is based on the fact that the interim government, whatever else it has done, has not departed from its commitment to an election, a democratic election in 2014, and indeed with our help has got a functioning electoral office, electoral commission and has gone out to tender for the provision of ballot boxes."