Datt: The real PDP story

By ROSI DOVIVERATA Veteran politician and one of the founders of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has clarified the involvement of the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) in the party.
31 Jan 2014 09:04
Krishna Datt

Krishna Datt


Veteran politician and one of the founders of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has clarified the involvement of the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) in the party.
Krishna Datt also cleared the air about the role of party spokesman, Nirmal Singh.
He said the party was borne out of the need to address workers’ rights which the FTUC  felt were being eroded by a series of decrees implemented by the Bainimarama Government.
Along with other like-minded individuals who also wished to offer the people of Fiji another political option, the founders of the party got together to do just that.

During the Suva Branch launch last year, five individuals were introduced as party founders. They were Aman-Ravindra Singh, Adi Sivia Qoro, Felix Anthony, Daniel Urai and Mr Datt.
“Basically our intention had been to give the Fiji people another option, political option. We’ve gone through all the waters, we’ve gone through whatever has happened, we’ve gone through previous governments and their policies and going through present ones and I think there is always room for people to make choices.
“We thought we should provide that one more choice – that was the idea. So those in the FTUC who were thinking of a political party and those of us who were independently thinking of providing an alternative to the people came together and mooted this idea,” Mr Datt said.
“We wrote a written document, we put together our vision and we set out a series of policies which the parties should be founded on and we did all the nitty gritty like selecting a symbol and things like that and we registered the political party in terms of the requirements of the law.”

Union ties
“It would be correct to say that we have a symbiotic relationship with the FTUC.
“We came out of them, we took the initiative and they assisted us in the work that they did in the days before the decrees that appear to be prohibiting all this work. In any case, I don’t think that any of the members’ involvement in the political party is in violation of the decree.”

The decree clearly states that trade unionists are not eligible to hold office in a political party and “they shall not engage in political activity that may compromise or be seen to compromise the political neutrality of that person’s office.”
Mr Datt said: “Now the FTUC has asked the officer to launch a party – so it is not a question of compromising the neutrality. Whoever is involved with us is doing in response of a decision of the FTUC, and that’s the kind of legal interpretation that I’ve got.
“So I don’t see any contradiction there.”

A workshop planned for today will now take place on February 7 due to the wet weather. Mr Datt said they hoped to iron out some of these differences during the discussions.
Again he reiterated some basic facts about the party: “We came out of the FTUC, they assisted us, that’s a fact.
“And the FTUC does not exist in abstract, there are individuals who are responsible for it. These individuals play a role with us. Now when we officially launch the party and elect our office bearers I guess at that time, they will have to re-examine their role properly to see whether they are in compliance with the law.”
“We will not under any circumstances breach any provisions of the law. So at that point, any trade union official who wants to come out right into the political party – a political party by its very nature is not about axing people, it’s not about throwing people out, it’s about getting people in.
“And if they come from institutions, that’s even better because they have institutional support. So we are not going to throw them out because they belong to the congress.”

Nirmal Singh
Regarding the party spokesman, the former school principal said he was not kicked out of the party.
“Obviously there were some statements made (by Mr Singh) that were a little bit controversial – not all members had the same view but in broad general terms, he put the party profile up – we’ve got to acknowledge that help and support.
“But increasingly as the party founders, we began to think that we should now begin to project someone as in the leadership role much more – coming closer to the elections.
“For that reason we have relied on Adi Sivia and Nirmal himself had suggested that she should play this role much more. And I think it’s the right move for us because ultimately I’m hoping that she will provide the leadership that we are looking for in the PDP,” Mr Datt said.
“Nirmal Singh from my understanding has stood down in favour of Adi Sivia. He has stood down in the sense that he has said that she should begin to take a clearer role in this. That’s my understanding.
“He himself said it and rightfully we all feel the same way – that Adi Sivia should be projected much more vigorously in a leadership role.
“His difficulties arise from some legal interpretation of involvement of unionists in the party and that we’ll try to handle that at the workshop.”

Progress so far
Since the party was registered, PDP has set up branches in the Central and Western Division, Levuka, Nausori and Labasa.
Mr Datt said the branches were holding pocket meetings and finding members who could help out and usually front up at the meetings.
“That’s how we have delegated our responsibilities and I think we are now on track. All these little aberrations of policies and views – we are not going to iron out at any political party at any one time. These things evolve.”

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