Opinion

Delaibatiki’s My Say: Global Freedom Index’s Rating Of Fiji A Big Joke, Fails To Reflect Reality

United States research organi­sation Freedom House’s rating of Fiji as the least politically free country in the Pacific is a joke. Freedom House rates countries on their political rights and
22 Jan 2018 11:00
Delaibatiki’s My Say: Global Freedom Index’s Rating Of Fiji A Big Joke, Fails To Reflect Reality
Crowd in the march in Nadi yesterday. Photo: WAISEA NASOKIA

United States research organi­sation Freedom House’s rating of Fiji as the least politically free country in the Pacific is a joke.

Freedom House rates countries on their political rights and civil liber­ties.

Its 2018 Global Freedom Index rated 88 countries as “free,” 58 as “partly free” and 49 as “not free” in 2017, re­ported Radio New Zealand.

All but two countries in the Pacific Is­lands region were rated as being free.

Fiji and Papua New Guinea, with aggregate scores of 59 and 63 out of 100 respectively, were rated as being partly free.

Tuvalu had the highest rating of any Pacific island country with 94.

Of the metropolitan countries in the countries in the wider Pacific region, Australia and New Zealand scored 98, and Indonesia 64 (partly free).

China with 14 was considered “not free”.

When Tonga scores higher (75) than Fiji something is not right. We have a Parliament (51 seats) that is totally representative of the people, a Consti­tution that gives everyone equal rights and freedom of choice and expression.

In Tonga, a constitutional monarchy, full representative democracy is still work in progress. In the 2010 general election, a majority of the seats (17 out of 26) in the Tongan Parliament were elected by universal suffrage for the first time, with the remaining nine seats being reserved for members of Tonga’s nobility.

While freedom of speech and of the press is guaranteed by the Constitu­tion, these rights are not always pro­tected in practice. Politicians’ rights also face testing times.

On August 25, 2017, King Tupou VI dissolved the Assembly on the ad­vice of its Speaker, Sialeʻataongo Tuʻivakanō, who claimed that Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pohiva was attempt­ing to claim powers held by the King and Privy Council within Cabinet.[3]

Mr Pohiva was returned as PM in the subsequent election.

What needs to be asked is how Free­dom House obtained the information that formed the basis of its analysis and rating.

Did its researchers speak to people and organisations here who have per­ceptions that we are partly free?

If they did, did they attempt to ver­ify the information. Because if they cross-checked it they would have discovered that we are not what they think we are. We are a free country where we uphold the rule of law, basic human rights and freedoms of indi­viduals.

The previous Saturday, we saw trade unionists, politicians and their sup­porters march through Nadi and dem­onstrate their political expressions.

But Freedom House’s report is typi­cal of some overseas NGOs who obvi­ously are out of touch with reality on the ground or are driven by certain political agendas.

There are people today, for reasons best known to them, who will refuse to accept that Fiji is now a progres­sive, modern nation state with a Con­stitution that embraces equality and other universal values and principles.

We have a robust justice system where people can seek redress in a court of law and be given a fair go. Workers, employers, companies and the Government can vouch for the independence of our justice system. Go through the court records and you will see evidence of this.

There have been cases where court has ruled in the workers’s favour. In the case of NATIONAL UNION OF FACTORY AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS (APPLICANT) AND FRINCOS HIRE (FIJI) LIMITED (RE­SPONDENT) CASE NUMBER: ERCC NO. 11 OF 2013, the High Court had de­termined the issue of lockout and or­dered that the employees be allowed to work and be paid the number of hours they were locked out.

On Friday (January 19), on the eve of his back-to-work order on the case of the dispute between Air Terminal Services and its striking workers, resident magistrate Andrew See, had made a ruling in favour of a worker.

He ruled in the Employment Rela­tions Tribunal that grievor, Renuka Narayan, represented by lawyer Da­modaran Nair, was unjustifiably dis­missed in his employment. He ordered the employer, Beachcomber Island Re­sort, should pay Mr Narayan $11,660 for compensation within 21 days.

On Saturday, Mr See brought relief to the workers and ATS management when he ended the impasse in their dispute. Both sides wanted that same outcome but were constrained by cer­tain differences.

This is ample proof that the rule of law, the justice system, individual rights and group rights are alive and well protected here.

So what is Freedom House talking about? Nonsense.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj



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