History of the Fiji Labour Party

– a constant struggle for rights and justice –

Chronological history

July 6, 1985 The Fiji Labour Party was launched under the aegis of the Fiji Trades Union Congress in response to  the Alliance Party’s growing insensitivity towards the plight of  workers and the poor. The Party’s inaugural meeting was held at the Fijian Teachers Association (FTA) hall in Suva.  Among the record number of people who attended the launching were  FTUC executives, politicians, professionals and USP academics. 
1985 Municipal Elections

Suva City Council elections in October that year provided the first test of popularity for the fledgling  Fiji Labour Party. The party contested all the wards and won a convincing victory giving Suva its first Labour  Mayor, Cr. Bob Kumar. It was a growing sign of grassroots support for the new party. 

The Labasa, Nadi Ba Town Council Elections were also contested with Labour winning five, one and three wards respectively. It also went on to win the well contested Lautoka Simla Ward by-election by a clear margin.

1986 The following year Labour got an opportunity to test the political waters when it put up well known trade unionist  Mahendra Pal Chaudhry to contest the parliamentary by- election for the North-Central Indian Constituency. Although he stood against stalwarts from the NFP and Alliance parties, Chaudhry did exceptionally well losing by a mere margin of 204 votes. His support in this traditional cane belt district was indicative of the growing support and strength of the FLP.

UdaySingh,(Allaince)  7848
Mahendra Chaudhry, Fiji Labour Party  7644
James Shankar Singh, National Federation Party  5003
April 1987 For strategic reasons the Fiji Labour Party decided it was prudent to fight  the general elections in a coalition with the National Federation Party so as not to split the Indian vote. The Coalition won the general elections, toppling the Alliance perch on power for 17 years. Labour’s Dr. Timoci Bavadra became Fiji’s second Prime Minister.
April 13, 1987 Fiji Labour Party President and Leader, Dr. Timoci Bavadra, sworn in as Fiji’s second Prime Minister and Minister for Public Service and Fijian Affairs.
April 1987 The swearing in of the Fiji Labour Party and NFP coalition Government Ministers. Some prominent names were (Senator)  Jai Ram Reddy – Attorney General,  Finance Minister –  Mahendra Chaudhry, Dr. Tupeni Baba – the Education Minister,  Krishna Datt- Foreign Affairs Minister etc. There was a real optimism in the country and the majority of people were looking forward to the new Government carrying out its policies of social justice and good governance. 
May 14, 1987 The coalition government is deposed by a military coup, led by Lt. Col Sitiveni Rabuka following weeks of a deliberately orchestrated destabilisation campaign.  Cabinet and members of the government were held hostage for 7 days. The country was  thrown into chaos. There was widespread panic and fear among the citizens.  Sitiveni Rabuka claimed  he had carried out the coup to safeguard Fijian paramountcy.  On their release, Coalition leaders, in particular the FLP leaders, instigated a campaign to fight for the restoration of parliamentary democracy and human rights in Fiji.
June 1987 A delegation led by Prime Minister  Dr. Timoci Bavadra left to lobby overseas for the restoration of democracy in Fiji. He received an audience with Sir William Heseltine, the Queen’s Private Secretary and Commonwealth Secretary General, Sir Shridath Ramphal while in London. Other Coalition  delegation  met with  governments, trade unions and political leaders from Australia, New Zealand, India, United States, Canada, Papua New Guinea, and New Caledonia. Overseas trade unions, in particular those in Australia and New Zealand, imposed a trade ban on Fiji which played a major role in forcing the authorities to negotiate with the leaders of the deposed government. 
September 23, 1987 The negotiations led to talks what is known as the Deuba Accord headed by Governor General Ratu Penaia Ganilau. Dr. Timoci Bavadra led the Labour  delegation while the defeated Alliance Party was headed by Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara. A political solution for a government of national unity including members of both parties was formalised in the Deuba Accord signed on September 23, 1987. Sitiveni Rabuka struck again staging a  second coup on 25 September, 1987. 
September 25, 1987 Second military coup. Deposed Prime Minister  Dr. Bavadra along with many of his colleagues and sympathisers, and High Court judges were arrested and held in detention at the Naboro Prison about 30 kilometres from Suva. Chaudhry and Reddy evaded arrest. This time the military abrogated the 1970 Independence Constitution and imposed military rule. The Press was banned, Radio Fiji was taken over by the military regime and a Sunday ban on all activities including sports and entertainment was imposed. Widespread atrocities were committed on innocent Indians by the army and coup supporters. In December Rabuka relinquished power to an  interim administration headed Rt. Sir Kamisese Mara but the military remained very much the real power in the country.
May 14, 1988 Activists for democracy arrested at Sukuna Park on the first anniversary of the coup, among them Dr. Atu Bain and Dr. Vijay Naidu. May 14th became a black day in the history of Fiji with black bands  worn as a sign of mourning for  the death of democracy, and in  protest against the dreadful day.
September 1987 -1989 The fight for restoration of democracy was intensified after the second coup. With most of NFP parliamentarians including its leader running away, the struggle was left virtually to Labour MPs and activists.   Work on a review of the constitution which had begun after the first coup, resumed.  The intention was clearly to draft a document which would ensure Fijian political paramountcy. 
November 3,  1989 Dr. Timoci Bavadra dies of cancer. A record 60,000 people attended the great leader’s funeral at his home village of Veseisei five days later with schools and shops throughout closed for the day in  respect. His wife Adi Kuini Vuikaba took up leadership of the FLP at the request of senior executives. 
1990 – 1992 FLP continued the struggle for restoration of democracy despite serious personal threat to leaders from the army and nationalist thugs. After 1990 much of the campaign was focused against the undemocratic and racist 1990 constitution. 
1992 General ElectionsLabour’s deal with Rabuka General elections were called under the racist constitution in 1992. At first the NFP-Labour Coalition had decided to boycott elections under this racist charter but NFP reneged on the agreement deciding to participate in the general elections. Labour continued its boycott stance until two weeks before the elections when under pressure from supporters and for strategic reasons it decided to enter the contest. Despite its late entry, FLP won 13 of the 27 Indian communal seats in the House of Representatives, stunning the country with its achievement.  Drama after the elections, saw the  FLP enter into a deal with Sitiveni Rabuka to support his candidature for prime ministership in return for an immediate review of the racially discriminatory 1990 Constitution, Agricultural Landlords and Tenants Act (ALTA), Value Added Tax (VAT) and the labour reforms
June 1993 – Labour Walkout of Parliament The failure of Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka to honour his part of the post-election accord and his rather offensive and arrogant statements about his agreement and intentions prompted Labour Leader,  Mahendra Pal Chaudhry, to lead a walkkout of Parliament by Labour MPs,  withdrawing its support for the government. FLP Secretary General, Navin Maharaj resigned as the Deputy Speaker. The Labour walkout forced Rabuka into action and within a week of the walkout, an extended Cabinet sub-committee was appointed to review the racially discriminatory 1990 constitution.
September 1993 The Cabinet Sub-Committee drew up the terms of reference for a commission to review the constitution. Labour felt  the terms of reference did not adequately protect Indo-Fijian interests which prompted it to re-enter  Parliament to enforce changes to the terms of reference. The Party also wanted the review commission’s report subjected to scrutiny by a parliamentary select committee, a very important aspect not contained in the Rabuka/Reddy terms of reference.
1993 – Budget defeated, forcing snap elections On its return, FLP worked closely with government backbenchers led by Josevata Kamikamica and David Pickering (Member of All National Congress in opposition) to defeat the 1994 Budget. The defeat of the budget brought down the Rabuka government and forced through snap elections. 
April 1994
Election campaign saw the NFP playing its  ace card accusing the FLP of acting against Indian interests in  its post-election pact with Rabuka, the coup leader.  As a result,  Labour’s  parliamentary seats declined to 7. Even then,  its support at the grassroots level remained high with Labour amassing 47% of the total Indian votes cast.
1997 – Constitution Review by Paul Reeves committee A three-man review Commission headed by retired New Zealand governor general Sir Paul Reeves made extensive recommendations which saw a new constitution take shape following close scrutiny by a Joint Parliamentary Select committee.  The new Constitution was passed by both Houses of Parliament and approved by the Great Council of Chiefs. It was widely acclaimed by the international community.
1998 Peoples Coalition Elections under the new constitution was called for May 1999.  To fight the elections, FLP entered into a coalition with the Fijian Association Party headed by Adi Kuini Speed, and Party of National Unity, headed by Tui Ba, Ratu Sairusi Nagagavoka. 
May 1999
Labour-led Peoples Coalition Government
The People’s Coalition Government won the polls with an overwhelming majority. It had run a popular campaign based on a people’s manifesto that promised social and economic justice and good governance. The Party romped in with  37 parliamentary seats with FAP winning 11 seats and PANU four – a total of 52 seats out of 71in the House of Representatives. 
May 1999
Chaudhry Prime Minister
Labour Leader, and for the first time in Fiji’s history a Fiji-born Indian,  Mahendra Pal Chaudhry, is sworn in as Prime Minister of the Republic of the Fiji Islands. He also handled the important portfolio of Finance Minister and in addition was Minister for Public Enterprise, Sugar and Information.
May 1999 Peoples Coalition Government Cabinet sworn in with Dr. Tupeni Baba and Adi Kuini Speed as deputy Prime Ministers.

Coalition Government Cabinet 1999

May 2000 Peoples Coalition Government lost no time in trying  to fulfil its pledge to the poor and disadvantaged. In the short period it was in office, it turned the economy around registering a 10% growth for 1999 compared to minus economic performances recorded in the previous two years. Investment levels rose tremendously creating thousands of new jobs and business boomed. Government brought down the cost of living to a point where inflation was running at virtually minus levels and initiated several measures to help the disadvantaged and the poor society. (Please refer to Peoples Coalition Government Achievements for more details)
May 19th 2000 A band of terrorists led by failed businessman George Speight storms parliament with the help of the Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit soldiers and takes the government and its members hostage. Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and his son Rajendra Chaudhry together with 42 other Cabinet Ministers and backbenchers of the People’s Coalition Government were held for 56 days at gunpoint. There was widespread violence and looting in the City of Suva. The City was in ruins with the aftermath of burning and looting by indigenous marchers and  people were thrown into chaos and panic. Heinous atrocities were committed on isolated rural Indian settlements.

Hostage Labour Party parliamentarians 

July 2000

June 2000  Fiji’s first ever-political refugee camp emerged amidst continued terrorism in the Muaniweni and Dawasamu areas in eastern Viti Levu.  Police and the army were either unable or unwilling  to contain the continued violence against the rural people many of whom were forced to flee their homes to escape to safety. 
13 July 2000  Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and members of his Peoples Coalition Government hostages are released. Chaudhry calls a press conference and immediately calls for re-instatement of his Government.
November 2000 Gates Ruling A case filed by the Fiji Human Rights Commission challenging the abrogation of the 1997 constitution, on behalf of a farmer, Chandrika Prasad who was forced to flee his home in the wake of terrorist attacks. In a landmark judgment on the case, Justice Anthony Gates ruled that the Constitution was still intact, that Parliament should be recalled and government formed from within the ranks of the elected representatives.  The illegal  administration of Laisenia Qarase appealed Gates ruling. 
March 2001 Fiji Court of Appeal ruling Landmark ruling in the Chandrika Prasad appeal case whereby a Fiji Court of Appeal judgment on 1 March 2001 upheld the 1997 Constitution. It found that the army commander had no right to abrogate the constitution and assume executive authority. It also found that the Qarase administration was illegal and had no popular backing and that the Chaudhry Government had not been lawfully dismissed and that Parliament had been prorogued for 6 months and not dissolved.
March 2001 Chaudhry dismissed Post coup authorities, the acting President, the army and the interim administration, however, had no intention of restoring the People’s Coalition Government to office. They resorted to a series of extra-legal manouvres to keep the status quo. The acting President dismissed Chaudhry as Prime Minister and appointed Tevita Momoedonu PM for 24 hours to perform the constitutional functions of a PM i.e. dissolve parliament and be consulted on his appointment as substantive President. As (the illegally appointed President) he then declared fresh general elections in late August and re-appointed the Qarase administration as caretaker government. This action of the President was also later declared unlawful by Justice Gates in a high Court ruling.  
August-September  2001  – General elections The general elections saw Qarase returned to power with a narrow majority. Chaudhry returned as leader of the second largest party with 27 seats in the House. The FLP claimed elections were not free and fair despite the finding by international monitoring groups that it largely reflected the will of the people. FLP’s claim was later supported by disclosures that the Qarase group had spent close to $30 million in a vote buying exercise known as the Agricultural Scam. FLP challenged the results of four seats – one was that of Krishna Prasad who lost the Nadi Open seat to NFP’s Prem Singh – the only seat won by NFP in the general elections, confirming the routing it had received at the polls in 1999.  
September 2001
Multi Party Cabinet legal challenge
As the second largest party in the House, Labour was legally entitled to cabinet positions in line with the power sharing provisions of the Constitution.  Qarase, however,  formed the new government in coalition with Speight’s party but refused to accept Labour in his government. The prime minister’s failure to do so means Fiji continues to have an unconstitutional government. It also means that 44% of the country’s population (the Indian community) have no voice in national decision making. Fiji Labour Party mounts a legal challenge against its omission from the Cabinet. The High Court referred the case to the Fiji Court of Appeal to expedite matters.
2001 Senate appeal Opposition Leader rejects four of the eight Senate nominees submitted by the Fiji Labour Party. This matter also had to be challenged in court by the Fiji Labour Party – it eventually won the case and the matter was rectified with Labour appointing all eight Opposition Senators in the upper House. 
October 2001
Prem Singh case
Fiji Labour Party Nadi Open candidate, Mr. Krishna Prasad, mounts a legal challenge against the Opposition Leader, Mr. Prem Singh, claiming that Mr. Prasad should be the legal representative of that Constituency. Similar cases are filed in Suva by FLP candidates, Mrs Lavinia Padarath, Joeli Kalou and John Ali. Judgment pending.
3 October 2001 President invites Chaudhry to take up Leader of Opposition’s post but he declines. NFP’s Prem Singh appointed instead although his membership was under legal challenge
February 2002 FLP wins Multi-Party Cabinet case – Fiji Court of Appeal ruling In a judgment delivered on 15 February 2002, the Fiji Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the Fiji Labour Party in the multi-party cabinet case. It found that Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase had acted in breach of the constitution in refusing to invite Labour. It was critical of CJ Fatiaki’s refusal to constitute the Supreme Court to hear the case as a matter of urgency because of the national significance of the case.Qarase decided to take the matter to the Supreme Court.11
February 2002 Singh loses case Krishna Prasad of Labour Party wins the case and is declared the elected candidate of Nadi Open Constituency. Opposition Leader appeals for a stay order against the decision even though the constitution does not allow any appeal against a ruling by the court of disputed returns.
March 2002  The Appeals Court threw out Prem Singh’s appeal saying it had no jurisdiction to deal with the case.  
April 2002  But  Chief Justice Sir Timoci Tuivaga grants the Opposition Leader an extension on the stay order amidst growing controversy.
April 2002  Seven Fiji Labour Party Senators are sworn in and take their place in the Senate.
September 2002  Supreme Court rejects appeal by Leader of  Opposition  Prem Singh  in the Krishna Prasad case. Prem Singh has to vacate Parliament and Opposition leader’s seat.  
23 September 2002 Krishna Prasad is finally sworn in as MP for the Nadi Open Constituency. Government members boycotted his swearing in.
July 2003 Supreme Court ruling in Multi Party Cabinet case On 18 July 2003, the Supreme Court dismissed Qarase’s appeal and ruled in favour of Labour. It found that Section 99 of the Constitution (on power sharing) was mandatory and not an obligation and must be implemented without delay. It required the Prime Minister to consult with the Labour Leader and thereafter, select members from FLP for appointment to Cabinet. 
July 2003 Case back in Supreme Court Qarase resorted to tokenism. He self-picked 14 FLP parliamentarians for Cabinet portfolios and put them in charge of petty ministries created from existing ministries – ignoring the Leader and two key FLP members. FLP disputed the number saying it was entitled to 17 Cabinet positions and not 14. The two parties agreed to jointly approach the Supreme Court for a ruling on the numbers issue. The Court was split in its ruling with one minority decision. The majority view was that Labour would only be entitled to 17 seats if the PM had not invited independents to join his Cabinet. Minority ruling upheld Labour’s contention of 17 saying that if PM wanted to appoint independents, the allocation should come out of the PM’s entitlement to the number of portfolios. Labour concurred with this and urged the PM to refer the matter back to Supreme Court for further clarification. PM refused to do so.
3 Dec 2004 Leader of Opposition Having exhausted all avenues of redress, in November 2004, Chaudhry wrote to the President saying he was ready to take up post of Opposition Leader. He was appointed Leader of the Opposition on 3 December 2004.  
2006 General Elections and a multi-party cabinet The 2006 polls took place under worsening relations between the SDL government and the Army Commander Voreqe Bainimarama. Qarase won the elections but Labour claimed substantial vote rigging and electoral fraud which was later upheld by an independent inquiry commissioned by the Fiji Human Rights Commission. Despite this, the election was closely fought with SDL taking 36 seats and Labour 31, its coalition partner UPP won 2 seats and two was won by independents. This time the PM honoured Labour’s entitlement and gave 9 Cabinet porfolios to Labour although its entitlement was 10.    
2006 – Post election Relations, however, quickly soured between SDL and FLP leadership on the issue of Cabinet policies and his failure to consult with Labour on matters of national importance – the PRTU Bill, raising VAT to 15% and other issues. Meanwhile, a serious rift developed within Labour leadership on Senate appointments, ending in the expulsion of some key Party members.  
November 2006 The Cabinet and intra-party dissension was being played out against a backdrop of mounting national instability caused by the growing friction between Qarase and the Army Commander. Commodore Bainimarama gave Qarase an ultimatum to accept a number of conditions he laid or face being deposed from office. Last minute diplomatic moves to avoid a crisis failed. 
5 Dec 2006 The Army intervened and took over power. Labour denounced the extraconstitutional takeover of power. In January 2007, Chaudhry and the FLP were invited to participate in the post coup Cabinet with Chaudhry as Finance Minister and Minister for sugar. The FLP National Council agreed to accept the invitation to assist the President return Fiji quickly to democratic and parliamentary rule.
August 2008 In August 2008, Labour decided to withdraw from the post coup administration and FLP Leader Mahendra Chaudhry, Tom Ricketts and Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi resigned their Cabinet positions. 
April 2009 Constitution abrogated On 9 April 2009 the High Court gave a ruling in the Qarase vs Bainimarama court case declaring unlawful the Army takeover of power in December 2006 and the appointment of a post coup administration. Bainimarama replied by purportedly abrogating the Constitution, sacking the judiciary and imposing Emergency rule on the country. the Public Emergency Regulations (PER) imposed severe media censorship, banned all forms of political activity and severely restricted individual liberties. Subsequent, draconian decrees have taken away workers and trade union rights, and imposed restrictions which violate fundamental human rights of Fiji citizens.  Elections were deferred to 2014.
Labour in opposition Since 2009 FLP has been among the most vocal and critical opponents of the regime. Even though the Fiji media would not run our statements, we used the FLP website to disseminate information on what was happening and to question the regime’s policies and actions. FLP has also kept the international community closely informed on adverse developments in Fiji. Since last year it joined forces with other political parties and youth groups to form the United Front for a Democratic Fiji (UFDF) to present a united opposition to the regime’s growing excesses.
2012 Yash Ghai Constitution Commission A 5-member Constitution Commission headed by internationally    renowned constitutional lawyer Yash Ghai was appointed by the regime to draft a new constitution for Fiji following consultations with the people. However, the Commission’s draft when completed was trashed and the regime announced that it would prepare a new draft 
January 2013 A Political Parties Decree was promulgated setting out rigorous new rules for the formation of political parties with existing parties required to re-register and comply. Three existing parties – FLP, NFP and a renamed SDL (SODELPA) managed to meet all requirements and have been registered. A new party, the People Democratic Party,  formed by dissidents of FLP at instigation of the FTUC leadership, has also been registered.  
August 2013 Regime imposes its own constitution In August the regime released its own constitution which has been assented to by the President. The constitution lacks legitimacy and credibility, as it has had no input from the people and violates fundamental universal rights and principles of democracy. All draconian decrees continue in place. The regime says it will hold elections by September 2014 and that Bainimarama will form a new party to contest the elections.