Fiji Labour Party turns 30 today. And what a tumultuous 30 years it has been for the Party.
Left: Dr.Timoci Bavadra:First Labour Prime Minister and Party Leader
Right: Mahendra Chaudhry: Labour Prime Minister 1999/2000; FLP Leader 1992 -
We toppled the 17-year rule of the Alliance Party in 1987 after less than 2 years in existence; we won power twice – once in 1987 and then in 1999 – only to be denied our mandate to govern by Army-led or supported coup d’etats – after barely a month in power in 1987 and after a year in 2000. But we hold the distinction of providing the country with two Prime Ministers.
Throughout our existence we have been targeted by vested interest groups as we fought against official corruption, economic and social injustice and state sponsored racial discrimination. Over the years our leaders, officials and supporters have been tortured, imprisoned, held hostage at gunpoint, harassed and persecuted for standing up for justice and the economic empowerment of our people .
FLP has never shirked in its duty and responsibility to the people of Fiji. Born out of the struggle of the working class, it was launched on 6 July 1985 under the aegis of the then strong and united trade union movement. Its launch had been triggered by the unilateral imposition by the Alliance Government of a wage freeze in December 1984. This had been preceded by a series of anti-worker policies and actions of the government, forcing the unions to seek a political solution to the problem.
The Party’s advocacy of democratic socialism and respect for human rights, social justice, equal opportunities and good governance proved popular with the masses who had for the first time found an effective political voice.
Labour has remained resolute in the defence of the oppressed over the past 30 years,
no matter how threatening the environment – be it in upholding the rights and the
struggles of the cane farmers for a just master award, the workers and trade unions
against oppressive decrees that denied them their internationally recognized rights,
against the suppression of the democratic rights of the individual or fighting for social
equity for the poor and the ordinary workers.
Labour has had a profound effect on the political landscape of our nation. Many of the social policies initiated by us eg. the removal of VAT and Customs Duty from basic food items and the provision of social security for the aged and the needy, have been taken on board by other political parties.
We are aware that the 2014 general elections did not reflect the true mandate
of the people of Fiji because of the manner in which the polls were manipulated
and rigged by the regime to retain power. The Labour Party was a major target.
However, confident of our grassroots support, we continue to work in the interests of our people. The times ahead are no doubt difficult and challenging. There is much that is wrong with the current
military-backed administration. Corruption, cronyism and authoritarian practices are rife. (Pic Right: Lavinia Padarath – current FLP President)
Rising poverty and unemployment, high living costs, poor wages and severe shortcomings in the health and welfare services are taking their toll on 45% of the nation’s people who struggle to survive on or below poverty line incomes.
The long term sustainability of our economy is threatened by mounting overseas debts, mismanagement of our resources and vested interests. Our forestry and fisheries sectors are grossly exploited by foreign interests in league with corrupt elements in government.
Further, no governance that is based on a seriously flawed constitution and a parliamentary process that at best is a sham, is lacking in accountability and transparency and denies people their basic rights – can ensure long term prosperity and the well-being of the nation.
Despite these fundamental setbacks and constraints, Labour promises to remain a strong advocate of people’s rights and to continue to speak out fearlessly against all that is wrong in our nation.