Australia has voiced its concerns to Fiji over the arrest of two trade unionists including Daniel Urai and Dinesh Gounder.
The pair have been charged under Public Emergency Regulations that stipulate a permit is required for meetings between trade unionists. On Friday 5th August 2011, the two appeared before Nadi Magistrate Court at 1.30pm charged with unlawful assembly. They have been released on bail and will re-appear in court on 2nd September 2011.
The Fijian Ministry of Information Permanent Secretary, Ms Sharon Smith-Johns said: “We would like to remind members of the public that the PER [Public Emergency Regulations] is still in force and should be observed.”
Martin Ferguson is the Acting Foreign Minister for Australia while Kevin Rudd recovers from heart surgery in Queensland. He expressed his dismay and explained that Australia had contacted Fijian officials to discuss the arrests:
“This is another example of the draconian Public Emergency Regulations being used to restrict basic human freedoms. The spate of arrests and beatings in recent months are further evidence that this is a brutal regime.
“Australia’s acting High Commissioner to Fiji today met with the acting Permanent Secretary of the Fiji Ministry of Foreign Affairs to convey Australia’s concerns about the safety of Fiji workers, and the welfare of the two trade unionists. The Acting High Commissioner made it clear Australia was watching developments closely.”
The Bainimarama government took power in 2006 and has been criticised by the Australian government for issuing political restrictions on its citizens. Australia is the largest bilateral aid donor to Fiji, contributing AU $37.5 million in 2011-2012.