Government thuggery has no place in a democracy

  • February 7, 2021
FTUC National Secretary Mr. Felix Anthony

We are appalled at the inhumane treatment of the Vice Chancellor of the USP, Professor Pal and his wife under the pretext of them posing a ‘public risk’ to Fiji. The way in which 15 unidentified men in civilian clothes broke into his house around midnight within the vicinity of a regional University campus, during curfew hours, harassed and manhandled him and his wife, is nothing short of thuggish behavior. In addition to that, transporting them recklessly to the airport in the dark of the night, the denial of food and contact with other family and even their lawyer demonstrates the government’s total lack of respect for rights and plain decency. This deportation was planned to surprise everyone and ensured that the mission was completed before any due process was possible.

It is evident that Professor Pal had stepped on toes of those he had exposed as involved at the alleged mismanagement at the University, and that those cited in the VC’s report have government support. As is the characteristic of this government, a deportation order for those on work permits, or harassment and detention for those who cannot be deported is the solution to force things their way. We note with utmost concern that human rights violations are at a record high. One would think that while Fiji holds the position of Chairperson of the UN Human Rights Council, this Government would make every effort to lead by example. This hypocritical show to the world of being human rights champions must stop. This shameful action of government shows that it is clearly resorting to dictatorship and thuggery to achieve its objectives no matter how unethical it may be. We question the need to arrest anyone in the dead of night by plain clothed personnel using force. This has become the hallmark of this Government even when arresting political opponents and trade union officials. Yet this same Government preaches democracy and human rights to the world. It more recently condemned the violence in the US Capital and lectured them on the values of democracy. The disconnect between what this Government says and does is because the speeches are written by Qorvis who have no idea of what happens on the ground in Fiji. They simply cover up when a mess is made, such as this. Our leaders simply read what Qorvis dishes without any qualms and conscious.

We support the USP Students Association and Unions in their opposition to the treatment and deportation of the VC and his wife. We welcome the USP Council’s decision to not dismiss the VC and to appoint a sub-committee to look at issues surrounding the VC’s contract and arbitrary deportation. We congratulate the USP Council for standing up to this bully action and call on the USP Council to defend the VC and ensure that justice prevails. We also support the call by the Council to seek answers from government on why it was not consulted or informed on the conduct and subsequent deportation of their Vice Chancellor. The Fiji government must be held accountable for this utterly disgusting behavior. No democracy must condone such unethical behavior.

While the Professor has been forcefully deported, we note with concern that other acts of intimidation continue at the USP Campus such as presence of the police, intel officers and the barring of media on campus. This demonstrates that we are still way far from being a truly democratic country and in fact much more of a police state. The use of scare tactics and intimidation has become a norm for this government.

We call upon international community to further campaign for Fiji to become and behave as a true democracy. The current mode of operation has all the hallmarks of military rule disguised as democracy.

The public, particularly our youth at the University have closely experienced this thuggish act which clearly does not set a good example in nurturing responsible citizens for the future.

We call upon government to get its act together and stop behaving childishly when things do not go their way and leave the University to be governed by its Charter and its own governing mechanisms as a regional university. We condemn these abhorrent acts of violations, detention, harassment, and ongoing intimidation of,  and scare tactics on individuals who stand for truth, democracy and good governance.

Felix Anthony
National Secretary

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