Link: Pacific Islands Report
Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Fiji Trade Council: Decree Renders Party Operations Illegal
New regulations will effectively kill off political parties

By Indrani Krishna

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Jan. 22, 2013) – Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions (FICTU) says the operations of all existing political parties will become unlawful soon after they lodge their re-registration applications under the new Political Parties Decree.

FICTU General Secretary, Attar Singh said that officials of parties that offend this provision will be liable for fines up to FJ$50,000 [US$28,285] or imprisonment of five years or both.

"Section 4(3) of the decree makes it clear that all existing parties which apply for registration under the decree shall be deemed to be proposed political party and must not thereafter operate or function as a political party after the expiry of the 28 days from the commencement of the decree."

"And section 4(4) of the decree says that existing parties which do not apply for registration within the 28 days shall be deemed to be deregistered upon expiry of the 28 days," Singh said.

He further added that these two sections mean that all existing parties will become non-operational and non existent after the 28 days.

Parties that do apply for registration can only become operational once the registration is approved by the registrar.

"The people of Fiji have a right to know that there will be no political parties in existence and therefore no political voice at least for a while from February 15," Singh added.

He also added that it must also be understood that given the onerous requirements under the decree registration of parties is a very difficult process and there is a real possibility of applications being refused.

"In such cases appeals to the High Court is allowed but that could take months," Singh said.

On the other hand, parties that succeed in the registration process will need to operate full time party offices in every division.

"Given the restrictions of party funding and support, running a party will be a financially impossible risking de-registration. A small party will need at least FJ$100,000 [US$56,571] a year for fixed expenses and a similar amount for operational expenses apart from initial setting up costs," Singh said.

He further added that all this indicates that political parties may not be around to contest 2014 elections because of the requirements of the decree.

Meanwhile, the new Political Party registration decree came into effect from last Friday and 23 days still remain for the existing parties to meet the registration criteria.

[PIR editor’s note: Meanwhile, the Australian Council of Trade Unions has called the decree "appalling," urging the Australian government to withdraw plans to re-establish a high commission office in Fiji. President Gred Kearney says that a ban on any group from participating in political parties, in this case, trade unions in Fiji, is a "blatant" attack on democracy. Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr has also expressed opposition to the decree, which he characterizes as "unacceptable" and unjustifiable.]

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