The Fiji Labour Party was launched on 6
July 1985 under the aegis of the Fiji Trades Union Congress to fight the
Alliance Party's growing insensitivity towards the plight of the workers and the
More than 12 long years have passed since the loss of our
first President and revered Leader, Dr. Timoci Bavadra, the man who led the Fiji
Labour Party to its phenomenal victory in the 1987 elections to become Fiji's
second Prime Minister, after 17 years of dominance of the Great Council of
Chiefs backed Alliance Government. Such is the measure of the man, that almost
12 years after his death, his memory still inspires one to strive for what he
stood for in life - the principles of democracy and social justice: individual
freedoms, fairness and equality for all in a multiracial Fiji.
It is with some nostalgia that we that we recall the Dr.
Bavadra's inaugural address at the launching of the Fiji Labour Party on that
historic day of 6th July, 1985. Here extracts are reproduced under notable
subheads for ease of reference and identify the broader principles on the
formation of the Party.
"Even the idea of launching labour party in Fiji has
been around for a long time, it has taken the current economic crises and the
present government's failure to cope with it, to make the party a reality.
As the economic crises worsened through the late 1970's and
the early 1980's, the unions tried best to work with the government in seeking
equitable solutions. The unilateral imposition of the wage freeze late last year
indicated that the government was no longer willing to discuss matters with the
representatives of the workers.
As responsible trade unionists, we felt compelled to react
strongly to government policies that threatened the well being of our members
and, indeed, of all Fiji citizens. We recognised that it was time for workers to
form their own political party."
…At the heart of this is a commitment to democratic
socialism. In seeking ways to overcome the many problems that face our nation,
we are determined to ensure that development policies serve the interest of the
We must work hard to ensure that our party is not just a
party of unionists or of members of only one segment of the society. It must be
a party for all our people, no matter where they live, what their own race, or
how they earn a living. To make this a reality is no easy task.
The government has done relatively little to support the
efforts of church organisations to help the underprivileged. This reflects the
government's lack of commitment to providing services for the poor. Relying on
kinship obligations is no solution to the growing poverty in our country.
Tangible benefits must be provided for the poor. Increasingly, the largest
segment of those who are poor is the unemployed youth. A great deal more must be
done to encourage projects in villages and towns, which will help the youth.
Moreover, the youth and the poor in general must have a greater voice at all
levels of society to ensure that their aspirations and talents are adequately
catered for. At the national level, this initiative should include the lowering
of the voting age to 18.
It is a topic that most politicians have been afraid to
confront. Yet, clearly we must come to terms with the many problems in the way
our land is used or not used, in how benefits are distributed, and in how
decisions are made about its use. One of the key institutions that must be
democratised so that it serves the interests of all Fijians and just the
privileged few and their business associates… more effort must be made to see
that those whose land is being leased, enjoy a greater proportion of rental
revenue from NLTB.
The few services provided by NLTB did not justify the high
levies and the board could do more for the people it served, provide better
infrastructure and ensure increased productivity of land. A review of the rent
distribution system is also warranted.
In promoting industrial growth, we must strive to avoid the
horrors that have accompanied urban industrial growth in so many parts of the
world: slums and sweatshops. The rise of sweatshop labour in our urban centres
must be dealt with, and promptly, before the standards we have achieved over the
years are completely eroded. We must no be fooled into thinking that acceptance
of low wages is necessary if we are to develop our industries.
Protection of unorganised workers in particular the
domestic female workers is also a priority for the party.
"The lack of a minimum wage in the manufacturing
sector has meant that a large number of women are working long hours,
performing repetitive menial jobs, with very low wages".
The necessity to earn a living compels many of these women to
tolerate such appalling conditions.
…Both the urban and rural poor, the destitute, the
returned soldiers and old age pensioners, women and youth. They have been
neglected for far too long, and have suffered the worst effects of the wage
freeze and the rising costs of essential goods and services like food and bus
To curb corrupt practises, the introduction of a code of
conduct for the nation's leaders. The Companies Act to be tightened to allow for
the detection of corrupt practises and the prosecution of those responsible. Dr.
Bavadra called for an independent judicial and:
One that is free from political patronage. Our internal
security system must not serve the interest of those in power, but the welfare
of all our people.
Since the Labour Party was committed to the principles of
democratic socialism, the Nationalisation of key industries such as the bus
industry and the gold mining industry was important. Two of Fiji's most
important and successful enterprises, the sugar industry and the airport were
either state controlled or run by workers with state assistance. Dr. Bavadra has
been quoted as:
"I would not call for the nationalisation of all our
industries, but there are areas where public ownership may well be warranted
in the national interest. One of these areas is the bus industry. Public
transport is simply too important a service in our poor country to be left
entirely to private hands. Another industry is the gold mine in Vatukoula. The
existence of an almost sovereign entity in our nation is an embarrassment to
us all. It is imperative that the worst abuses at the mine be eliminated and
that we acquire control over such an important industry".
We believe that ideal of free education must become a
reality through government subsidisation of books, bus fares, and other
Fiji Labour Party argued for a policy of non-alignment;
"We have become the client state of certain foreign
powers; and this is definitely not in our interest. A policy of non-alignment
should guide our approach to trade and diplomatic relations, and requires our
support for the struggles of ordinary people around the world against
Fiji must guard against becoming pawns of foreign powers and
must make a principled stand on a nuclear-free Pacific and the de-colonisation
of Pacific islands.
We must see to it that our military serves our own needs,
and not the interests of others. There was a great danger in allowing the FMF to
become just "a band of mercenaries".