Union activists in the South Pacific nation of Fiji, angered by human and workers’ rights abuses, are taking their message to the tourists who provide a substantial portion of the country’s income.
DestinationFiji.org looks like a tourism-related portal but actually serves as a sounding board for the way workers and citizens are allegedly treated by the government.
"Thought Fiji was paradise? Think again," says the site. “Behind the island’s beauty lies a much uglier reality. Under the military dictatorship of Commodore Frank Bainimarama, there has been little sunshine for Fijian workers and communities.”
Bainimarama seized power in a 2006 military coup. DestinationFiji.org details a litany of complaints against his dictatorial regime, including plummeting wages, a skyrocketing cost of living, restriction of labour rights, harassment of trade unionists and journalists, the curtailing of free speech, and the squashing of union activities such as collective bargaining.
“Don’t let your tourism dollar prop up the Fiji military regime this year,” implores the site. “The people of Fiji deserve to earn a living wage and have fair conditions at work, without intimidation from employers or the government.”
DestinationFiji.org provides an online form with a message demanding that the government restore human rights and democracy. The form creates an e-mail which is sent directly to Bainimarama. Activists hope pressure from visitors will spur change in the regime.
Around 700,000 people visited Fiji last year, three-quarters of them for holidays. Most of the tourists hail from Australia and New Zealand, Fiji’s largest neighbors. Tourism contributes more than US$900 million to the country’s economy.
According to media reports, the minister of tourism condemned the activists, accusing them of jeopardising the tourism industry and threatening the very jobs they rely on.
Fiji Trade Union Congress general secretary Felix Anthony countered by saying the intent of the campaign was simply to educate tourists about the serious issues facing the locals who work in the resorts and restaurants they visit.