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Fiji: Former Spy Linked To Striking Nurses

SUVA: Nearly 1300 nurses are on strike today in what has been described as a politically-orchestrated move to bring the Government to its knees, the Daily Post reports.

"I am happy to see (the strike) happen," said Fiji Nurses Association general-secretary Elina Dulakiverata last night as at least 300 nurses walked out of their duties at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital, in Suva.

She said the strike is not politically motivated. But Health Minister Dr Isimeli Cokanasiga said it is so. He has accused the Soqosoqo niVakavulewa ni Taukei party and a senior member of the former Fiji Intelligence Service as being behind the striking nurses.

Ms Dulakiverata said: "We don't know how long it will last, it can go for weeks.

"We will continue till the Prime Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, listens and understands our grievances."

At midnight last night most nurses at work around the country, except for those at Tubou Hospital, in Lakeba, Lau, walked off their jobs, leaving skeleton staff to manage the country's main hospitals.

Ms Dulakiverata said the student nurses are also on strike.

They cannot help the patients, she said. The Government has declared the strike illegal, putting the strikers in danger of facing serious charges in court. SVT parliamentary leader Ratu Inoke Kubuabola yesterday rejected allegations his party is behind the strike.

"It seems that it is becoming the norm for this government to point the finger at the SVT every time anything goes wrong," he said.

"What they are saying or implying is that the nurses cannot think for themselves, and this is an insult.

"What (the government) should do is accept that the nurses have a genuine grievance and work on it accordingly."

Fiji Trades Union Congress national secretary Felix Anthony said the unions had not yet decided whether they would support the nurses. He said this would be decided at an executive meeting.

The nurses did not attend a compulsory arbitration meeting in Suva scheduled for 9am yesterday. Instead, they sent their representative, former Attorney-General Qoriniasi Bale.

Permanent Arbitrator Jon Apted said Mr Bale was there as an industrial relations consultant and not as a legal representative.

Mr Apted adjourned the arbitration hearing because the nurses did not attend. He said they run several risks if they go on strike.

First, they face the possibility of dismissal, he said. Second, they risk legal action.

He said the nurses could soon alienate themselves from the public. Another round of talks was set for 4pm yesterday.

The nurses did not turn up again.

Mr Apted visited the nurses late yesterday afternoon to try to get them to arbitration. He was unsuccessful.

Fiji Public Service Association general-secretary Rajeshwar Singh said Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry may give new instructions today.

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