Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fiji, clouds and Ethical Tourism

from w
We do live in isolation these days. A cloud of ash moves around the southern hemisphere disrupting the lives of people thousands of miles away from Chile. People are camping at airports waiting for flights and others are anxious about whether it is safe to even fly.

International carrier Air Pacific is monitoring the volcanic ash cloud over Australian airspace which has led to numerous flights by other major airlines being cancelled. But it says it will continue operations as normal until such time that it becomes unfeasible. “Today’s (Tuesday) Air Pacific service to Sydney operated normally and tonight’s (last night) Melbourne flight has also departed,” Air Pacific spokesman Samisoni Pareti said.

“As for Sydney tomorrow (today), we are scheduling for normal operations, although our Flight Operation team is monitoring the volcanic ash cloud over east Australia. If there’s going to be any change in any of our flights to Australia, we will inform customers accordingly.”

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the volcanic ash cloud continued to disrupt flights, with Qantas cancelling yesterday’s services in and out of Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. Qantas said all other domestic flights would operate normally, while international services arriving into Sydney and Melbourne, including from New Zealand, would be delayed until tomorrow.

For Sydney, all domestic Qantas and Jetstar flights to and from the city from 3pm yesterday were suspended. All Virgin flights from 4pm were also cancelled.
Qantas said it was reviewing its international flights to and from Sydney. Four flights departing Sydney and bound for London and Frankfurt via Bangkok and Singapore were rescheduled to leave earlier at 2.15pm. Flight QF32 from Singapore to Sydney was diverted to Brisbane. All Jetstar flights arriving and departing Newcastle have also been cancelled from 3pm. Virgin’s Newcastle flights were suspended from 4pm. Tiger Airways has grounded its entire fleet in Australia. Passengers were urged to stay in touch with their airlines.

Qantas spokeswoman Olivia Wirth said: “We simply don’t have enough information and it will be safety before schedule. We don’t know the density [of the cloud]. ... The Qantas group will not be flying or around the particular cloud. Customers are advised not travel to the airport if their flight has been cancelled. A fare waiver is in place and full details can be accessed on qantas.com,” Qantas added in a statement.

Airservices Australia said “significant nationwide flow-on delays” were expected. It added that flights from Perth heading towards south-eastern Australia would be affected and advised passengers to contact their airlines directly.

The Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in Darwin said the cloud crossed the South Australian coast yesterday morning and then the southern NSW coast late yesterday. Earlier the plume was 2000 kilometres south-west of Western Australia but was moving rapidly at 80 to 100 knots. It was predicted to run into a strong low-pressure system in the Great Australian Bight, which would drag it northwards, the ash advisory centre’s director, Andrew Tupper, said.

Chile’s Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano began erupting on June 4, shooting a plume of ash into the air which made its way across the Atlantic and Indian oceans before reaching Australian and New Zealand airspace. The air cloud has travelled around Earth one-and-a-half times and is “particularly persistent in the atmosphere”, Airservices Australia said. Last week, almost 100,000 people and 700 flights were affected by the ash plume over six days of air chaos spanning from Perth to New Zealand. Mr Tupper said as the plume was a rare occurence, a third loop back to Australia was not likely.

Ash poses a significant threat to aircraft because once sucked into engines it can be converted into molten glass, as a result of the high temperatures, and potentially cause an engine to fail.
The other item of interest is about the ethics of tourism as relating to Fiji. Should people go and have a lovely holiday at resorts and visit villages in Fiji at the time when the people are suffering very much from economic hardship and living under very very strict rules of a public emergency condition? My opinion is that Fiji does need mork for the resorts and visitors, but thouse who do visit Fiji need to keep in mind the situation and be sensitive and perhaps extra kind to the people they meed who work for very little in the resorts. Go, but keep your eyes open!

This article was published in Perth recently. An Australian Union Leader cautions potential tourists from visiting Fiji, or at least thinking about ethical tourism.
• Ged Kearney
• From: PerthNow
• June 13, 2011 1:28PM
With more than 333 islands Fiji is an amazing tropical island paradise.
WHEN it's this cold many of us think of escaping to a warm island paradise, but when it comes to Fiji the postcard images of warm water lapping pristine beaches mask an uglier picture.

Many travellers have been able to ignore the fact that Fiji is under a military dictatorship, but when the government is using their absolute power to stifle free speech and attack the rights of the workers who are serving you, it’s time to ask some serious questions.

The problem is what do we do? Making calls on how we treat developing nations, especially our neighbours, is always tough. Tourism keeps the Fiji economy afloat and is vital to the living standards of all its people. Fiji is far from being North Korea with palm trees – there is still some civil society and freedom left.

But the military regime that has been in power since 2006 is steadily eroding basic freedoms and crushing any democratic opposition, in particular journalists and unions.

The regime pays lip service to democracy with a vague promise that elections will be held in 2014. There is no reason why elections could not be held earlier than 2014, even this year, and I have no faith that the regime intends to deliver on its vague promise.

Military strongman Commodore Frank Bainimarama heads a government that has no democratic legitimacy. At a time where people across the globe are embracing democracy, most recently seen in the uprisings in the Arab world, it is tragic that a nation like Fiji is sinking into this type of dictatorship.

Fiji is not the worst dictatorship in the world, but it is in our neighbourhood and the one where Australia and Australians have the most influence.

Bainimarama may sound like an 80s all-girl band but he is guilty of human rights violations in the first degree. In May this year proposals surfaced for new laws which would effectively outlaw unions and neuter any effective representation of Fijian workers.

A report released last week by the International Trade Union Confederation has found that repression of unions in Fiji is worsening.

The regime had already adopted tactics to intimidate union leaders. Earlier this year the head of Fiji’s trade unions was detained twice and assaulted once by the military. Senior union members in Fiji have been harassed, arrested or threatened with the sack if they maintain involvement in their union. Other critics of the military regime have been detained and beaten.

The regime has implemented a set of Public Emergency Regulations that limit freedom of speech, expand police powers and curb media freedom. Interim administration personnel accompanied by police have been placed in all major news outlets, which may be shut down if they publish stories deemed ‘negative’.

Courts are increasingly biased and cowed by the military regime and many judges owe the positions to the military.

Military personnel have the power to use arms to break up gatherings and have detained individuals without charge.

Many Fijians with the ability to leave have chosen to emigrate, taking their skills and money with them.

The victims of all this are ordinary Fijians, 40 per cent of whom live on less than $1.25 a day - and for them the role of trade unions has never been more important.

Stopping unions from representing ordinary Fijians will only make their situation worse, while the wealth of the country goes to cronies of the regime.

The Australian Government has introduced high-level sanctions against members of the military regime in Fiji, stopping them from travelling to Australia. We have also suspended defence co-operation with Fiji.

And this is where it gets tough: should we call for a tourism boycott? While I know it would cause pain to the regime, further sanctions would also hurt ordinary Fijians who rely on tourism or sugar exports as their main source of income.

Instead I want Australia to renew diplomatic and political pressure on the Fijian Government and hold it up to the scrutiny of the world. In particular I want Australian companies that do business in Fiji to demand respect for human rights.

But we must keep the idea of a tourism boycott in our back pocket if all else fails.

And if you are still tempted to travel to a resort in Fiji this winter, talk to the locals working there, find out what they are going through – and know that although the smiles are real there is pain in this island paradise.
An Australia

1 comment:

mal said...

Interesting that an Aussie Union man should state that human rights of workers in Fiji are important. Its a shame Aussie Unions dont apply the same reasoning to Human Rights in China.
More money involved in doing business with China cant be the reason, can it???