Fiji to tackle human traffickers with an iron hand

Nemani Delaibatiki

National Security and Defence Minister Inoke Kubuabola has said that Police are investigating a ‘possible case of modern day slavery’ involving a South Korean group.

He made the disclosure in Bali, Indonesia on August 8, 2018, during the Ministerial Conference of the Bali Process on the growing scale and complexity of people smuggling, human trafficking and related transnational crimes.

His statement came in the wake of Korean authorities investigating Reverend Shin Ok Joo, Founder of ‘Grace Road,’ a popular food company operating in Fiji. They have also asked for Fiji Police help.

Reverend Shin was arrested last fortnight.

Attempts to get a response from ‘Grace Road’ were not successful.

Grace Road’s denial

But in an earlier statement, the company said that Ms Ok Joo was arrested on false claims.

In response to numerous questions on various allegations, it stated that while this was a ‘ridiculous event,’ they wanted to officially clear their name and silence the detractors through this.

“Grace Road Group is composed of Christians who see, hear, believe, and act by the Bible,” it stated. Under the motto of ‘Honesty, Sincerity, Diligence before God and men,’ we work every day to make Fiji the strongest nation in the world and to make the world where God is only God. You can see this vision and our commitment to it in our restaurants, products and services, achievements and above all in our people.”

Private Sector Partnership

Mr Kubuabola told the Bali Conference that the Fijian Government “intends to engage further with the private sector and civil society organisations to improve the protection, rehabilitation and reintegration of victims of human trafficking regardless of their nationality.

“Transnational crimes continue to create significant political, economic, social and security challenges to national sovereignty. Such activities continue to infringe on basic human rights and freedom. They threaten regional and global stability,” he said.

Mr Kubuabola said that the ‘Bali Declaration’ in March 2016 recognised that the transnational nature of irregular migration required a comprehensive regional approach, based on principles of burden sharing and collective responsibility.

“Learning from each other’s experiences and best practices strengthens our capacity to address these mounting challenges. Our collective response should promote good governance, rule of law, respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and inclusive economic growth,” he said.

Shared global responsibility

Mr Kubuabola said that the need to manage irregular migration by land, air and sea, strengthening information sharing and further capacity building in search and rescue operations cannot be undermined.

“In 2016 and 2017, the Ministers recognised the need to engage the private sector to combat human trafficking, forced labour and related exploitation. With the participation of business leaders, the Bali Process Government and Business Forum complements and supports global efforts to eradicate these crimes. They are making efforts to ensure migrant workers in supply chains will benefit from ethical recruitment and decent work,” he said.

“As we forge partnerships with civil society and other regional and international organisations in the process to address displacement and promote well-managed migration, practical co-operation and sharing of expertise will play a crucial role in implementation,” he added.

Mr Kubuabola said that rethinking our approaches to regional security co-operation would allow greater synergies between national governments, regional and international bodies and the private sector to help counter the ever-changing global security environment.

“A lack of infrastructure and systems to monitor transnational crimes often hinders small island states abilities to detect and take action against such activities,” he said.

He conveyed Fiji’s sincere condolences to the families and friends of loved ones lost in the Lombok earthquake on August 5, 2018.

By Special Arrangement with the Fiji Sun.

Photo Caption: Inoke Kubuabola with Tongan Minister of Police and Fire Services Mateni Tapueluelu in Bali. (Picture Courtesy: Fiji Sun)

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