Human Rights

UN expert in Fiji to evaluate racism and tolerance

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism is in Fiji until Monday to gather first-hand information on the situation of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in the country.  The UN Special Rapporteur, Mutuma Ruteere met with Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum in Suva yesterday. The AG told Mr Ruteere that the Fijian […]

Calvin Prasad

December 8, 2016 9:34 am

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism is in Fiji until Monday to gather first-hand information on the situation of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in the country. 

Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, Mutuma Ruteere.
Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, Mutuma Ruteere.

The UN Special Rapporteur, Mutuma Ruteere met with Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum in Suva yesterday.

The AG told Mr Ruteere that the Fijian Constitution had formed the basis for the Government’s work to establish a level playing field in Fijian society and uphold the socioeconomic and political rights of every Fijian.

“It may seem a simple thing, but by establishing our shared identity as ‘Fijians’, the Constitution sent a clear message that every Fijian is equal under the law and equally entitled to the benefits of our nation’s progress,” said the AG. “That mantra has driven the progress we have made over the past decade to reverse the years of discrimination that plagued Fijian society and stagnated our national development.”

In a statement, the UNHR said Mr Tureere was visiting Fiji at the invitation of the Government and “will survey the policies, provisions and measures in place to fight discrimination and promote multiculturalism,”

RUTEERE: “During my mission to Fiji, I will pay special attention to the situation of historically discriminated groups, migrants and other vulnerable groups…I will also assess the trends, manifestations and scope of racism in the context of the policy of inclusiveness of the current Government.”

The UN Special Rapporteur will share his preliminary conclusions at a press conference on 12 December 2016 at the Grand Pacific Hotel, Victoria Parade, Suva.

SODELPA Leader, Major-General Sitiveni Rabuka extended an invitation to Mr Ruteere to visit the Opposition office.

RABUKA: ““I welcome the visit of Mr. Ruteere who has stated that he will seek to engage constructively with the Government as well as with the different groups and interlocutors. I hope that his itinerary includes visits to all communities of Fiji, and their representatives. In that regard, SODELPA wishes to invite him to visit our office, we would be honored to host Mr. Ruteere.”

The AG pointed to the 2014 elections as the first held under an electoral system that was not predicated on the basis of ethnicity by, for the first time, giving equal weight to all votes cast.

“When politicians are elected through an electoral system that divides society on the basis of ethnicity, it encourages an ethnic way of thinking and incentivises ethnic favouritism. The 2014 election was a landmark for Fiji because candidates were assessed by the voters on their policies and their vision for the future of the country,” he said.

The AG emphasised that the Fijian Government is building on the progress achieved by strengthening independent institutions in Fiji to ensure accountability, transparency and impartiality throughout all levels of Government.

“Racism has been the bane of Fijian society since colonial times, and it has always been used as a means to preserve the power and influence of the elites. When Fijians are homogenised into groups on the basis of ethnicity, we are unable to address intra-group injustices, such as gender, economic participation and socioeconomic rights,” he said.

Mr Ruteree said he was glad to be the first Rapporteur on racism to visit Fiji and looked forward to working with the Fijian Government to formulate a report detailing recommendations and policy strategies for confronting racism in Fijian society.

The country mission report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2017.

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