Friday, January 25, 2008

Report to UN CERD - Geneva

A paper on racism -Friday, January 25, 2008

THE race-based communal voting system in Fiji and lack of national identity for citizens have been identified as major problems of racial discrimination says the Citizens Constitutional Forum.

In their submission to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), CCF chief executive Reverend Akuila Yabaki, said the most disturbing feature of racism in the country was the communal voting system inherited from the colonial government.

"Issues related to racial discrimination covered in the submission include the coups and the impacts, the Reconciliation Tolerance and Unity Bill, preferential treatment by previous governments, race-based affirmative action in education and other areas, unresolved land issues and growth of squatter settlements.

"In addition, there is disproportionate migration of Indians, racist provisions in the Immigration Act, suicide rate and the Government's failure to provide a national identity that united non-indigenous and Fijians."

Mr Yabaki said religious intolerance was also seen as a manifestation of racism in Fiji.

He said the Laisenia Qarase-led government had embarked on new land bills which would have had a devastating effect on Indians and other ethnic minority groups such as descendants of Solomon Islanders, Rabi, Kioa, Chinese, Europeans, Part-Europeans and other races.

"These include the Qoliqoli Bill and the Indigenous Tribunal Bill.

"The bills would have placed greater restrictions on non-indigenous people over the ownership and use of land and the sea."

Mr Yabaki said the military stated that the Qoliqoli Bill was one of the reasons for the 2006 coup because it would have created tension in the already strained race relation communities in Fiji.

He said the Great Council of Chiefs did not cater for the interests of other ethnic groups similar to the Native Land Trust Board.

"The GCC nominates the President and 14 of the 32 senators as a guarantee of assurance of majority indigenous representation. Citizens of all other ethnic groups with no representation in the GCC are therefore excluded from the presidential nomination process which ideally should be inclusive of all citizens." On the land issue, Mr Yabaki said since the colonial government was formed in 1874, it has ensured that land remained with the indigenous people and that was how 90 per cent of the land belonged to the indigenous community.

The paper which was endorsed by three non-government organisations including the CCF, Women's Action for Change and the Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education and Advocacy, was sent to Geneva on January 19.

The submission assessed the quality and extent of efforts made by the government since 2002 to comply with its obligations under the CERD convention.

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