Citizens Constitutional Forum (CCF) calls on the people of Fiji to promote a culture of peace, tolerance and coexistence among ethnic groups as it marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21. Racial intolerance continues to divide our nation and has been one of the main causes of the social and political conflict that has disrupted Fiji. In this instrumental year of elections, let our nation be reconciled and move forward to a united Fiji.
We have taken some positive steps toward this in recent times. For the first time in Fiji’s history we have removed race-based voting. We have removed reservations to the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination and are now fully accountable to our international obligations under this Convention. We have introduced a Bill of Rights which enshrines the right to equality and freedom from discrimination. We are able to celebrate a common and equal citizenry, a secular state and proportional representation. However, we do still have an important challenge ahead of us. In moving forward, it is essential that these rights are protected and promoted, without limitation. It is crucial that the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission be strengthened and have capacity to function independently and with integrity, as well as review concerns arising from existing or proposed laws and actions which may operate with prejudice.
The disestablishment of ethnic based institutions was a step in the right direction, but the greater feat will be to challenge forces of hate, ignorance and fear in the deeply seeded beliefs of many Fijian people. Each one of us has a role to play in breaking down racial prejudice. CCF calls on the political, religious and civil society leaders of Fiji to support reconciliation amongst communities and condemn racial discrimination and intolerance.
This year, the world commemorates this Day for the first time following the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela. This Day was established to pay tribute to the 1960 Sharpeville massacre, in which 69 people were killed and many injured as police opened fire on a peaceful protest against apartheid. The Sharpeville tragedy is a stark reminder of the dangers of racial prejudice and on this Day, we honour those that have been victims of racial hatred and take inspiration from President Mandela to overcome the injustice of racial intolerance.
It is the responsibility of political leaders to promote a diverse and unified nation, for religious leaders to strengthen messages of forgiveness and reconciliation, for civil society leaders to advocate for racial tolerance and awareness, and last but not least, for each Fijian to embrace and celebrate multiculturalism. Today, let us recognise the threat of racial discrimination in Fiji, defend the rich diversity in our society, and celebrate Fiji as a united nation.
Thank you, Vinaka & Dhanyabaad,
Citizens Constitutional Forum