As Fiji commemorates the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination tomorrow (21st March 2015), the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) urges the people of Fiji, especially political, community and religious leaders, to strongly condemn acts of racism, racial superiority or hatred that incite racial discrimination and related prejudice.
This year’s theme, as set by the United Nations, is “Learning from historical tragedies to combat racial discrimination today”. CCF Chief Executive Officer, Reverend Akuila Yabaki, says this carries great significance for Fiji as our past has witnessed social and political tragedies which were derived from racial discrimination.
The seeds of CCF were sown in the aftermath of Fiji’s first military coup d’etat in May 1987, which exposed deep divisions in Fiji society. A group of concerned citizens established the “Back to Early May Movement” and called for re-instatement of the pre-coup Government. Several members of the same group were instrumental in organizing an informal forum for discussion of constitutional issues. Participants in this forum came from academia, the public service, faith-based organizations, trade unions and professional associations, as well as other civil society groups. Over a series of meetings in 1991, they agreed to adopt the name, “Citizens’ Constitutional Forum”.
“It is critical for the people of Fiji to understand the damaging effects of racial tensions and collectively advance towards preventing and promoting a culture of peace, tolerance and coexistence,” said Yabaki.
Since the 1999, CCF had made repeated calls for reform of the electoral system and for the first time in Fiji’s history, the September 2014 elections were not conducted on racial lines. “This is a positive step towards racial equality. Fiji has removed reservations to the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and is now fully accountable to its international obligations under this Convention,” said Yabaki. In addition, our Bill of Rights enshrines the right to equality and freedom from discrimination. Further, the Public Order (Amendment) Decree 2012 reprimands and criminalises acts that incite racial antagonism, remarks or comments. These initiatives by government hone into a bond that unites us in diversity and progressively overcomes racial barriers.
“Despite these, we still witness racially inappropriate attitudes. This has become particularly evident in social media forums, such as Facebook. These types of comments divide our nation and inhibits our ability to realise our full potential as a nation, contributing positively towards Fiji’s development,” said Yabaki.
Yabaki says the CCF is concerned that although the social media has become an avenue for freedom of expression in Fiji, the forum is often abused as a platform to make discriminatory and derogatory remarks.
“We have a role to play in breaking down racial prejudice. The CCF calls on all Fijians to promote and practice religious acceptance and respect for one another, and to appreciate our unique and multicultural diversity. To remain ignorant and intolerant of these core principles, is to remain ignorant of the value of humankind and to the significant contribution we all make to our vibrant nation.” said Yabaki.
Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission
The CCF recognizes the announcement by the government to restore the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission (HRADC). The Commission will allow people who have been discriminated against on racial and ethnic grounds (as well as other grounds) to file complaints.
The Commission can investigate complaints and take steps for appropriate redress if human rights have been violated.
The CCF eagerly awaits the prompt establishment of the Commission, pursuant to its constitutional mandate, and looks forward to the revival of a fully functional and effective national human rights institution.
The CCF will commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Day on 20th March 2015 (today) at the University of the South Pacific, Oceania Centre. The event will start at 6.00pm. Members of the public and the media are invited to attend.
For further information, contact CCF’s Communications Officer Nazeem Kasim on email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (679) 3308379.
Who is CCF?
CCF is a non-government organisation that advocates and educates the public on democracy, good governance, human rights, Constitutional rights and multiculturalism in Fiji. The organisation’s envisions a nation where its people live together in equality, justice and peace, respecting the rule of law that guarantees democracy.