Fiji is to be examined on its record of racial discrimination for two days from Tuesday 11 March to 12th March by the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD).
The National Farmers Union which made detailed submissions of its own to CERD is represented at the Geneva hearing by Dr. Ganesh Chand.
The United Nations Convention on Elimination of Racial Discrimination prohibits member States from practising racial discrimination in any form. As a signatory to ICERD, the Fiji government had failed to submit regular reports to the UN committee. It was forced to file a report following submissions on the issue by the NGO Coalition and the NFU.
The Government report, however, is a gross misrepresentation and distortion of facts, an attempt to camouflage its racial policies and practices against the non-indigenous communities.
The NFU submission has highlighted areas of State-sponsored or institutionalised racial discrimination noting the following major points of concern:
- discriminatory policies in appointments, promotions and training within the Public Services, including the army and police
- Denial of the constitutional rights of the Indian community
- denial of access to the State’s affirmative action programmes under the Social Justice Act – of 29 programmes under the Act, 12 are discriminatory and inaccessible to the Indian and other minority communities.
- Denial of access to equal educational opportunities – non indigenous students are barred from obtaining State scholarships if their combined family income exceeds $10,000. No such restriction applies in the case of Fijian/Rotuman students. As a result many students from the elite of Fijian/Rotuman society have this advantage which is denied to needy students from other communities.
- The criteria prescribed to access some of the State’s poverty alleviation programmes are discriminatory on grounds of ethnicity
- Discriminatory treatment of different communities in accessing land and housing.
More than 4000 Indian farming families have been displaced from land under the pretext of releasing land to landowners for their own use. This policy was engineered by the Native Lands Trust Board and supported by the SDL government.
The fact of the matter is that landowners were misguided by some politicians and NLTB administrators. In the end, landowners have not used the land with much of it is fast reverting to bush. As a consequence, the survival of the sugar industry is under threat raising fears of more social unrest and dislocation .
The SDL government needs to be told that racially divisive policies are counter-productive to national progress. It is obvious some leaders did not learn this lesson from the dark decade of 1987-1997.