How Many Human Rights Abuses are Acceptable?
|Not in Fiji|
It is not possible to briefly answer this question to the satisfaction of the reader. What appears to be a simple request for a concrete figure (presumably '0') is in fact a loaded request to put a figure on an abstraction. I am asked to make a value judgment in the absence of common agreement on whether each HR is of equal importance; whether each is always applicable, irrespective of the circumstances; whether everyone's HRs are of equal weight and importance, irrespective of individual and communal circumstances;whether it is ever justifiable to deny some HRs to some people; and whether some HRs can justifiably be temporarily suspended for the 'common good.'
To defuse the political element (which is the obvious point) of the question, I suggest we ask the same questions of "sin" where the answers will be seen to be no less difficult.
The reader knows my general position on HRs in Fiji. I have criticised abuses when I have known them to have occurred and have recommended better practices. He also knows that the level of the alleged physical abuses have been exaggerated. Anti-Government people have referred to torture but they do not even come near to what people associate with the word "torture", as seen in Iraq, Afghanistan and on TV thrillers. And he knows I have called for the lifting of the emergency regulations.
I suspect the reader's motive for asking the question is because he wants to draw attention to HRs abuses since December 2006. But the reader must know that the abuse of basic HRs did not suddenly start in 2006; that most physical abuses occurred in the immediate aftermath of the coup; that most people are not affected (on a world scale Fiji abuses might score 5 out of 100), and that the HRs situation appears to be getting better. The reader should also know that those who complain most about the post-2006 abuses were singularly quiet about human rights abuses in 1987 and 2000-01 (presumably because they did not affect them, or their ethnnic group); and even now such people speak only of their chosen "middle class" HRs, saying nothing about social justice and the denial of basic HRs to Fiji's second class citizens. -- Crosbie Walsh