PM on Indigenous Rights
MEDIA RELEASE: PM Addresses High Level Segment of the 28th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
2 March 2015, Geneva. Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama this morning addressed the High Level Segment of the 28th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.
Prime Minister Bainimarama shared with the international community the history of divisiveness in the country that has prevented the realisation of human rights for all Fijians.
The Prime Minister said that he assumed control of Fiji to remove an ethno-nationalist government that had embarked on a campaign to marginalise the country’s minorities and underprivileged.
“Unlike other takeovers, ours was to assert the principle of equality in our nation once and for all. And to assert the human rights of every citizen, irrespective of ethnicity, religious affiliation, personal circumstance including socio-economic status, sexual orientation or gender identity,” the Prime Minister said.
“We drew a line under the past. We reset the national compass. We declared Year Zero to finally begin building a modern nation state in which the universal principles of true democracy and human rights are enshrined, in law, and practised in our national life.”
The Prime Minister went on to tell the Human Rights Council that Fiji’s peaceful and orderly transition to Parliamentary rule has been a national triumph and one of great credit to the Fijian people.
“Fiji, as a developing nation, has never stood taller or prouder in the world, nor is it more deserving of the support of the international community. Fiji has delivered the biggest human right of all - the right to equality, human dignity and justice for every citizen.”
The Prime Minister highlighted the extensive reforms under way towards the progressive realization of the human rights that are articulated in Fiji’s Constitution. He explained that the reforms - and the Constitution - focus on socio-economic rights as well as civil and political rights.
The Prime Minister also told the High Level Segment that indigenous rights are well protected under our Constitution.
The Prime Minister said that unlike some countries in the world, where the indigenous were exploited, dispossessed, exploited and marginalised, approximately 91 per cent of the land in Fiji was owned by the i-Taukei people.
He said that this made the Fijian indigenous experience unique, if not rare, and that this has given the indigenous people of Fiji a level of security that has been noticeably absent in other countries.
“The rationale behind the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous people does not readily apply to Fiji in the way that it does to those nations whose indigenous citizens have been and continue to be exploited, marginalised and dispossessed.”
Prime Minister Bainimarama also took the opportunity to tell the High Level Segment that there is a reform process underway in Parliament to ratify UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT).
He said that the issue of ratification was currently before Parliament for scrutiny, and that both the Fiji Police Force and the Fiji Military Forces had publicly committed themselves to the implementation of UNCAT.
The Prime Minister said that he was proud to report that the Fijian Parliament had passed a bill in February 2015 to remove the death penalty from the laws governing the military.
The Prime Minister told the Human Rights Council that the death penalty had now been completely removed from Fijian law, “giving credence to section 8 of our Constitution which is the right to life”.
The Prime Minister will be in Geneva till Wednesday conducting bilateral meetings in the margins of the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council.