India should bat for civil liberties in Fiji, says Opposition leader

A senior political leader of the Pacific island nation of Fiji has asked India to support the country’s movement for civil liberties.

Leader of Fiji’s National Federation Party Prof. Biman Prasad said — at a meeting with The Hindu’s New Delhi bureau — that India should speak up demanding changes in the constitution of Fiji, in the way it has demanded the same in the constitution of Nepal.

“The Fijian constitution brought in 2013 is undemocratic and needs to change the draconian provisions enshrined in Chapter 10, Section 173, which deny civil rights to the minorities and crush press freedom,” Mr. Prasad said during a meeting.

The current Constitution of Fiji, which came after a period (2006-2014) of military rule, is drafted in such a way that it disallows any challenge to the laws passed between December 5, 2006, and October 6, 2014, when the military ruled.

In brief, no new law under the present democratic government of Fiji can restore the rights that existed before the coup. Mr. Prasad said that this has rendered civil liberties captive in the hands of a small military-industrial elite of the country which has monopolised power and refused to share it with minority communities.

“Long prison sentences are certain for minor assertion of freedom under the present constitution.”

Led by Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, Fiji at present has a large section of population that traces its ancestry to the indentured Indian labourers from the colonial era.

Not enough

Mr. Prasad said India has warmed up to Fiji over the years as part of its attempt to reach out to the People of Indian Origin (PIOs) across the world, but it has not encouraged any internal democratic change in Fiji. “The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and other outreach programmes for the girmitiyas [descendants of indentured Indian labourers] bring a good feeling but they do not address issues like denial of rights to the Fijians of Indian origin who will continue to live in the country as they were born there and have prospered there.”

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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 11:47:29 PM |

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