29 Jul 2002

Government's affirmative action based on myth says opposition leader

2:16 pm on 29 July 2002

Fiji's opposition leader, Prem Singh, say the Qarase government's ethnic approach in its affirmative action policies is based on the myth that ethnic Indians are affluent and indigenous Fijians poor.

He says the myth has been reapeated so often that many people believe it to be true.

Mr Singh was speaking at the National Federation Party's annual meeting at Nadi in the weekend.

He says the real divide in Fiji is between rich and poor people, not what is perceived as rich Indians and poor Fijians.

Mr Singh says there are some rich Indians just as there are some rich Fijians.

He says there have been only two credible studies of poverty in Fiji and both have shown that there are more serious and more glaring inequalities between rich and poor Indians and rich and poor Fijians.

Mr Singh says poverty will not be removed by positive discrimination for one ethnic group against another.

He says this approach ignores the huge imbalances created in areas where the indigenous people dominate such the civil service, the army, statutory organisations and the NLTB.

The opposition leader has also called for compensation for victims of the May 2000 coup, saying there can be no meaningful reconciliation unless this is done.