31 Jul 2002

Fiji NGO wants government minister disciplined for racist remarks

10:33 am on 31 July 2002

Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, has been told to discipline his cabinet ministers for racism.

The call follows comments in parliament by the minister for women and social welfare, Adi Asenaca Caucau, likening ethnic Indians to weeds who took over the land and telling the Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, he had no business living in Fiji.

The Citizens Constitutional Forum says Mr Qarase should have the moral courage of Fiji's first prime minister, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, and discipline his ministers for making racist remarks.

The CCFs chair, the Rev Akuila Yabaki, says Ratu Sir Kamisese had expelled one of his ministers, Sakeasi Butadroka, and when he repeated his remarks outside parliament Mr Butadroka was charged under the Public Order Act and jailed.

The Rev Yabaki says Mr Qarase should not condone statements in parliament that constitute an offense if spoken publicly outside.

He says political criticism cannot justify descending to the level of racially derogatory remarks that arouse ill-feeling and insecurity among communities.

And the SVT leader, Filipe Bole, says Adi Asenaca has no right to tell people who criticise Fiji to leave the country.

The leader of the United General Party, Mick Beddoes, says such statements do not help the reconciliation process.

Mr Qarase has not commented but several of his other ministers have also made racist comments in the current and previous sessions of parliament.