3 Aug 2002

Fiji minister unrepentant about comments on Indo-Fijians

9:54 am on 3 August 2002

Fiji's minister for women and social welfare has struck back at criticism of comments she made in parliament.

Adi Asenaca Caucau likened Indo-Fijians to weeds taking up too much space during a speech in parliament this week.

The Fiji Women's Crisis Centre and other NGOs have called for her to apologize and resign.

The leader of the United General Party, Mick Beddoes, says that misguided people who spout racisim and hatred while calling themselve Christians, are possesed by the devil.

But Ms Caucau says the various organisations are apolitical and should not be commenting.

And she says Mr Beddoes has no credibility in her eyes.

"Who is he...he may be a member of the Opposition who is saying he has some roots in Fiji and claiming he is Fijian, but we do not consider him as such... so it doesn't matter to me, but the thing is we respect the views of people, however when they try to point political fingers and make comments we won't even give it a second thought ...I have every right..I am a daughter of a chief in my country."

Adi Asenaca Caucau

Meanwhile, the National Council of Women has added its voice to those calling for Ms Caucau to be disciplined.

The Council, which is the umbrella body for 32 women's organisations in the country, says Ms Caucau should be sensitive to all races in Fiji.

The prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, has told parliament that the minister will not be disciplined.

Mr Qarase says Labour Party parliamentarians are also making racist comments such as that by Anand Babla who had said that Fiji had been cursed with indgenous leadership.

The prime minister said Mr Babla's comments were a gropss insult to the indigenous community who believed it was time to make a stand.