20 Aug 2002

Fiji PM spells out democracy the Fijian way

10:46 am on 20 August 2002

Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, says indigenous Fijians prefer ethnic voting under which they can choose candidates from their own community or province.

Mr Qarase says this might not be consistent with the politically correct precepts of democracy, but it fits in with Fijian precepts of communal democracy.

A Daily Post report quotes him as saying it draws its strength from the indigenous emphasis on group activity within an hierarchical social structure led by traditional chiefs who represent continuity, tradition, social order and unity.

The prime minister says in this context group rights are more important than individual rights.

He says to a western liberal democrat Fiji's system was a throwback to feudalism and was anachronistic and autocratic.

Mr Qarase says this sort of thinking would prefer to reduce chiefs to political irrelevance in the interests of equality, civil liberties and democratic rights.

He says indigenous Fijians believe that chiefs have legitimate customary power and are the basis of their collective identity and culture.