15 Mar 2005

Fiji vice-president urges to consider land tenure in peace moves

8:19 am on 15 March 2005

Fiji's new vice president has warned that instability will always be a problem in the country if the fear and insecurity of indigenous Fijians over their land and culture is not integrated into peace initiatives.

The Fiji Times reports that Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi made the comment when he opened the Fiji National Consultations on Global Partnerships for the Prevention of Armed Conflicts.

Ratu Joni has urged the participants to bear in mind the fears and insecurities of the indigenous people when formulating initiatives to deflect future conflicts.

Ratu Joni says while he does not share these, he is "sufficiently Fijian to appreciate the depth of these emotions."

He says such fears are irrational because indigenous Fijians have nothing to fear.

This is because "most of the land is theirs and cannot be alienated.".

As well, "they comprise more than half the population and their customary and traditional rights are protected by the Constitution."

Nevertheless, Ratu Joni says, "Fijians are fearful and insecure because they fear losing their identity, language, tradition and culture."

He says "if this is not understood and assuaged, instability will be Fiji's constant companion,"