2 Sep 2002

Government politicians told to be more responsible in what they say in parliament

5:24 pm on 2 September 2002

The Director of Fiji's Human Rights Commission has criticised the politicians who have recently made racist comments against Indo-Fijians as irresponsible.

Dr Shaista Shameem says the comments stifle attempts by government agencies and NGOs to improve race relations between Indo-Fijians and indigenous Fijians.

This comes as an advisor to the UN Commissioner for Human Rights has called on politicians not to abuse parliamentary privilege by making racial remarks, because this could lead to violence.

A Senator had called for the observance of Hindu celebrations in Fiji to be abolished while a cabinet minster had recently compared Indians to weeds.

Dr Shameem says racist comments do not reflect the general sentiment of their constitutients.

"By expressing those things in parliament doesn't mean that they're actually doing any good in the country and I am not convinced that that's in fact what the voters think. My information is that the voters are very sensible people because they all live with other communities in the villages and in the suburbs, so far from being a sort of a widespread view at the grass roots level it seems to me that it's something the politicians like to perpetuate every now and then"

Dr Shaista Shameem from Fiji's Human Rights Commission