11 Mar 2003

Un Committee begins hearing into racial situation in Fiji

10:45 am on 11 March 2003

A United Nations committee begins a two-day investigation today into allegations of racial discrimination in Fiji.

The probe by the Geneva-based UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination or CERD follows allegations of widespread racial discrimination by the National Farmers Union and the 15-member NGO Coalition on Human Rights.

The secretary of the National Farmers Union, Mahendra Chaudhry, is quoted as saying the Fiji government's report to the UN Committee is a gross misrepresentation and distortion of facts.

He says it is an attempt to camouflage its discriminatory policies in public service appointments and promotions, denial of access to affirmative action programmes for Indians and other minority races, and denial of equal education opportunities.

Mr Chaudhry also says the government's poverty alleviation programmes are racially discriminatory.

He says more than 4-thousand ethnic Indian farmers have been displaced as a result of policies engineered by the Native Lands Trust Board and supported by the SDL government.