22 Jun 2006

Government programmes in Fiji found unconstitutional

7:00 am on 22 June 2006

The Fiji government's affirmative action programmes have been found to be unconstitutional under the country's Social Justice Act.

The Fiji Times reports that this is the finding of the Fiji Human Rights Commission following an investigation prompted by a complaint from the Labour Party, the Citizens Constitutional Forum and the Fiji Teachers Union.

The Commission says unless the government brings the affirmative action programmes into line with the Constitution, it could face legal proceedings for a High Court declaration that they are invalid.

The Commission says the programmes fail to make provision for all who are disadvantaged, particularly ethnic Indians, women and other disadvantaged groups.

It says that the government's justification for the programmes that the rural sector is poorer than the urban sector and that most indigenous Fijians live in rural areas is seriously flawed.

The Human Rights Commission says in fact the poorest households in rural areas are Indian.