FIJI: Chiefs taking ‘breaches’ of indigenous rights to UN

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MIL OSI Analysis – Pacific Media Watch/Pacific Media Centre

The claims of violations have been supported by chiefs Ro Teimumu Kepa and Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu. Image: Gregory Ravoi/ Republika

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Item: 9231

Sally Round
WELLINGTON (Radio New Zealand International/ Pacific Media Watch): Indigenous chiefs from Fiji are calling on United Nation (UN) experts and agencies to step in over alleged international treaty breaches by the Fiji government.

The claims that indigenous people’s group rights are being violated are contained in a submission signed by the paramount chiefs Ro Teimumu Kepa and Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu.

The submission and a petition are part of a presentation by Fiji non-governmental organisations at the 14th Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the UN’s headquarters in New York taking place over the next fortnight, from April 20.

Niko Nawaikula of the Fiji Native Tribal Congress told Radio New Zealand Interbnational’s Sally Round it was following up on what had already been noted by several UN bodies in the past few years:

NIKO NAWAIKULA: There have been breaches of our group rights by the passing of these decrees and laws that terminated the Great Council of Chiefs, that take away our name that is our intellectual property, that nationalise the administration and the administration’s use and management of native land and that removed the entrenched provision from our constitution that protected the group rights of indigenous people which included laws relating to native land and laws relating to the establishment of the Great Council of Chiefs. So we asserted that in 2012 and the outcome or the concluding observation of that (UN) Human Rights Committee is: yes, these constitute breaches of the permanent and inalienable rights which are recognised in the ILO C169 which Fiji ratified and all of which are reflected in the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Rights, by the fact that number one, those documents require as a right for indigenous groups to be first consulted and give their prior and informed consent before any change in any laws or policies that affect them.

SALLY ROUND: What can be done at this forum? In terms of what you are trying to achieve?

NAWAIKULA:  Well you know how it is with the UN, the UN is not able to do much, but we want to have the UN informed as well as the international community.  We want the UN to, at the very least, remind Fiji as a member state that it had, as every other nation, undertaken to respect and implement the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights and Fiji especially by ratifying ILO convention 169.  Since 2012, since the concerns were noted Fiji has not done anything but in fact has continued with its programme of what it calls mainstreaming to purposely remove the group rights of indigenous people. That’s an aim of this regime to achieve what it calls equality.

ROUND:  So this is mainly to shine a spot light on what you feel are breaches by the Fiji government of indigenous rights?

NAWAIKULA: Correct, because you know, that’s the most the UN can do and it’s the same not only for Fiji, it’s the same for any country.

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Selwyn Manning, BCS (Hons.) MCS (Hons.) is an investigative political journalist with 23 years media experience. He specializes in reportage and analysis of socioeconomics, politics, foreign affairs, and security/intelligence issues.
Selwyn has extensive experience as a commentator and has provided live political analysis to a wide range of television and radio organizations broadcasting in New Zealand, Australia and globally including the BBC (Five Live, London) and BBC (World Service). He is currently a correspondent to Australia’s FiveAA radio, and is a regular live-on-air panelist on Radio New Zealand’s The Panel with broadcaster Jim Mora.

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