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Indo-Fijians decry PM's racism

Fiji PM Qarase allegedly made a racist remark that has sparked protest from civil groups.

india Updated: Mar 23, 2006 16:25 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

Police here are investigating a case of an alleged racist remark by Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.

According to a report in the Fiji Times newspaper, the complaint was filed by the Pacific Centre for Public Integrity (PCPI).

Qarase allegedly made the comment on television during the cabinet tour of Rewa last week. Rewa, though the smallest of Fiji's provinces, is a powerful province for both political and traditional reasons.

The report quoted him as saying that only a Fijian prime minister could understand the concerns of the Fijian people.

According to the report, PCPI director Angie Heffernan said they had accessed the video archives of Fiji Television and viewed the footage shot last weekend. Heffernan said many other civil society groups had shown their concern towards Qarase's statement.

"The groups have called on the prime minister to withdraw his comment and to publicly apologise to the Fiji-Indian community and the nation for his racist statements," the report quoted Heffernan as saying.

People of Indian origin comprise around 43 per cent of Fiji's population of over 890,000.

Qarase acknowledged receiving the letter from the NGOs Wednesday but would not comment further, the report said.

Heffernan alleged that Qarase's comments breached the Bill of Rights and the Public Order Act. Section 28 of the Bill of Rights prohibits discrimination on the ground of race while Section 17 of the Public Order Act prohibits any statement that can incite racial dislike and hatred of any race and community or promote feeling of enmity or ill-will between different races and communities.

Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes said he had referred the complaint to the Criminal Investigations Department, which would assess it, the report added.

First Published: Mar 23, 2006 16:25 IST