“Racial intolerance continues to divide our nation and has been one of the main causes of the social and political conflict that has disrupted Fiji. In this instrumental year of elections, let our nation be reconciled and move forward to a united Fiji,” said CCF in a news release.
The news release was in the form of an open letter signed by the Rev. Akuila Yabaki, CCF’s chief executive officer. Yabaki is also chairperson of the WACC Pacific region.
However, wrote Yabaki, there have been positive steps. “For the first time in Fiji’s history, we have removed race-based voting. We have removed reservations to the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination and are now fully accountable to our international obligations under the Convention,” he said.
Fiji has introduced a Bill of Rights that enshrines the right to equality and freedom from discrimination and the nation is able “to celebrate a common and equal citizenry, a secular state and proportional representation,” Yabaki wrote.
However, challenges still lie ahead. Rights must be protected and promoted, without limitation, and the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission must be strengthened, he said. “CCF calls on the political, religious and civil society leaders of Fiji to support reconciliation amongst communities and condemn racial discrimination and intolerance,” he wrote.
The letter notes that the world is commemorating the first Day since the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela, who successfully opposed the race-based apartheid system in that country. The Day pays tribute to the 1960 Sharpeville massacre in which 69 people were killed by police at a peaceful protest against apartheid.
“Today, let us recognize the threat of racial discrimination in Fiji, defend the rich diversity in our society and celebrate Fiji as a united nation,” the letter concludes.