Fijians called to build a ‘Caring Country’

The Fijian government has urged its people to report any human rights violations to the relevant authorities.

Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama made the appeal speaking at the opening ceremony of COP 24, the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

He said that Fijians needed to commit themselves and protect the basic rights and dignity of everyone.

These rights are enshrined in the 2013 Constitution, he said.

Protecting the vulnerable

With abuses in the country being highlighted by human rights groups, Mr Bainimarama called on Fijians to build a more caring country.

“We all need to go beyond and above the call of duty to afford a level of care and concern for all members of our society especially those who are most vulnerable – including women and children and the elderly – and those Fijians living with disabilities.”

Mr Bainimarama told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last week that Fiji would use its membership of the body to champion global recognition of the universal right to a safe and healthy environment.

Fiji’s record was questioned by human rights groups prior to its election to the UN council last October.

Amnesty International claim

A week out from Fiji’s general election last year, Amnesty International called on the government to tackle the country’s failing human rights protections.

Amnesty spokeswoman Roshika Deo said that security forces continued to torture people, media workers were harassed for doing their job and women were shamed and harassed for calling out violence and discrimination against them.

“We had reports of torture and death in police custody and in remand centres. Freedom of expression is criminalised in Fiji. There is an increasing use of sedition and other criminal provisions to arrest and attack the media.”

Fiji recently ratified the UN convention against torture.

As reported in our February 15, 2019 issue, Mr Bainimarama has said that Fiji’s Constitution explicitly prohibits torture in its Bill of Rights.

“Every person has the right to freedom from torture of any kind, physical, mental and emotional; and from cruel, inhumane, degrading or disproportionately severe treatment or punishment,” he said, speaking at the High-Level Regional Seminar on the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) in the Pacific on Wednesday, February 6, 2019 in Natadola.

Every person has the right to security of the person, which includes the right to be free from any form of violence from any source, at home, school, work or in any other place, he said.

Manifestation everywhere

“All too often, we see violence rear its ugly head in the places where we are meant to feel most safe: Our homes, our workplaces, and our schools. The fact that this type of behaviour is manifest at all levels of our society indicates a larger problem –– a culture of violence, and a passive acceptance of it that needs to be uprooted,” Mr Bainimarama said.

His views were later reinforced by Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum during his address to the delegates.

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Frank Bainimarama (AFP Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto)

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