6 Oct 2004

Fiji prime minister defends affirmative action progammes

11:11 am on 6 October 2004

Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, says indigenous Fijians "do not want to be seen as a master race."

Mr Qarase has told parliament that just because he is a Fijian, he does not see himself as better than a person from any other ethnic group.

As well, Mr Qarase says he has no animosity towards Indian citizens or any other group.

However, Mr Qarase says indigenous Fijians do not want to follow the footsteps of other indigenous people who have been marginalised and dispossessed because there are only 430-thousand Fijians in the world.

Mr Qarase was speaking in defence of his government's affirmative action programmes for indigenous Fijians which have been widely criticised as racially discriminatory

He says the attempt to depict affirmative action as a manifestation of indigenous rights or a doctrine of ethnic exclusivity is destructive.

He says this has the potential to trigger greater resentment and anger, and widen the gulf between Fiji's communities.