30 Aug 2005

Western democracy alien to Fiji, says premier Qarase

8:24 am on 30 August 2005

Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, says the Western concept of democracy is still alien to indigenous Fijians.

The Daily Post reports that Mr Qarase made the comment at a workshop for Commonwealth parliamentarians in Nadi.

Mr Qarase has called on the international community to understand how indigenous Fijians view western democracy.

He says the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, vesting every individual with equal rights, is directly opposed to the hierarchical social structure of indigenous Fijians.

He says chiefs are at the very apex by virtue of their birth and rank - the rest have a communal function in this hierarchy.

He says he has been surprised at how many people - mostly from overseas - have had difficulty in understanding this.

Mr Qarase says this is why some very experienced governments were unable to comprehend the nature of Fiji's problems during the coups and urged solutions which reflected dangerously simplistic Western perspectives.