31 Aug 2005

Fiji's feudal systems keeping indigenous people in poverty, claims opposition

9:10 am on 31 August 2005

Fiji's opposition leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, says outdated feudal systems of control which practise double standards are keeping ordinary indigenous Fijians poor.

Mr Chaudhry says at the same time a large number of chiefs and indigenous elites continue to substantially increase their wealth at the expense of their poor subjects.

The Fiji Times reports that Mr Chaudhry's comments follow the prime minister Laisenia Qarase's statement to Commonwealth parliamentarians gathered in Fiji that western democracy is an alien concept to indigenous Fijians.

Laisenia Qarase told the Commonwealth MPs that indigenous Fijians have a hierarchical social structure in which chiefs are at the very apex by virtue of their birth and rank, and the rest have a communal function.

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

But Mr Chaudhry says Fiji cannot shirk its responsibilities in international law under the guise of different sets of rules for different peoples in society.

He says the rule of law must apply equally to everyone irrespective of class and social status, adding that it is the equality application that is the bulwark of modern democracies.