7 Sep 2005

Fiji opposition leader moots suspension from Commonwealth if reconciliation bill becomes law

10:26 am on 7 September 2005

Fiji's opposition leader has asked the Commonwealth to suspend Fiji if the government passes its controversial Reconciliation and Unity Bill into law.

The Daily Post quotes Mahendra Chaudhry as saying Fiji cannot have a Bill that is an endorsement for terrorism.

Mr Chaudhry says he has met with the Commonwealth secretary general, Don McKinnon, to discuss the Bill and racial discrimination against ethnic Indians and other minority groups.

Mr Chaudhry says the emphasis on race and difference of culture, religion and place of origin in the political discourse in Fiji is a colonial heritage that the government has not done much to tone down.

He says the government's commitment to the 1997 Constitution is weak because it has come to power by appealing to racial solidarity.

As well, he says the government is practising racial discrimination in violation of the Constitution with the sole purpose of buying votes.

On next year's general election, Mr Chaudhry says he has asked the Commonwealth to send a team of observers with a working knowledge of Fiji's electoral system who would have access to polling as well as counting centres.

Mr Chaudhry says as opposition leader, he has a duty to communicate to the heads of international bodies serious issues of national interest.