22 Mar 2006

Fiji PM asked to apologise for alleged racist comments

6:54 pm on 22 March 2006

The Pacific Centre for Public Integrity has called on Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, to publicly apologise for alleged racist comments made by him on a cabinet tour of the Rewa province.

Radio Legend says a coalition of NGO's including the Fiji Women's Rights Movement has written an open letter to Mr Qarase raising its concern about his comments.

Mr Qarase is alleged to have said that only an indigenous Fijian prime minister, not an Indian prime minister, would understand the concerns of the Fijian people.

The NGOs say the comments are in breach of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race.

They have asked Mr Qarase to withdraw his statements and make a public apology.

But Mr Qarase says the reaction from the NGOs is shocking and he does not have to apologise for his comments because there is no justification for doing so.

Mr Qarase says the comments have been taken out of context and what he said in Rewa was totally different from the perception of the NGOs.