24 Jan 2007

Fiji's Roman Catholic Archbishop attacks attitude of New Zealand and Australian governments

11:18 am on 24 January 2007

The Roman Catholic Church of Fiji has hit out at New Zealand and Australian government reactions to events in the country since the ousting of the Qarase government.

The head of the church, Archbishop Petero Mataca, says it has taken countries like New Zealand and Australia hundreds of years, some of which involved structural racism, civil war, the cruel suppression of indigenous people and the denial of universal suffrage to get a system of democratic governance that they felt comfortable with.

Archbishop Mataca says the least Fiji can expect of these countries is their understanding of the situation in his country.

He says it is this lack of understanding of the dynamics of the Fiji situation and the New Zealand and Australian governments' refusal to recognize the legitimate appointment of the interim administration that is shallow and regrettable.

Archbishop Mataca says even before Fiji's own legal experts could declare on the legality or otherwise of the appointment of the interim government, the New Zealand and Australian governments had pronounced it illegal.

He says this is condescending and a throwback to colonial times.

Archbishop Mataca says some people in Fiji who courageously upheld the rule of law and democracy since 1987 have a different view of the latest coup in the belief that democracy was abused and circumvented long before the military ousted the Qarase government.

Archbishop Mataca says the Catholic Church believes that a democratic framework that upholds human dignity and equality, people's rights and responsibilities, the common good and the protection of minorities must be absolute in people's consciousness.

He says any policy, legislation or system that affronts a significant proportion of Fiji's population is indefensible.