16 Mar 2012

Fiji's indigenous people too afraid to speak out against erosion of rights

2:36 pm on 16 March 2012

A Fiji solicitor who has addressed the United Nations on the erosion of indigenous rights in his country says itaukei or indigenous people are too afraid to speak out.

The comment follows the interim prime minister's announcement this week of decrees that will abolish the Great Council of Chiefs.

Nikolau Nawaikula says under UN law a government cannot amend legislation pertaining to the council without the consent of the indigenous people.

He says the regime in Fiji has done almost everything possible to erode indigenous rights but itaukei remain silent.

"Because they don't want to get hurt. They have employment. Most of them are employed by the government. Most of them are related to the military people. They don't want to raise their head for fear of repercussions and that's happened and that is the situation. They're waiting for after the election happens when there is total freedom and liberty and they can say something."

Nikolau Nawaikula says the council's abolition will be one of the issues he raises at the UN later this year.

He says itaukei's only hope of taking a formal legal case to the UN is if New Zealand, Australia or another bigger country are prepared to provide backing.