29 Aug 2013

Fiji indigenous rights breached by constitution, says high chiefs' lawyer

1:20 pm on 29 August 2013

A representative of Fiji's High Chiefs says the country's new constitution is the last straw in a long list of manifest breaches of indigenous rights which will again be brought up at the United Nations.

The high chiefs' lawyer, Niko Nawaikula, says they are disappointed and unhappy the rights to customary land and limited self-autonomy have not been entrenched as in Fiji's previous constitutions.

Mr Nawaikula says despite being cautioned at the UN Human Rights Committee last year, the government has ignored group rights in the constitution and is in breach of international conventions, which Fiji has ratified.

He says the provisions protecting indigenous people's land came only after the military raised concerns.

"There's a small concession there where it says the property rights of native Fijians will be protected but that's a fundamental right. That's nothing new. That's a small concession to give lip service. What we are talking about here is group rights, the right to identity. Those have been totally removed."

Niko Nawaikula says he is working on a report for a UN supervisory body on indigenous rights next month.