23 Apr 2015

Delegation defends Fiji's treatment of iTaukei

12:56 pm on 23 April 2015

A Fijian government delegation has told a UN meeting that the rights of indigenous people of Fiji are in no way under threat.

UN building New York

United Nations headquarters, New York Photo: 123RF

The 14th session of Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is currently underway at the UN Headquarters in New York.

Indigenous chiefs from Fiji are calling on the UN to step in over international treaty breaches by the government and as part of a presentation by Fiji NGOs, claim indigenous people's rights are being violated.

But the Permanent Mission's First Secretary, Gene Bai, advised the Forum that the iTaukei are firmly in control of their destiny.

The Forum heard that the iTaukei enjoy full rights to land, culture, institutions and religion, with all these rights protected within the 2013 Constitution and the nation's laws and regulations.

He says Fiji's 2013 Constitution is consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

He explained that for the first time, the Constitution's Bill of Rights sets out the right to a fair share of royalties for the landowners of any minerals found under their land or under the seabed in which they have customary fishing rights.

Mr Bai told the gathering that around 90 percent of all land in Fiji is owned by the indigenous people through customary ownership and can't be permanently alienated from them.

He reported the Fijian Government had implemented policies and laws that establish a common and equal citizenry; reaffirm civil, political and cultural rights; and as such, guarantee the social and economic rights of the iTaukei.