5 Mar 2019

Rabuka attacks Fiji PM's human rights claims

3:27 pm on 5 March 2019

Fiji's opposition leader Sitiveni Rabuka has accused the country's prime minister of making false claims to the UN Human Rights Council.

Fiji's SODELPA leader, Sitiveni Rabuka.

Fiji's SODELPA leader, Sitiveni Rabuka. Photo: RNZ / Koroi Hawkins

Mr Rabuka said rather than being a champion for human rights, Frank Bainimarama's government has oppressed them since taking power in the 2006 coup.

Mr Bainimarama addressed the council last week, his first speech to the Geneva-based body since Fiji was elected to the council last year.

His speech boasted of Fiji's progress on human rights but Mr Rabuka said the claims were far from the truth and were rather an expensive delusion created by the public relations consultancy Qorvis.

Mr Rabuka pointed to indigenous landowners being deprived of their birthright over leases, threats to environmental and human rights activists and a number of laws which limited human rights.

He said nine years of economic growth had only benefitted a select few and people were becoming dependent on handouts.

"The reality is that, more and more Fijians are facing hardship due to the lack of employment opportunities, the high cost of living, inefficient and poor medical services, failure of the education system responding to the demand of the labor market and dilapidated infrastructure," Mr Rabuka said.

The opposition politician says civil servants work in an atmosphere of fear after grievance procedures were abolished and he described a lack of commitment to transparency and independence in various state bodies.

"The Human Rights Commission was created by Decree and does not meet the UN standards for an independent human rights institution (Paris Principles). The Commission exists mainly to defend the government against criticism at home and to be part of the government delegations to the UN Human Rights bodies because of its lack of independence," he said.

Mr Rabuka also pointed to the continued torture and death of citizens in state custody.

"[They] make Fiji unsuitable to join the Core Group of the Convention Against Torture aimed at encouraging more ratification of the Torture Convention," Mr Rabuka said.

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