Human Rights Day – 10 December 2009
Theme: Embracing Diversity, End
The concept of protecting individual and group human rights
is not new. In fact, most ancient civilizations and religions
were based on respect for human rights.
However, it was in the aftermath of the horrors of World
War II that the world as a community recognized that there
was a casual connection between respect for human dignity
That recognition lead to the innovative provisions of the
United Nations Charter, drafted in San Francisco and
commencing in Article I, with a statement that respect for
Human Rights was the primary vehicle for achieving the
purposes of the United Nations.
Followed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
and thereafter by a host of other covenants and
conventions, the basic premise of all human rights
recognition, is that “All human beings are born free and
equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason
and conscience and should act towards each other in a
spirit of brotherhood”.
From this simple declaration of equality, came commitments
to protect the rights of minorities, of women, of children, of
victims of genocide, of refugees, of the marginalized of
prisoners, and of those who are victims of racial
Fiji is a signatory of these human rights instruments.
However, it is not enough for a country to sign or ratify
human rights instruments.
Most important for the lives of ordinary people, is the
implementation of the principles of the Conventions through
changes in national laws and in community attitudes.
Despite Fiji being a signatory to the Convention on the
Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, our criminal
laws hither to until this year, have failed to effectively
provide laws to protect the thousands of women who are
victims of domestic violence.
Nor, did those criminal laws, define rape as a non-gender
specific offence, capable of being committed on males and
females. Nor have our laws contained offences of sexual
servitude, crimes against humanity, war crimes and rape as
a form of genocide.
Nor have our laws contained provisions for the taking of
evidence from the vulnerable, such as the very young and
the very old. Nor have our laws contained offences of the
trafficking of women and children for sexual or labour
Nor have our laws abolished the discriminatory law of
corroboration in sexual cases, or the laws which allow
lawyers and judges to question rape victims about their
previous sexual history.
All of these laws have been approved by the Bainimarama
Government under the Crimes Decree, the Criminal
Procedure Decree and the Domestic Violence Decree. All
are consistent with Fiji’s international obligations under
human rights conventions, signed years ago, but never
implemented by previous governments.
And that is not all.
The Bainimarama Government is committed to eradicating
all forms of racial/ethnic discrimination from our statute
books and from government policies and regulations.
Fiji has had an anguished political history based on racial
inequality and marginalization, which in turn has led to
institutionalized racism. Fiji has seen the absence of
common and equal citizenry.
It is time for us to turn a page on the past and to move
together to face the future, shoulder to shoulder, as equals.
As human beings “born free and equal in dignity and
rights…endowed with reason and conscience…in a spirit of
The Government under the Prime Ministership of
Commodore Bainimarama is committed to building a future
based on equality and respect for human rights.
This commitment by the Bainimarama Government will lead
to substantive peace and justice, not just the uneasy peace
of a generation brought up to believe in the evils of
communalism, and of religious fundamentalism and
On this day, Human Rights Day, we again commit to a
nation and to a world based on the principles of the United
Nations Charter, and in particular, to a future based on
promoting, encouraging, respecting and understanding
human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without
distinction as to race/ethnicity, gender, language or religion.