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By Irene Manueli

SUVA. Fiji Islands (October 12, 1998 - Fiji Times/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Fiji's National Federation Party has condemned the principal licensing authority's policy on issuing taxi permits as racist and "against the spirit of the new Constitution," the Fiji Times reports.

"While I support the Government policy to encourage more Fijians into the taxi business, I, however, feel that this is unjust and a racist policy," said NFP parliamentarian Maan Singh.

"Why do Indians have to suffer if Fijians do not apply for taxi permits?"

He suggests that applications should be open to all races and that preference be given to Fijian applicants "in areas where there are no Fijian taxi proprietors."

Mr. Singh was reacting to an advertisement in the newspapers.

The advertisement by the Head of the Department of the Road Transport, Inia Tamani, said taxi permits would only be issued to Fijian applicants "until the Fijian permit ownership reaches 2,000."

Currently, the ethnic distribution of taxi permits are: 2,285 to Indians, 1,756 to Fijians and 205 to others.

The advertisement said the criteria were in line with a Government decision, made in 1994, "to help Fijian participation and proprietorship in the taxi industry by increasing taxi permit ownership to 2,000 to be relatively at par with Indian taxi ownership."

However, Mr. Singh argued that Indians do not have "that big an advantage in taxi permits when compared to other races," because Indians had 2,285 taxi permits, while other races held 1,961 permits.

Mr. Singh also questioned why the Government chose to talk about parity only in regard to taxi permits.

"Why doesn't the Government bring parity in the Police Force, Army, scholarships, nurses, tourism industry, and so forth?" he said.

The Fiji Times condemned the discrimination in an editorial today.

"The people are just getting into the rhythm of enjoying life under a more acceptable Constitution when an ugly reminder of the past catches up," the paper said.

"And it's all Government's doing. Those in power are still clinging to economic policies which discriminate on race, totally going against the spirit of the new Constitution."

Title -- 1758 ECONOMY: Fiji taxi permit policy slammed as 'racist'

Date -- 12 October 1998 Byline -- Irene Manueli Origin --

Source -- Fiji Times, 12/10/98 Copyright -- FT Status -- Unabridged This document is for educational and personal use only. Recipients should seek permission from the copyright source before reprinting. PASIFIK NIUS service is provided by the niusedita via the Journalism Program, University of the South Pacific. Please acknowledge Pasifik Nius:

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