PACIFIC HUMAN RIGHTS IN GOOD SHAPE

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 27, 2000 - Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat)---The human rights situation in the Pacific is generally good, but steps should be taken to control potential problems developing in the Melanesian part of the region.

That’s according to the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Movement.

Lopeti Senituli of the Suva-based Pacific Concerns Resource Centre, the NFIP's secretariat, said the U.S. State Department's annual review of human rights practices in the region is fair and accurate.

But he said the reports indicate some problems in regions with rising levels of ethnic tension, including Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

"Although the human rights situation in the Pacific is generally good, we should take precautions to prevent it from going from good to bad and worse," Senituli said in an interview with Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat.

"It is a problem of government in the sense that policies and programs are not geared to created a semblance of equitable distribution of the country’s opportunities and wealth," he said

Senituli noted that only three countries in the Pacific have standing armies and those without armies have police forces that are not armed.

The challenge for any country with an unarmed police force, he said, is to remain demilitarized.

"For example, the Samoan police force is almost only effective in Apia and in its confines," he said. "Outside of Apia, it’s the village fono or traditional matai system that takes over."

For additional reports from Radio Australia/Pacific Beat, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia/Pacific Beat.

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