CHANDRIKA PRASAD: THE MAN BEHIND THE FIJI APPEAL CASE - WHO IS HE?

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By Shameel Prasad

SUVA, Fiji Islands (February 20, 2001 – Fiji Sun/Pasifik Nius)---The respondent in Fiji’s constitutional case, Muainaweni farmer Chandrika Prasad, feels confident he will attain another victory when the Fiji Court of Appeal finally makes a ruling on Justice Anthony Gates’ decision to uphold the 1997 multiracial constitution, the Fiji Sun reports.

Flanked by Fiji Human Rights Commission officials, internal refugee Prasad, who does not speak "a word of English," was in a pensive mood yesterday as he reflected on the reasons why he took the interim government to court.

Human rights officials did not want him to speak to the media.

So much so that they have appointed former University of the South Pacific lecturer Sudesh Mishra to be his public relations officer.

Mishra said that Prasad only attained three years of basic primary school education.

Prasad, 62, currently resides at a refugee camp at Lautoka with his three children, who before the events of May 19 lived and farmed with him in Muainiweni in Naitasiri, near Suva on the main island of Viti Levu.

When asked about how it feels to be a respondent in the biggest case in the history of Fiji, if not the South Pacific, a teary eyed Prasad said: "How can I put my feelings to words?"

"I lost everything when violence and looting broke out in the tranquil Muainaweni farming community. My family lost everything. Our belongings, farm animals and livestock, crops... everything was taken away from me. I did not have a bowl to drink tea in."

Prasad said he wanted to fight his case for the many families of Muainaweni, who lost their belongings as a result of the political upheaval on May last year when houses were set on fire, farms raided, farm animals slaughtered, and household items and farming equipment carted away.

There were also cases of physical assault on residents.

Crimes were committed without fear of prosecution, Prasad said.

Prasad said toiling the land of Muainaweni for the past four decades was painstaking and being forced out of their homes after all these years was very sad and "mentally disturbing."

A stockily built Prasad described the post-May 19 coup experience as one in which "civilization had come to an end" in a community that boasted a previously harmonious co-existence between ethnic Indians and indigenous Fijians.

Prasad has three sons aged between 28 and 34.

He has been a farmer all his life and had planted mainly dalo (taro) and other cash crops for export.

Prasad took the interim regime to court arguing that no administration could take away his fundamental human right to equality, as enshrined in the 1997 constitution.

He claimed that the 1997 constitution remained in place, effectively safeguarding his right to be free from unfair discrimination.

Title -- 3215 FIJI: The man behind the constitutional case Date -- 20 February 2001 Byline -- Shameel Prasad Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- Fiji Sun, 20/2/1 Copyright -- Fiji Sun Status -- Unabridged

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