AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL SLAPS FIJI RACE RECORD

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (RNZI, May 27) - Fiji’s Information Minister, Simione Kaitani, says Amnesty International has misunderstood the human rights situation in the country, by expressing ongoing concerns about the country in its annual report.

The human rights organization says Fiji’s government continues to follow what it describes as a policy of encouraging indigenous dominance over the non-indigenous community.

Amnesty also says that criminal investigations into the coup in 2000 highlight a power struggle and what it called the ongoing problem of impunity for human rights abuses.

But Mr Kaitani finds it hard to accept Amnesty’s concerns and says his government has been very supportive of human rights.

Mr Kaitani cites recent comments by the police commissioner that Fiji is doing far better than other countries in combating crime, especially given the troubles that led to the coup.

"Really, I believe all these various things that have been said they are overstating it. There has been too much failure really in terms of grasping the development that has happened so far in the terms of the political issues that are involved here."Meanwhile, the opposition leader, Mick Beddoes, says the Amnesty report appears to contradict action by the Commonwealth this week in taking Fiji off its watch list.

The 53-nation body acknowledged the "considerable progress" it had made to restore democracy after the coup.

Mr Beddoes says the inconsistency of the international community is unhelpful to those in Fiji who have been working hard to bring the democratic process back.

"Obviously, we are reliant on the international community to support us but more often than not the international community are the first ones to impose sanctions and they are also the first ones to remove it when economic considerations come into play and usually they do that well before things are finalized in the country as the case is in Fiji."

May 27, 2004

Radio New Zealand International: www.rnzi.com

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