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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Sept. 7) - Fiji is yet to fully recognize and appreciate the concepts of human rights and rule of law, says Vice President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi.

Opening the Commonwealth Parliamentary conference in Nadi yesterday, Ratu Joni said local society was in transition after the political upheaval of May 2000.

Ratu Joni told more than 500 delegates from 51 countries that the rights of every citizen were enshrined in the constitution and the country was working towards a fair and just society.

But he said that there was no assurance that the challenges of democracy could be solved definitively.

Ratu Joni said democracy was developing in the country.

He said with the general elections due in September next year, the journey was finally complete but there was much to be done.

He said the fears and insecurity in the majority of the indigenous population needed to be carefully and sensitively managed.

"This has to be balanced with the need and interest of the other ethnic community especially the Indo Fijians whose contribution to the development of our nation is immeasurable."

"The critical element in this equation is developing inclusiveness that envelopes all these competing priorities in a manner that is fair to all."

"Without it we risk remaining a divided society all the more tragic for having unfulfilled our potential."

"Inclusiveness is disguised by the ability to offer a sometimes disturbed community a vision of themselves and the means to achieve it together."

"It is easy to decry the nature of ethnic politics in this country."

"We are hostages to history and the ethnic compartmentalization that began in the colonial era."

"All our communities have to make the effort to reach out to each other rather than waiting passively for gestures that may never be made."

"We need to write our stories and sing our songs together not necessarily in unison or in tune but in a way that makes space for all of us.’

"However social integration cannot be forced and not proceed at the pace that the community considers uncomfortable."

"Relationships between our ethnic communities are generally good but we need to continue weaving connections to the point where they are interwoven and unbreakable," said Ratu Joni.

Ratu Joni declared the five-day meeting open on behalf of President Ratu Josefa Iloilo who is away overseas for medical treatment.

September 8, 2005

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