Academic Urges Need To Balance Ethnic Relations In Fiji

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Naidu says certain sectors dominated by indigenous Fijians

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, April 10, 2013) – A new report on Fiji's inter-ethnic relations says decrees and constitutional clauses for equality are not enough to force change in the country.

Professor Vijay Naidu is the author of the report released by London-based Minority Rights Group and Fiji's Citizens' Constitutional Forum.

He has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat steps need to be taken to end the i-Taukei domination of institutions, including police, military and the public service.

"You talk about institutions, you know our Fiji military is still 99 percent ethnic Fijian," he said. "Over the last six, seven years, that composition has not changed at all."

"In the public sector you have a predominance of ethnic Fijians, both generally and at the upper echelons where up to 90 percent are filled by ethnic Fijians."

Mr. Naidu says the necessary change could take up to 10 to 20 years to achieve and is dependent on political will.

"One of the interviewees said you can't decree these things from the top, that it's likely to take some time before an ethnically blind society can be established here," he said.

However, he says there have been some positive developments and the country has by no means remained "static."

"There have been numerous changes," he said. "We no longer have ethnically exclusive schools... there's no open assertion of ethnic exclusivity with respect to the educational institutions from primary school upwards."

Mr. Naidu is hoping the report, Fiji: The Challenges And Opportunities For Diversity, and its recommendations will inform the interim government's approach to policy-making.

"What we want to do is provide evidence for policy making," he said. "Often policies are made with no reference to any evidence that might be available."

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