Fiji Attorney-General Blames Inequality For Past Unrest

Sayed-Khaiyum tells National Consultation audience ‘something must be wrong in Fiji’

By Losalini Bolatagici

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, June 16, 2016) – Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says something must be wrong in Fiji — a country where there had been three coups and the fourth removal of government — in terms of inequality.

In his speech at the National Consultation on Reducing Inequality, he said one would argue and one would say that it is systematic or perhaps inequality exists within society itself.

He said this in reference to the welcoming and opening speeches by the United Nation's Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)'s Patrik Anderson and ESCAP head of Pacific Office Iosefa Maiava, saying that inequality could somehow lead to social unrest.

"I think inequality has a fundamental aspect to it and that is to do with aspects of your legal rights, right to legal advice, your ability to be legally treated equally like everyone else in society and the ability to have recourse if there is some form of breach of those rights," Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

"And that is very critical as both speakers have spoken about that when you have inequality, it does lead or can lead to social unrest.

"A country where we've had three coups and then we had the fourth removal of government, one would argue and one would say that something must be fundamentally wrong or systematic or perhaps inequality exists within society itself.

"Some people, however, when they do carry out analysis of inequality in Fiji without regard to that very fundamental issues so they will simply just talk about wage rate, they will simply talk about wage to be increased or VAT needs to be gotten rid of or the price of goods must come down. As we know in society, things don't operate in isolation, everything is connected."

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the International Monetary Funds (IMF) reported that inequality levels in Fiji dropped compared with what it was back in 2008 and 2009 as opposed to 2013 and 2014 and the same household income survey showed that poverty levels in Fiji dropped.

"We believe that it has dropped. What I am saying is that inequality has a lot more fundamental issues than that. Not completely about measurement, but your ability to enforce inequality and that is very critical — that is why we have a constitution that talks about many social economic rights that was not in any other constitution," he said.

Fiji Times Online.
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