Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Corruption Rife in Fiji

Beddoes calls for Shameem's removal

Thursday, March 13, 2008

THE United States report on human rights in Fiji paints a relatively accurate picture of how Fiji Human Rights Commission chairperson Dr Shaista Shameem has compromised the organisation's neutrality and credibility.

And Deposed Opposition Leader Mick Beddoes yesterday called for Dr Shameem's removal from the Commission.

But with the removal of Dr Shameem being unlikely especially under the watch of the current regime, Mr Beddoes said the next elected Parliament would have to clean up the mess left by Dr Shameem.

He said in a statement that such a report on human rights from the US was welcomed.

He said he was concerned about the reputation of employees of the Commission who are seemingly being painted with the same brush as Dr Shameem.

Mind your own, Shameem tells US

Thursday, March 13, 2008

THE Fiji Human Rights Commission says it will not bother replying to a recent United States report on human rights on Fiji because it was not consulted before the report was published.

Commission chairperson Doctor Shaista Shameem said in a statement that no one wanted the USA to be the guardian of human rights for the rest of the world.

"USA should tell Fiji how it intends to deal with gross rights violations committed by itself in Iraq, while it destroys that country," she said, adding the USA should let the people of Fiji know whether any weapons of mass destruction were found.

"As for Gauntanamo Bay, when is that house of horrors going to be closed down and every inmate get due process?

"People should also read the USA non-government network report of racism in every sphere of government in the USA."

Dr Shameem said the USA bought off non-government organisations with "tin badges and a handshake in Fiji". She was referring to a report recently released by the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, which commented on Fiji's political situation since the military takeover.

The report questioned human rights abuses in Fiji and the steps taken to address them.

"Under the interim Government, the military and police arbitrarily detained and sometimes abused individuals, resulting in three deaths; conducted searches without warrants; engaged in intimidation of the media; and restricted the right to assemble peacefully," the report said.

"Other problems during the year included poor prison conditions; attacks against religious facilities, particularly Hindu temples; government corruption; deep divisions between indigenous Fijians (57 per cent of the population) and Indo-Fijians (38 per cent); violence and discrimination against women; and sexual exploitation of children."

US report says Government corruption rife in Fiji
Wednesday, March 12,

The United States has criticised Fiji's post-coup governance in its annual human rights report on the country, citing widespread abuses, judicial and media interference and corruption, reports The Age.

Fiji's interim government, formed after the military seized power in a bloodless coup in December 2006, came under fire in the US Department of State report issued on Wednesday reports Pacnews.

"There were numerous reports of abuses by security forces during the year.

"Military personnel detained numerous persons without warrants for interrogation and intimidation and, in some cases, brief incarceration.

"In most cases the interim government took no action against military or police personnel alleged to have committed abuses against coup opponents and pro-democracy activists," the report said.

It mentioned reports from non-governmental groups that numerous people who had been abused were unwilling to make formal reports to the Fiji Human Rights Commission for fear of reprisal in a climate of intimidation.

The document also questioned whether the interim government would hold elections in the first part of next year, as promised by the nation's self-appointed Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

It noted that while Commodore Bainimarama had committed his country to returning to democracy "his rhetoric continued to create uncertainty about the firmness of his commitment to that date".

The US report said while the government did not commit any politically-motivated killings, security forces were implicated in three deaths.

It said the interim government tried to send suspects in two of the killings out of the country on peacekeeping duty.

The interim government's treatment of judges also was criticised by the US.

"During the year the interim government interfered with judicial independence in practice," the report said.

It noted widespread criticism of the appointment of Anthony Gates as chief justice, after suspending former chief justice Daniel Fatiaki.

The US noted that while there were no reports of political prisoners in Fiji, human rights activists, lawyers, journalists and others had been briefly detained and sometimes beaten for making statements against the 2006 coup of the interim government.

It also found that while independent media were active, most practised self-censorship, and had been warned against making inciting comments.

Internet freedom was another area criticised in the report, after the military moved to censor or shut down a number of anti-government weblogs.

A businessman accused by the military of involvement in a blog was detained and verbally and physically abused, the report said.

"Several other individuals suspected of maintaining blogs or posting on blogs were threatened or intimidated," it said.

Government corruption remained widespread in Fiji, despite measures introduced by the interim government to combat the practice.

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