Fiji: Situation of Indo-Fijians and their treatment by indigenous Fijians; police reaction to reports of racially motivated crimes against Indo-Fijians; availability of state protection for Indo-Fijians; land disputes between indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians (December 2006 - January 2008)
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa|
|Publication Date||14 January 2008|
|Citation / Document Symbol||FJI102702.E|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Fiji: Situation of Indo-Fijians and their treatment by indigenous Fijians; police reaction to reports of racially motivated crimes against Indo-Fijians; availability of state protection for Indo-Fijians; land disputes between indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians (December 2006 - January 2008), 14 January 2008, FJI102702.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47d6545121.html [accessed 21 December 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Information on the situation of Indo-Fijians and their treatment by indigenous Fijians, police reaction to reports of racially motivated crimes against Indo-Fijians, and the availability of state protection for Indo-Fijians since the December 2006 coup could not be found among the sources consulted. However, the following information may be of interest.
On 5 December 2006 Commodore Voreque Bainimarama, the commander of the armed forces overthrew the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and declared a state of emergency (US 6 Mar. 2007; Freedom House 16 Apr. 2007; BBC 8 Dec. 2006; US 28 Feb. 2007). The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) notes that Bainimarama's stated motivation in overthrowing the government included protecting the equal rights of Indo-Fijians (BBC 5 Dec. 2006). Specifically, he opposed the Qarase government's plans to grant amnesties to persons "involved in a racially-motivated uprising in 2000" (ibid.) and to "allocate the ownership of coastal land to ethnic Fijians" (ibid. 8 Dec. 2006). Bainimarama's interim government has also proposed to have all seats in the Lower House of Representatives open to all Fijians regardless of ethnicity rather than the previous system based on ethnicity (PACNews 13 Nov. 2007; Australian Associated Press General News 2 Nov. 2007). Therefore, some reports assert that there was support for the coup among members of the Indo-Fijian community (BBC 5 Dec. 2006; PACNews 19 Nov. 2007). However, a communication from the Commission of the European Communities notes:
This latest military take-over appears fundamentally different from the earlier ones, as it is not a reflection of tensions between the indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians, but mainly a conflict among indigenous Fijians, with, however, important ramifications for both of the country's major communities. (Eur-Lex 17 Jan. 2007; see also PIDP 10 Jan 2007)
Security Forces and State Protection
According to the United States (US) Department of State's Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), ordinary crime is a problem in Fiji and at the time of the coup, the Fiji Police Force was in the "developmental stages of becoming a modern and effective police operation that can protect the public" (US 30 Jan 2007). The report notes shortages of equipment, internal corruption and problems arising from lack of transportation (ibid.). OSAC reports that while the military regime "has not interfered with the criminal justice system's prosecution of common criminals ... it does appear that members of the military are presently unanswerable to the law while acting on the orders of their commander" (ibid., 5). Some reports state that human rights abuses have been carried out by soldiers since the coup of December 2006 (PACNews 19 Nov. 2007; AI 16 Feb. 2007), including against "dissenters and petty criminals" (Dominion Post 27 Oct. 2007). However, OSAC reports that in the two weeks immediately following the coup, "there were no signs of public demonstrations or civil unrest" (US 30 Jan 2007, 2). The same report notes that "since the coup, the military has been detaining individuals it feels are in opposition to the military for brief periods of time, threatening them, and then releasing them, all usually on the same day" (ibid., 4).
Land Disputes between indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians
According to the US Department of State, ownership of land is a sensitive political issue (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 5). "Ethnic Fijians communally held approximately 85 percent of all land, the government held another 3.6 percent, and the remainder was freehold land, which private individuals or companies may hold" (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 5; see also Asia & Pacific Review World of Information 30 July 2007). The issue of land ownership and the value of lands and the leases to Indo-Fijians to maintain sugar plantations on them has been a source of ongoing contention between the two main ethnic groups in Fiji (Sunday Times 23 July 2000; ibid. 30 July 2000; Davies n.d.; PIDP 23 Oct. 2007). One report quotes the Sugar Minister Mahendra Chaudhry as stating that the interim government views the issue of expiring leases held by the Native Land Trust Board to be urgent and that the "continuing land lease problems" were one of the major issues in the sugar industry the previous year (Fiji Times 3 Jan. 2008).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Asia & Pacific Review World of Information. 30 July 2007. "Fiji. Part 8 of 11; Agriculture." (Factiva) [Accessed 2 Jan. 2008]
Australian Associated Press General News. 2 November 2007. Xavier La Canna. "PAC: Fiji Population Shift Will Undermine Reforms: NZ Academic." (Factiva) [Accessed 2 Jan. 2008]
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 8 December 2006. "Background to Fiji's Four Coups."
_____. 5 December 2006. "Fijians Divided Over Coup Outlook."
Davies, John E. N.d. "Ethnic Competition And The Forging Of The Nation State Of Fiji."
Dominion Post. 27 October 2007. Hamish McDonald. "Leading the Revolution." (Factiva) [Accessed 2 Jan. 2008]
Eur-Lex. 17 January 2007. "Communication from the Commission to the Council on the Opening of Consultations with Fiji under Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement." (Factiva) [Accessed 2 Jan. 2008]
Fiji Times. 3 January 2008. Monika Singh. "Leases Priority: Chaudhry."
Freedom House. 16 April 2007. "Fiji." Freedom in the World 2007.
PACNews. 19 November 2007. "Mutiny and Assassination in Fiji." (Factiva) [Accessed 2 Jan. 2008]
_____. 13 November 2007. "We Can't Prolong Electoral Changes: Army." (Factiva) [Accessed 2 Jan. 2008]
Pacific Islands Development Program (PIDP). 23 October 2007. East-West Center. "Fiji Land Lease Rents Are Too Low." Pacific Islands Report (FijiSUN)
_____. 10 January 2007. East-West Center. Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka. "Fiji Coup: Things Fall Apart." Pacific Islands Report.
Sunday Times [Fiji]. 30 July 2000. John Davies and Courtney Gallimore. "The Reality of ALTA Rents." (Maori News Online)
_____. 23 July 2000. "ALTA Payments Are Fair, Growers Say." (Maori News Online)
United States (US). 6 March 2007. Department of State. "Fiji." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006.
_____. 28 February 2007. Department of State. Office of the Spokesman. "Public Announcement."
_____. 30 January 2007. Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC). "Fiji 2007 Crime & Safety Report."
Additional Sources Consulted
Internet sources, including: Amnesty International (AI); Article 19; Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC); Bankintroductions.com; Human Rights Watch (HRW); International Press Institute; Keesing's World News Archives; People's Daily Online; Radio Australia; Transparency International (TI); United Kingdom (UK) Border and Immigration Agency, Country of Origin Information Service; Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Refworld.