Call for equal rights and dignity

People from all walks of life enjoy music during Citizens' Constitutional Forum's Equal at the Mic Concert to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at Ratu Sukuna Park in Suva yesterday. Picture: RAMA

People from all walks of life enjoy music during Citizens' Constitutional Forum's Equal at the Mic Concert to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at Ratu Sukuna Park in Suva yesterday. Picture: RAMA

THE celebration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination calls for reflection on the far-reaching consequences of hate and intolerance on our shared humanity.

Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission director, Ashwin Raj, made the statement while speaking at the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum Equal at the Mic Concert to celebrate the day at Ratu Sukuna Park in Suva yesterday.

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed globally, on March 21 to commemorate the shooting of the 69 people by police at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, in 1960.

Sixty-nine people were shot while protesting against the unjust laws of apartheid.

“The far-reaching consequences of saying, ‘you don’t belong’, simply because the colour of your skin, the texture of your hair, the shape of your eyes, how your body smells, the food you eat, where your ancestors come from, your accent and the god or gods you worship is different,” Mr Raj said.

“Discrimination begins with distinction and ends with debasement stripping away our inherent human dignity giving effect to unjust laws that place people from a particular race or ethnicity above others while claiming in the same breath that we are all equal in rights and dignity.”

He said institutionalised racism, as witnessed in Fiji and everywhere else it had been and was being practised, thrived on the idea of “separate but equal”.

“It exploits our primal fears about those who do not belong taking away our jobs, our land, our right to economic participation and development, that if left unchecked, “their kind” will take over the institutions of power, there will be lawlessness because “these people” are innately violent by virtue of who they are and soon “their gods” and places of worship will replace our faith.

“These divisions of ‘us’ and ‘them’, the primal fears of ‘them’ taking over and unscrupulous politicians exploiting these fears for political gain remains a sad feature of all societies afflicted with racial, ethnic and religious strife.”

Mr Raj however said Fijians had come a long way with a robust Bill of Rights in the Constitution that guaranteed the right to equality and freedom from discrimination.

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