Analysis | NEWS

Calls To Banish Persons Engaged In Drug Trade From Villages A Concern For Fiji Human Rights Commission

Raj worried about proposed removal of people linked to drugs . The call has gathered support from some chiefs to try to stamp out the illicit drug trade in the provinces. But does it breach the fundamental human rights of people to be free from arbitrary evictions?
11 Jun 2019 13:54
Calls To Banish Persons Engaged In Drug Trade From Villages A Concern For Fiji Human Rights Commission
L-R: Nuku disitrict chief in Tailevu, Turaga na Tui Nabou, Semi Matalau and Namalata district chief from Tailevu North Ratu Isaia Tuirakiwaimaro

Analysis:

Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission director Ashwin Raj has expressed concern about a call to banish people engaged in the illicit drug trade from villages.

The call has gathered support among some chiefs after it was first raised by Waima district chief in the province of Naitasiri, Ratu Timoci Rokobukete. Ratu Timoci said they were concerned about negative impact of drugs on people.

Mr Raj said the commission shared the chiefs’ concern about the deleterious impact of the cultivation, selling and the consumption of drugs on society.

However, he said the chiefs must observe the rule of law at all times and respect people’s fundamental right to access justice and to be free from arbitrary evictions and banishment.

“Such a decision will set a dangerous precedent,” he warned.

He asked – “How do we know that families and individuals are not being arbitrarily banished, removed or victimised under the pretext of cultivating and selling drugs when there might be other reasons or a personal agenda?”

Therefore, he said respect for the rule of law was important. “Respect for the rule of law, in this context means, equal treatment and benefit of the law, accountability before the law and fairness in the protection of rights which basically means that all such incidences of cultivation of drugs must be reported to the Police for their independent investigations and prosecution.”

Those accused, he said, must have the right to access institutions of justice and to a fair trial.

The Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission director Ashwin Raj.

The Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission director Ashwin Raj.

Ratu Timoci plans to move a “banishment motion” in their district meeting (Bose Vanua) at Vuisiga village next month.

Now other chiefs have rallied behind him.

Tailevu and Bau chief Adi Litia Cakobau said she fully supported the motion.

Ratu Timoci said the motion would apply to those cultivating, selling and using marijuana in the district.

“I would like this motion to be supported and passed at the Bose Vanua which I’ll be chairing,” he said.

He said banishment should be for five years.

Ratu Timoci said there were some marijuana cultivators, users and sellers in the district and he had reminded them that what they were doing was a disgrace to the elders of the district.

He said they had brought shame to the district and they should act now or it would be too late.

Ratu Timoci said they would work with the Police in Vunidawa to completely stop marijuana and other related drugs coming into the district.

Waima District has 3 villages – Nakorovatu, Naqara and Vuisiga.

Namalata district chief from Tailevu North Ratu Isaia Tuirakiwaimaro said he supported the Vunivalu Waima’s motion.

He said there were people in his district cultivating and selling marijuana.

“I’ve asked the Police to go out to the district and carry out their investigation and I’ll help them locate the marijuana farmers,” he said.

He said next Monday he will be chairing their village meeting and would announce his decision to banish those involved in marijuana farming from the village.

“I’ll be going to all the villages in the Namalata district to relay to them my decision.”

The 11 villages in the Namalata district are Matacaucau, Matacula, Nailega, Nakorovou, Veinuqa, Naitutu, Navunisole, Nakalawaca, Delasui, Nayawasara and Davetalevu.

Adi Litia said while she supported the motion it might be breaching the rights of the people targeted. However, something needed to be done to stop what they were doing.

Adi Litia said when they were banished from the village they would regret what they were doing.

“We have to think of our future generation,” she said.

Totoya Island chief Turaga na Roko Sau Roko Josefa Cinavilakeba said he supported it, but it should only apply to those who came from other districts.

“They should be sent back to their original districts,” he said.

However, for those within the district, he said they should be reported to the Police.

Nuku disitrict chief in Tailevu, Turaga na Tui Nabou, Semi Matalau said he supported what the other chiefs had said.

He said this motion would benefit the vanua and the people.

The three villages in the Nuku district are Natogadravu , Naselai and Natoveya.

The Deputy Permanent Secretary of the iTaukei Affairs Board (TAB) Saimoni Waibuta said if the chiefs and the people supported the move,  it should be carried out.

The Turaga na Tui Macuata Ratu Wiliame Katonivere said while he supported the motion and the views of the chiefs, he had to consult the leadership within the province to get their views and make a collective decision.

Feedback: maikab@fijisun.com.fj

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