A High Court trial of a man accused of murdering his five-year-old son has highlighted a case of dire poverty that exists in certain parts of Fiji.

The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) has questioned whether the murder of a five-year-old child on January 27, 2012, in Naduna, Labasa, could have been prevented by appropriate intervention and assistance by the State.

The murder of the child highlighted a serious breach of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) 1989, CCF chief executive Rev Akuila Yabaki said.

“The Fiji Government at the time had ratified the treaty in 1993. The Government‘s Department of Social Welfare is here, in breach of the convention, by insisting that a marriage certificate be produced by parents as condition for provision of much needed help for the child.

“Government welfare should seek to be informed of the right thing to do towards fulfilling its responsibilities under the CRC and that whatever type of family children come from, no child should be treated unfairly. The CRC places on governments the responsibility to protect and assist families in fulfilling essential role as nurturers of children.”

High Court Judge Justice Daniel Goundar last week sentenced 45-year-old Mohammed Shamim to life imprisonment for the murder of the boy after Shamim pleaded guilty to the charge on the earliest occasion.

In his ruling, Justice Goundar highlighted the dire circumstances which led to the murder, the fact that Shamim assaulted the child out of frustration as he could not provide any food when the child insisted he was hungry and this highlights the immense discrepancies and red tape existing within various government departments to assist our citizens who live in extreme poverty.

Handing down the sentence, the Judge noted that “the family has no government supply water or electricity. Drinking water is borrowed from neigbours. For washing and bathing, the family uses a nearby creek”.

“One would think that all citizens of this country should have at least the basic necessity of life, that is, safe drinking water available to them by the government.

“The Accused’s wife told this Court that they were refused social welfare benefits because she could not provide marriage and birth certificates to the Department of Social Welfare. She said she could not afford to get her children registered with the Registrar of Birth.

“The Court has some empathy for her and her five children, now that her husband is going to be sentenced for murder. There is no doubt that this family is living in extreme poverty. I direct the Court Registry to forward a copy of this sentence to the Department of Social Welfare and Save the Children Fiji, with the view of providing the children with some financial assistance.”

Rev Yabaki said the CCF urged the relevant government department to immediately look into the plight of the family and others who might be in need of urgent assistance.

“It is heart wrenching that our citizens are unable to provide a single meal for their children while government departments are bound by unrealistic red tape which may have prevented such an incident.”