The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum has stated it is shocked to learn of and strongly opposes the decision of the Shree Sanatan Dharam Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji and the Fiji Police Force that Hindus wishing to celebrate the birth of Lord Rama this week need to acquire a permit to do so.
“The decision violates the rights of individuals to Freedom of Religion and Belief and the Fiji Police and the Shree Sanatan Dharam Pratinidhi Sabha must immediately retract their decision and allow Hindu’s to mark Ram Naumi celebrations without any restrictions” says CCF CEO Reverend Akuila Yabaki.
The CCF is a non-government organization that educates and advocates for good governance, human rights and multiculturalism in Fiji. We are not aligned with any political party.
The CCF says it is also concerned that the Shree Sanatan Dharam Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji resolved that all Mandalis, temple Committees and organizations that are not registered are not to be given any permission by the government departments to organise any events.
“This decision puts serious restrictions on the rights of Hindu’s around the country who are now subject to unprecedented demands by the Sabha and the Fiji Police to hold prayers. Basing the decision on the requirements of the Public Emergency Regulation are unjustified as the PER has been in place for more than 28 months now and no such requirement for a permit was enforced during this period in the past,” rev Yabaki says.
The Fiji Police Spokesperson has also made media statements stating that people planning to organise religious programs will have to get a permit from police if the program will have a gathering of more than 10 people.
“It must be noted that Church services held daily and especially on Saturday and Sundays do not require the Church to get a permit. During this holy month of Ramadan for Muslims around the country, they too are not required to obtain a permit for their daily prayers, hence the decision to set up a special set of rules for Hindu’s is also discriminatory against a certain ethnic group and reflects badly on the intentions of the Sanatan Dharam Sabha.”
“Ram Naumi celebrations’ is a very special occasion for Hindu’s world over as is Christmas and Easter for Christians and Ramadan for Muslims and there must be no restrictions placed to stop people from celebrating these religious functions or making unreasonable demands.”
The CCF has called on both the Police and the Sabha to reconsider their decision and while the two institutions may want to monitor the religious gathering; the worshippers must not be subject to acquiring a permit to practice their faith and religion as a fundamental human right under Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his or her religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his or her religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. “
The current government notes in Pillar 2 of the Peoples’ Charter for Change, Peace and Progress the “Encouragement and promotion of religious freedom and understanding and conduct of interfaith dialogue and the sharing of spiritualities,” says a CCF media release.