By RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission
The frequent discovery of dead bodies and the increase in the number of missing people in Fiji is a concern, says a human rights advocate.
Police reported a dozen people missing in the past month and several bodies have been found.
Shamima Ali, of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, said she was also concerned that the majority of these cases were young women and children.
Ali said often in restrictive environments where human rights and democracy and the rule of law spaces were shrinking, there was often an increase in violence within communities, murders and anti-social behaviours.
Ali said in an already patriarchal society, authoritarian leadership encourages the lack of debate, consultations and violence and bullying were the only answers to settling arguments and disputes.
“Our communities are impoverished and many people are struggling for their own and their family’s survival,” she said.
“This also gives use to mental health issues and many are again struggling for lack of a robust system that caters to their needs.”
Ali said many were resorting to alcohol and or self-harm, and the social fibre of our communities seemed to be disintegrating and had worsened by the Covid-19 and poverty crises.
The majority of victims are the most vulnerable, she added. “The poor and the disfranchised.”
Ali said it’s important for people to act responsibility to avoid such tragedies.
“We often do not know the outcomes of these reports – has the missing person been found, the circumstances of the bodies found- murder’s accidental or suicide.
“There have been a couple cases where there have been allegations against police and corrections officers.”
We need answers to these, Ali said, adding that Fiji did not have a robust national human rights institution that’s proactive and acts on its own violations.
“The police need to update and the media needs to follow up. Civil society also needs to raise concern and not just let it be the topic of conversation.
“Families and friends will also know what to look out for – troubled teens, family members behaving oddly and seeming troubled.”
Ali said alcohol use was an issue in the country and would get worse during this festive season.
“Let us all take responsibility and look out for each other, especially families and friends.”
Ali is urging Fijians to ‘make this Christmas a caring one for each other’.
Fiji police said they had ruled out foul play in some of the discoveries they made following the post-mortem examinations.
Police said some cases of people found dead were linked to alcohol.
And as Fiji enters into the festive season, Police are calling on the need for people to enjoy responsibly.
Police said based on past trends cases of assault and other serious offences increased during this period.
“As we are well into the festive season a few of the cases were linked to alcohol which is why at the beginning we had stressed the importance of enjoying responsibly as cases of assault and other serious offences based on past trends increased during the festive season due to the excessive consumption of alcohol,” police said in a statement.
Police also said other cases had been dealt with and those responsible were charged and produced in court.