Group asks people to respect religion

Suva, Fiji - POLICE must be vigilant to ensure they can protect people's right to religion, says the Fiji Human Rights Commission.

In a statement yesterday, commission director Dr Shaista Shameem expressed concerns about the continued desecration of Hindu temples.

"In a democratic country such as Fiji, respect for everyone's religion is vital and forms one of the vital foundation of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country," she said.

"The commission calls on all people of Fiji to respect the right to religion of their fellow countrymen.

"Sacrilege is a violation of people's right to religion. Section 35 (1) of the Constitution protects the right to religion of every person.

"This section states 'every person has the right to freedom of conscience, religion and belief'," she said.

Dr Shameem said Section 6 (c) of the Constitution states 'all persons have the right to practice their religion freely'.

She said perpetrators should be severely reprimanded to curb such acts and prevent it from happening again.

On Monday, two political parties called for people to respect each other's religions and stop attacks on places of worship, after a temple at Waila, Nausori was broken into last week.

Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry called on police to increase its intelligence network to curb the vandals.

He said it was unfortunate such incidents were happening and could be the work of an organised gang.

SDL party director Jale Baba said there was a need for more respect for other religions by all people.