Vitriolic, Racist, Sexist: Raj Calls Out Khan Critics
Ashwin Raj has defended Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan’s statement on racism.
Mrs Khan made the remarks in the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Mr Raj, the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission director said: “The vitriolic diatribe that the Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Other Offices in Geneva Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan has been subjected to for a principled intervention that Fiji made against institutionalised racism and the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission for its presence and participation at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva necessitates a response.
“So what exactly did the Ambassador say about racism that has riled the NFP, SODELPA, Wadan Narsey, self-selected moral entrepreneurs and arm chair critics?
“It must be noted”, the Ambassador said, that racism was institutionalised in Fiji to such an extent that it instilled in a privileged class a sense of entitlement based on ethnicity and class, and that racist attitudes were engrained in all communities, which have resulted in mistrust, resentment and suspicion.
“The Ambassador never used the word ‘caste’ as has been reported by the NFP and SODELPA and uncritically reproduced by the Fiji Times, Radio New Zealand and the ABC amongst various other social media platforms. She actually used the word ‘class’.
“This begs the question, is the NFP and its leadership deliberately encouraging the conflagration of communalism given that the word ‘caste’ has a particular historical and sociological resonance with the Indo-Fijian community?
“One does not need a doctorate in Sociology to appreciate the political purchase of the term caste or indeed need such a credential to condemn racism! The string of racist, sexist and bigoted comments following the NFPs post on Facebook is a sad indictment of the fact that racism and prejudice is alive and thriving.
“Extremely derogatory things have been said and continue to be said about the Ambassador’s ethnicity, her gender, and her religion and the NFP did not even once intervene in the barrage of these attacks which are simply unconstitutional.”
Mr Raj said not only did they selectively focus on the issue of racism, they also deliberately distorted what was said about racism to suit their own political agenda.
He said she never apportioned the charge of racism to a single community. She actually said “…racist attitudes were engrained in ALL communities.
“The following statement that Wadan Narsey so casually and conveniently dismissed is a testament to that:
“Fiji has embarked on a path of substantive equality and this path requires a level of gender, disability and cultural competence and the ability to understand that poverty and disadvantage exists in all cultural groups.
“So is it not obvious then that it is precisely these detractors who are reproducing a racist epistemology to give credence to their own political agenda?
“Their vitriol raises fundamental questions about whether a non-indigenous can speak on indigenous issues. It is also a sad indictment of the fact that Fiji has yet to learn to speak meaningfully about race without descending into racism.”
Edited by Jonathan Bryce