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ANALYSIS: Drop Race Card, It Has No Place In Modern Fiji

ANALYSIS: Drop Race Card, It Has No Place In Modern Fiji
September 16
10:29 2017

Race may be a fact of life but it should not influence our collective national consciousness.

It should not be used as a basis to

Gain entry into an educational institution

Get a Toppers scholarship or TELS loans and allowance for tertiary education

Acquire a job

Access Government services

Rent or buy a property

Lease State or freehold land

The list goes on and it is inextricably linked to the comprehensive Bill of Rights in the 2013 Constitution.

It is in harmony with our basic human rights. It means people cannot be discriminated on the grounds of ethnicity, culture, gender or sexual orientation, religion, physical or mental state or condition, social and economic status.

Attempts to drag us back to the past in the name of indigenous interests by SODELPA politicians is an exercise in futility and fraught with danger.

We do not want to relive the horrors of the past when people died, were hurt and many left our shores for peace and safety.

The 2013 Constitution is our best bet for peace and stability in this country.

Why tamper with something that is working well for our people?

The 2013 Constitution is the power that drives this nation to where it is now. We have maintained the momentum of economic growth.

We have reached eight years of sustained economic growth despite the impact of the Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Winston, the most powerful cyclone to have hit us. If all our developments are dictated by ethnicity or religion they would have a disastrous impact on all our economic programmes.

They would perpetuate racial, cultural and religious intolerance and divide our communities.

They would encourage racism and lead to the kind of terrible events of 1987 and 2000 and their associated negative impact.

Debate on race as a political issue has flared up again after SODELPA Opposition MPs brought up indigenous matters.

MP Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, who is also SODELPA president said “we must recognise the reality on the ground that politics in Fiji will continue to be race-based given that our nation comprises different ethnic communities.”

“I do not celebrate the unfortunate fact that our politics will continue to be race-based for some time.

“SODELPA is committed to a united multiracial Fiji, but it would be unwise to not recognise the different and specific needs of each ethnic group in Fiji, given the reality that Fiji comprises indigenous Fijians, Fijians of Indian descent (luvedra na Ratu) as well as our minority ethnic communities who have all made Fiji their home.”

His and other SODELPA MPs’ remarks were effectively countered by Minister for Poverty Alleviation, Women and Children, Mereseini Vuniwaqa.

She believes that it is important that MPs think beyond ethnicity, religion and socio-economic status.

As an iTaukei, she wants her three children to grow in a Fiji that doesn’t discriminate against them or their friends just because they come from different ethnic backgrounds?

She wants them to grow up as self-reliant human beings who know that the product of hard work is not determined by their ethnic background but by the effort they put into their work.

“I want them to be eligible for a scholarship not because of their ethnicity but because they have applied themselves academically to a set standard,” she said.

Ms Vuniwaqa, Jone Usamate (Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations) and other Government iTaukei MPs spoke out in defence of equality, equal citizenry and a common identity.

Mindset

We need to change our mindset and the MPs should be the agents of that change. The equality provision in the Constitution requires us to treat everyone equally without discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion and socio-economic status.

When you are on the operating table at the hospital you wish for the best surgeon to operate on you irrespective of his or her ethnic or religious background. You want the best service.

Parents want to send their children to the best school that offers them the best education.

More iTaukei parents are sending their children to Jai Narayan College in Suva because of the high consistent academic results the college students are scoring.

They know the teachers there must be doing something right.

They don’t even ask which enthicity or religion they belong to.

When employers want to hire workers, they want the best, skilled and experienced workers. It does not really matter which ethnicity or religion they are from.

The same thing happens when you want to get your car fixed. You would look for the best mechanic.

That’s the way we are and it’s normal behaviour.

The fact is that it fails to run congruent to the equality provisions of the Constitution which are now part of the norm.

Edited by Rusiate Mataika

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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