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Human Rights Body Chief Takes On SODELPA Leader

Human Rights Body Chief Takes On SODELPA Leader
Director of Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, Ashwin Raj
May 16
12:33 2018

Everyone deserves to live a life of dignity, says the Di­rector of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commis­sion Ashwin Raj.

Mr Raj was responding to com­ments by Social Democratic Lib­eral Party (SODELPA) Leader Sitiveni Rabuka in a media report yesterday.

The report quoted the SODELPA Leader as saying that he knew that Fiji would continue to have racial politics because the needs of the various communities here differed

Mr Rabuka said although com­munal voting was not part of the electoral system the people knew that they had different needs and interests. The SODELPA Leader said people should not make the mistake to describe this stance as “racist policies”.

Mr Raj said: “It is precisely the same argument that Sitiveni Rabu­ka makes today that: ‘our race de­mands and wants and needs differ’ that led to nearly two decades of institutionalised racism and en­trenched structural inequality and poverty in the guise of affirmative action in Fiji in which only the elite benefitted.”

He said it was no surprise that Mr Rabuka was against the principle of common and equal citizenry and did not believe that everyone had the right to be called Fijian regard­less of their race, ethnicity and religion among other prohibited grounds of discrimination.

Mr Raj added that it was because the 1997 Constitution, which was Mr Rabuka’s and the National Fed­eration Party’s legacy after all, was marred by the same contradiction that guaranteed equality and non-discrimination through a seeming­ly progressive Bill of Rights for all.

“Exactly whose racial demands, wants and needs were met when land leases for hundreds of cane farmers, including iTaukei farm­ers, were not renewed leading to urban drift and squalor,” he said.

“When landowners were deprived of a fair return of lease monies, when non-unionised women work­ers, mostly iTaukei and Indo-Fiji­an, were exploited in the garment and manufacturing industries es­tablished in the tax free zones to salvage Fiji from economic malaise after his 1987 coup, when children were deprived of equal opportunity to education because of discrimi­natory allocation of scholarships?

“Not only were Indo-Fijians de­prived of equal opportunity, the requirements for a Fijian Affairs Board (FAB) scholarship also pre­cluded children that were not regis­tered under the Vola Ni Kawa Bula (VKB).”

Mr Raj said that not only were Indo-Fijian farmers rendered land­less because of institutionalised racism, the Soqosoqo ni Vaka­vulewa ni Taukei (SVT) in the 1990s and the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) after com­ing into power in 2001, introduced policies that surreptitiously and permanently alienated the iTaukei from their customary land through the conversion of iTaukei land into freehold land.

“Momi Bay is one such example.

“Accumulation in the hands of a few in the name of advancing indigenous capitalism at least pu­tatively to bridge the gap between Indo-Fijians and iTaukei saw the unlawful allotment of Fijian Hold­ings shares to immediate family members of the architects of af­firmative action policies over pro­vincial, Tikina councils and eligi­ble iTaukei people,” he said.

He added this was why the 2013 Constitution marked a significant break from the politics of the past.

“Difficult as it may be for the likes of Rabuka to eschew this reality, the Constitution for the first time extends substantive equality to all without pandering to divide and rule tactics of our colonial and post-independence past.”

Edited by Epineri Vula

Feedback: selita.bolanavanua@fijisun.com.fj

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