No Threat To iTaukei: PM

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama says the new boarding policy for Government schools is no threat to indigenous culture or way of life. He said in Suva yesterday during a media
15 Apr 2015 10:31
No Threat To iTaukei: PM

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama says the new boarding policy for Government schools is no threat to indigenous culture or way of life.

He said in Suva yesterday during a media briefing that “more places in our boarding schools are being freed up for rural and maritime students, whether they come from Lau, Kadavu, Lomaiviti, Rotuma, the interior of the big islands or any other more isolated part of Fiji.

“So this is a huge leg-up for students in those areas and their families, who can now be rest assured that they will have the same opportunity as any other Fijian to get on in life.”

He was commenting on a statement by the Opposition leader Ro Teimumu Kepa which was published on the front page by the Fiji Times.

Mr Bainimarama said Ro Teimumu’s comments “display an astonishing ignorance and confirm her unfitness for high office.

“They are inflammatory, divisive and a threat to national unity in that they cast a Government decision that is designed to be fair to all Fijians as a threat to the position of the iTaukei where none whatsoever exists,” he said.

“Ro Teimumu refers to indigenous people as ‘victims’ of the Government’s policy. This is a lie. The real victims are students living in rural and maritime areas who have been deprived of proper access to education because the sons and daughters of families living in urban areas have taken their places in Government boarding schools.

“The vast majority of these students from urban areas – many of them children of civil servants, those who work at managerial level in the private sector and statutory authorities and in the professions – are readily capable of attending a variety of schools as day scholars.

“Whereas those from rural and maritime areas come from families who have no choice but to send their children to boarding school because other options are simply not available. However, these people have often been excluded because the available positions have been taken up by students who could have been sent to other schools.

“It is a basic issue of fairness and justice that these fully-funded Government schools that also offer boarding facilities give priority to those who lack other avenues to gain an education. These include Queen Victoria School, Natabua High School, Adi Cakobau School, Labasa College and Ratu Kadavulevu School.

“Our policy has been determined purely on the basis of need and it is highly irresponsible for Ro Teimumu Kepa to cast it in any other light.”

He accused Ro Teimumu of acting against the interests of ordinary people by preserving and defending the privileges of the elite.

“These are people who can afford alternatives that less advantaged Fijians cannot,” he said.

“The FijiFirst Government stands for equality, justice and fairness. And we make no apology for giving rural and maritime students the same opportunities as those from urban families to gain a proper education.”

He said he was concerned that Ro Teimumu had chosen to cast this new policy in blatantly ethnic terms.

He said the real “tabu” in Fiji should be not to attempt to spread alarm based on false information and try to create division for political purposes.

“There is no ethnic dimension to this issue at all,” he said.

He said the Fiji Times “also stands condemned for yet another grossly irresponsible piece of journalism.

“Rather than report dispassionately and in the interests of national stability, the Fiji Times is controlled by a cabal that manipulates the news agenda and uses inflammatory language to create disunity, division and instability and to advance its own political interests,” he said.

Ro Teimumu was reported as saying it was one thing to hurl abuse and disrespect to the Chiefs and iTaukei community while what she said was systematically dismantling their institutions in Fiji through imposed decrees. But it was quite another, she was reported as saying, to plan what she called heavy handed and unwelcomed reforms into matters involving their children.

“I am referring to Mr Reddy’s plans to impose his will and preferences on Adi Cakobau, QVS and RKS,” she was quoted as saying.

Ro Teimumu said attempts to “break down our institutions and change our way of life” was wrong and unjust. She said it was an act of aggression against the indigenous people of Fiji “which must stop now.”

Ro Teimumu said: “these persistent attempts to re-engineer and weaken the iTaukei community are NOW TABU.

“I am putting everyone in Fiji on notice that we will resist this from now on.”

She also attacked Mr Reddy personally in terms which could be interpreted as racial.

Fiji Times Editor-in-Chief Fred Wesley responded to the Prime Minister’s statement by saying:

“The comments by the Opposition are not the opinions of The Fiji Times. The Government has a right to be heard, so as the Opposition. Freedom of the press, and of the right to impart information, are enshrined in the Fiji Constitution.

“In 146 years as a newspaper company, The Fiji Times has been accused many times, by politicians from all sides, of having a political agenda.

“We see ourselves as doing our job to give our readers information from all sides of politics, so that they can make up their own minds about current affairs.”





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