Three news items appearing in the local media in the last three weeks that I wish to bring to attention. They raised the important question of what is and what
19 Jun 2017 14:43
Niko Nawaikula

Three news items appearing in the local media in the last three weeks that I wish to bring to attention.

They raised the important question of what is and what is not ‘racist’.

They also raised the important social justice responsibility of the media to promote Human Rights.

The news items all relate to the commotion and debate in Parliament on May 26, 2017 on the subject that I spoke on concerning the 2013 Constitution and Indigenous Rights and Interests.

Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC), in its evening news on May 26, 2017 stated: “Nawaikula was forced to withdraw his racist comments in Parliament.”

FBC however did not clarify what was ‘racist’ in my comments.

Nemani Delaibatiki, in Fiji Sun May 27, 2017 accused me of making a ‘racist rant.

But Mr Delaibatiki was at pains to identify what was ‘racist’ in my comments and could only refer to statements I made on indigenous identity and rights.

Mr Delaibatiki of course, of all people, should know that Indigenous Rights are Human Rights. Finding no fallacy in the statement I made on native land, Delaibatiki could only say “iTaukei have control of their native land through TLTB (iTaukei Land Trust Board)”.

My point of course is that the law has removed control and management of TLTB to Government from native owners where it used to be.

The Fiji Times in its issue on June 6, 2017 carried an article titled: ‘Nasty in Parliament’ authored by a Mr Anish Chand. In it Mr Chand said that some of the words I said in Parliament is “scary stuff”.

The scary words, Mr Chand clarified refer to the following statements that I made, “They passed a law to take away our name. This is a view of only two people.

The A-G wants us to feel we have accepted the 2013 Constitution; no, no, no. They are trying to legitimise this Government and his position that will never happen, not in my lifetime not ever.

Let me explain now what happened in Parliament on that day for clarity:

I took the floor in Parliament on Friday May 26, 2017 to respond to statements made by Hon Sayed-Khaiyum during a debate on a motion by Bulitavu on the need to have a judicial commission to look at tortures by the Military and Police in the last 10 years.

Hon Sayed-Khaiyum raised many points but the two I responded to are; firstly his statement that many people is relieved by the 2013 Constitution.

Hon Sayed-Khaiyum’s second point is what I assumed to be measures, including policies to remove things like ethnic based scholarships and the 17 decrees to remove indigenous cultural autonomy by the termination of GCC  (Great Council of Chiefs) and nationalisation of Provincial Councils, termination of the management and control of native land , removal of Fijian as their name and others.

All these measures I know are entrenched by the 2013 Constitution requiring equal citizenry but especially removing the right to consultation and prior and informed consent that was there in S185 of the 1997 Constitution.

I took the floor and began by attacking the 2013 Constitution saying “Truly there are people out there who feel that when the right time comes, some of us here would be sitting next to George Speight and they say that exactly because of the Constitution.

“The Honorable Attorney-General wants us all to feel that we have accepted the Constitution. No! No! No! And I want to say this for the record that the juries are still out there, for many reasons. There is a decision by the Court of Appeal that still says that the 1997 Constitution is still paramount and the Constitution ultimately depends on the will of the people.”

Then I moved on to suggest to Parliament that a judicial commission as suggested is necessary to bring closure.

“We need to face our own devils as otherwise this tit for tat will go on and we continue to seek revenge. The way out is this judicial commission to bring closure.”

I then turned on Hon Sayed-Khaiyum’s statement on indigenous rights.

I said: “You cannot now claim that cultural autonomy is a source of discrimination and must be removed as you have done because this is our Human Right that must be respected.

We also have our right to maintain our customary institution and you have breached this right by passing a law to terminate the GCC.

The nation must know that you removed our fundamental right to be consulted and give our prior and informed consent that we’re entrenched in S185 of the 1997 Constitution.

You passed a law to remove our right to manage our native land and the world must know you also passed a law to take away our name.”

During the course of all these Hon Sayed-Khaiyum and others from the government including Hon Koya, Hon Sudhakar and Hon Usamate were interjecting and were given time to raise points of order.

The interjectors caused me to accuse the government side that only their two leaders were making decisions for all. That drew a point of order from Hon Koya.

The speaker demanded and I withdrew. I withdrew. The speaker of course had to control the House and the debate as things were getting out of hand and I obliged to the Speaker’s demand that I withdraw unreservedly other statements I made and she was on the verge of sending me off. She was lenient and only cut off my talk time.

Looking across to the government side I saw and felt that the indigenous members there were silently digressing what I was saying except Hon Usamate who was interjecting.

Answering him I said: “I’m not even sure whether you are indigenous.”

He complained on a point of order asking that I withdraw the statement. I obliged and said to the speaker, “I withdraw unreservedly the statement I made on Hon Usamate and I apologize to you my good friend.”

I have since gone back to check the minutes of that meeting as taken by Hansard and I see no mention of any racist statement or rant such that the allegations I did so were the creation of FBC and Fiji Sun.

I think the media should play a greater role and take the high moral ground especially in promoting Human Rights.

In these three news items I feel that the media have failed in this important responsibility.

FBC played the race card with intent to bring fear and drive a wedge amongst community feelings and quite possibly to bring sympathy to the government.

Fiji Sun was worst off in implying that indigenous rights and interests is racist when it knows very well these are now accepted as Human Rights.

Fiji Times in publishing the article by Mr Chand is promoting fear amongst the communities on the erroneous assumption that indigenous concerns and interest are a threat to the safety and security of other ethnic population.

To my mind a responsible media that is aware of its social justice responsibilities will take my statements on face value as an objective plea to government against continuing breaches, termination and watering down of the Indigenous Right of the native people of this country.

The media fails in its social justice responsibility where, as FBC did, it uses it as a race card to drive a wedge amongst our communities.

Or where it chooses to be simply ignorant interpreting it wrongly, like Fiji Sun did, as racist. Or to use it to instil fear amongst ethnic groups as Fiji Times did.

The role of the media, in my opinion, is to promote Indigenous Right as Human Rights, as it should, and invite open debate and discussion in an inclusive manner amongst all communities.

The enforcement of indigenous rights, as UN Human Rights Committees advice, is not exclusive but must be balanced with the rights and interests of other communities.

The role of the media is to promote open and inclusive debate on that.



Five Squares 4th Birthday

Get updates from the Fiji Sun, handpicked and delivered to your inbox.

By entering your email address you're giving us permission to send you news and offers. You can opt-out at any time.

Tower Insurance
Covid 19 - SPC
Fiji Sun Instagram