NEWS

No Ethnic Breakdown, Says A-G

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khai­yum says the Opposition Parties – SODELPA and National Federation Party are obsessed with ethnicity. The A-G was responding to a question from the Leader of the Opposition,
06 Mar 2018 13:15
No Ethnic Breakdown, Says A-G
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama (left) and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum after the Parliament session on March 5, 2018. Photo: Simione Saravanua

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khai­yum says the Opposition Parties – SODELPA and National Federation Party are obsessed with ethnicity.

The A-G was responding to a question from the Leader of the Opposition, Ro Teimumum Kepa, who asked for the nation­al ethnic breakdown to be revealed from the 2017 census.

Her question was: “Would the minister ex­plain why the Fiji Bureau of Statistics can­not release data on ethnicity from the 2017 Fiji Population and Housing Census since the issues, for example on Health, Educa­tion and Social Welfare are impacted by ethnicity?”

In his response, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum tore into the Opposition members’ tendency to make everything about race.

“Madam Speaker unfortunately the Op­position aren’t able to extricate themselves from that way of thinking. Community de­cisions are made based on needs. The peo­ple living in maritime areas have certain challenges. Do we need an ethnic break­down to understand the challenges faced by the people in maritime areas? Do we need to know the ethnic breakdown of people who are drinking from wells? Do we need to have an ethnic breakdown of people drink­ing from creeks? No.

“We need to understand what people are facing as Fijians in their respective areas. That is a fact of life and that’s what we need to do,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

“The reality is that the ethnic-based quota system has been the bane of our political life in Fiji, the bane of constitutional devel­opment in Fiji.

“We don’t even have a qualified speech therapist. Why aren’t we talking about that? The Honourable Leader of Opposi­tion has an enormous misunderstanding that we cannot have development or social policies implemented without having refer­ences to ethnicity,” he said.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said such questions were an indication of the Opposition’s ob­session with ethnicity.

“It would have been really nice if the Hon­ourable Leader of Opposition had asked us – did the census reveal how many poor people we have, how many doctors we have, how many people are earning a par­ticular wage, how many people have bank accounts, how many people have mobile phones, how many people have access to road, water, electricity,” the A-G said.

“These are the more pertinent questions that need to be asked Madam Speaker and not this obsession with ethnicity. And, Mad­am Speaker, health, education and social welfare are not impacted by ethnicity.

“Do we have enough doctors, do we have enough specialists, do we have enough med­ical equipment, do we have enough health centres in remote areas. In respect to edu­cation, do we have schools with proper fa­cilities, do we have enough teachers, do we have specialised teachers. For social wel­fare, it is about how many people are below the poverty line without needing reference to ethnicity.

“What’s this obsession with ethnicity Madam Speaker. It is completely irrelevant and completely unrelated,” he said.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum further revealed that there was no data on ethnicity collected.

“There has been no aggregation of data based on ethnicity under the 2017 census, none whatsoever. So they need to move away from it,” he said.

“They think we are hiding it, we are not hiding it. Madam Speaker there has been no collection of data. So how can we release it?

“How can we run a modern nation state when we all know they are obsessed with ethnicity?

“The Fiji Sun reveals today how one of their member talks about religion. This is the kind of nonsense that they perpetuate and make us go back to the past. This is why no data is available, no data has been col­lected, and will be collected.”

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