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Accusations of Racism Sparks New University Of Fiji Row

Mr Bainivalu responded by stating “Regrettable, I have noted with protest my sheer disappointment on its contents bordering on racism and harassment. It cannot go unchallenged.
11 May 2019 10:58
Accusations of Racism Sparks New University Of Fiji Row
University of Fiji Justice Devendra Pathik School of Law Students Association President Filipe Bainivalu. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Accusations of racism and discrimination have sparked a new row at the University of Fiji.

Filipe Bainivalu, the president of the UniFiji Justice Devendra Pathik School of Law Students Association at the Samabula campus, blasted a senior academic staff member for making inappropriate comments against him, labelling him as an “Indian dog”.

While the staff member, Associate Professor and Director for the Centre for iTaukei Studies, Dr Litiana Kuridrani declined to comment last night, she told Mr Bainivalu in an email that the iTaukei words she used were an iTaukei idiom. She is also the wife of SODELPA Member of Parliament Inosi Kuridrani.

Just when the situation was beginning to settle down after the university was rocked by a series of rows between the management and students and between management and academic staff, this latest conflict has flared up.

It all began around the Easter weekend, when the law student body and other student bodies raised some issues with university executives in a petition.

The petition was jointly made by the university’s Law Student Association, iTaukei Students Association and the Centre for iTaukei Students Association (Samabula).

It was filed with the university’s registrar.

Among other issues, the petition stated the students at the Centre for iTaukei Studies (CIS), did not have a full-time lecturer based at the Samabula Campus to facilitate the programme.

The petition stated “The Centre for iTaukei students needs a full-time lecturer and that must be made available to the students affected in the coming weeks. We are paying large amounts of fees and we are getting poor delivery of this teaching and learning experiences.”

As Dr Kuridrani is the Director for the centre she responded and a series of email exchanges took place between her and Mr Bainivalu.

On one occasion Mr Bainivalu invited Dr Kuridrani to the Samabula campus to have an open discussion regarding the petition.

Dr Kuridrani emailed Mr Bainivalu to inform him that he did not represent anyone else, except the Law Students Association in Suva, and told him that he and his association did not have the mandate to represent CIS.

In this email she stated in iTaukei “Muria nomu iyatu (follow protocol or the line of authority) … kalawaci ga na kau (you only walk over wood). Kua ni kodro tiko mai vaka na koli ni Idia (Do not bark like an Indian dog) kauti iko mai kei na nomu matabose ki Saweni (bring your group to Saweni) so that we can have face-to-face dialogue.

Mr Bainivalu responded by stating “Regrettable, I have noted with protest my sheer disappointment on its contents bordering on racism and harassment. It cannot go unchallenged.

‘I have noted on your email that you have drawn comparison of myself (iTaukei) to an alleged Indian dog. I have noted the comment with disgust and disapproval. So racist. Literally, I have interpreted the comment as the superiority of a particular (iTaukei) race over Indian ethnicity. If this is so, then its surely a very sad day for the university.”

University of Fiji Justice Devendra Pathik School of Law Students Association President Filipe Bainivalu (front, second from right) with fellow law students at the university’s Samabula Campus in Suva on May 10, 2019. Photo: Ronald Kumar

University of Fiji Justice Devendra Pathik School of Law Students Association President Filipe Bainivalu (front, second from right) with fellow law students at the university’s Samabula Campus in Suva on May 10, 2019. Photo: Ronald Kumar

In her next email, Dr Kuridrani defended her statements citing her comments as an iTaukei idiom.

“Kua ni kodro tiko mai va na koli ni kaidia, is used for people that cannot come forward for a face-to-face dialogue, but keep on barking around,” she stated in her email.

“There is nothing racism (sic) in that statement. It is a Fijian idiom. Ask your CIS colleagues to translate it for you.

“We have sorted our issues and it has nothing to do with you. Follow the university rules and regulations regarding grievance procedures.

“Save the scrap for Suva City Council (SCC).”

Meanwhile, Mr Bainivalu said “to be comparatively weighed against the junk of SCC is again a reflection of poor judgement, shallow foresight and unbecoming of the office of the Director of the Centre for iTaukei Studies.”

He added that the issue had been raised with Acting Vice Chancellor Professor Subramani and they would meet on Tuesday to discuss the matter further.

Edited by Epineri Vula

Feedback: neelam.prasad@fijisun.com.fj



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