NEWS

Fiji Human Rights Director Wades in on University of Fiji row

Raj: No room for racism here
12 May 2019 13:52
Fiji Human Rights Director Wades in on University of Fiji row
Fourth from left, University of Fiji Justice Devendra Pathik School of Law Students Association President Filipe Bainivalu with students of the University at their Samabula, Suva campus on May 10, 2019. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission director Ashwin Raj has strongly condemned accusations of racism and discrimination that have sparked a new row at the University of Fiji.

This was after 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, Dr Litiana Kuridrani, for making inappropriate comments against him, labelling him an “Indian dog”.

Dr Kuridrani declined to comment on the issue, however she told Mr Bainivalu in an email that the words she used were an iTaukei idiom.

Mr Raj said the commission condemned in the strongest possible terms the use of such racist expression that casually disparaged and denigrated an entire community, likening them to dogs.

Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission (HRADC) director Ashwin Raj.

Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission (HRADC) director Ashwin Raj.

“What is even more disconcerting is that it has been perpetuated by someone who should be an exemplar in an institution of higher learning that should be at the forefront of fighting racist stereotypes and fostering dignity and equality,” he said.

“It is an insult to injury considering that these comments have appeared on a day when Indo-Fijians are celebrating 140 years of contribution to this beautiful country that they call their home.”

He said that while Dr Kuridrani had causally dismissed the expression as an “iTaukei idiom”, “let me categorically state that there is no room for such racist and retrogressive expression in the Fiji we are trying to build premised on dignity and equality.

“It is reminiscent of Fiji’s ugly past in which racist demagogues would casually called the Indian community ‘obnoxious weed’ without any consequences in the most august of forums such as the Parliament.”

Mr Raj also said there was no room for racial vilification irrespective of who the recipient of the racial slur was and “I hope that the institution in question will take the necessary disciplinary action against the academic”.

Uni Fiji Dean of JDP School of Law Professor and former director of the Fiji Human Rights Commission Shaista Shameem, could not be reached for a comment yesterday.

Edited by Naisa Koroi    

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