Politics

Prime Minister Bainimarama: Opposition MP Mosese Bulitavu A Coward

“We see that same mentality in men who think women ought to be brewing tea in the boardroom rather than leading the meeting; the men who think women belong in the kitchen making dinner, rather than going to work and earning a pay check to support their families; and the men who believe they rank above women – even in this very parliament – simply by virtue of being male,” he said
09 Aug 2019 12:19
Prime Minister Bainimarama: Opposition MP Mosese Bulitavu A Coward
SODELPA Opposition member Mosese Bulitavu in Parliament. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama yesterday called SODELPA Opposition MP Mosese Bulitavu a coward in  Parliament.

He led the charge in condemning Mr Bulitavu for his controversial remarks  on violence against women and racist reference to the Indo-Fijian community.

Speaking on a motion condemning the remarks, Mr Bainimarama ranked Mr Bulitavu with men who “feed into the same culture of abuse in our society.”

“In my view, those men are all cowards.”

He said Mr Bulitavu proved himself to be such a man.

He said the patriarchal mindset of men who committed abuse didn’t always manifest in violence.

“We see that same mentality in men who think women ought to be brewing tea in the boardroom rather than leading the meeting; the men who think women belong in the kitchen making dinner, rather than going to work and earning a pay check to support their families; and the men who believe they rank above women – even in this very parliament –  simply by virtue of being male,” he said

“Those men all share the same backwards mentality.”

He said they all fed into the same culture of abuse in our society.

He said Mr Bulitavu proved himself to be such a man when – in response to an horrific act of violence committed against a Fijian woman – he gave voice to an ugly and insufferable lie on his social media.

He said he hesitated to even read Mr Bulitavu’s words aloud.

“The language is offensive and unbecoming of this august Parliament.

What Bulitavu wrote

“On 4 July 2019, Bulitavu posted a message on his Facebook that contained the following:

“Murder and stabbing in the past were only done by Fijians who are descendants of the indentured labourers from British India and was never part of Fijians who are iTaukeis now slowly sharing some itovo vulagi, meaning foreign behaviour.”

Mr Bainimarama said those were the first words out of Bulitavu’s mouth upon hearing news of a murder of an innocent woman.

“His first instinct was to blame an entire race of people for the evil actions of a sick and twisted individual. But it didn’t end there. He went on to stereotype Indo-Fijian women as being promiscuous.

“He claimed that iTaukei men only beat iTaukei women because they are bigger than them. Worse, he insinuated that iTaukei women should be thankful these beatings aren’t carried out with weapons.”

He said every word was a slap in the face to the victims of domestic abuse and a step backwards for our campaign to rid our country of these terrible crimes.

“He didn’t call for an end to domestic violence in all its forms, against women of all backgrounds. He didn’t raise awareness of the resources available to women who are suffering from domestic violence. He didn’t mention number 1560 – the helpline available to all women 24/7 where they can report domestic violence and seek assistance.”

Further condemning Bulitavu’s comments

Mr Bainimarama said Mr Bulitavu took a ghastly crime and used it as ammunition in his campaign to drive his divisive “us versus them” narrative – the same narrative he’s pushed his entire political career.

He said it had fallen upon all of us to do the job that the Leader of SODELPA and its new president should have done long ago, not only by condemning Bulitavu, but by speaking the truth and undoing the damage he had done to the national effort to rid Fiji of gender-based violent crimes.

“We can’t view our past through rose coloured lenses. The notion that iTaukei society was a utopia, free from gender-based violence, or that weapons weren’t used to deadly effect, is nonsense,” he said.

“Since the dawn of humanity, the root cause of those atrocities has been a struggle for power and economic dominance, coupled with a misogynistic mentality that sees women as inherently unequal and as possessions that can be used and abused at will.

“When we make up ridiculous justifications for domestic violence in our society, we give those men an excuse for their actions. It is people like Bulitavu who give those abusers the chance to blame their despicable behaviour on someone else.

“Evil men decide to commit those cowardly acts all on their own.

“I realise Bulitavu has since tried to superficially distance himself from his statement. But anyone who has read his so-called apology will know that he wasn’t genuinely seeking forgiveness.”

He said if any member of the FijiFirst party had ever make such statements, that day would mark their last day in this party.

“That’s the standard by which this Government operates. That’s the high level of responsibility to which we all adhere. And it is shameful that the Leader of the Opposition and the President of SODELPA have allowed Bulitavu to remain among the party’s ranks. It’s shameful that he still sits in this parliament.”

Calling out Opposition on not condemning Bulitavu

“Bulitavu has been verbally abusing the women of his own party for years. He’s a bully inside of this House and outside it as well. So, I have to ask: how much power does Bulitavu wield in your party that he can intimidate so many of you into silence? To the men who rank in the Opposition; many of you have daughters, many you have wives and all of you have mothers. Why have you not spoken in their defence?

“To the women of SODELPA and the NFP who have failed to categorically condemn Bulitavu in the 35 days since he made those comments: Where have you been? Hon Tabuya, Hon Radrodro, Hon Qionibaravi, Hon Kepa and Hon Qereqeretabua: Your silence has signified your compliance and your acceptance of a despicable attempt to excuse domestic violence in Fijian society by directing misplaced blame along ethnic lines.”

Mr Bainimarama asked them to speak out “not for the sake of your political careers, but for the sake of every Fijian, particularly the women and young girls who have been victims of domestic abuse.”

He said Mr Bulitavu’s statement was not only steeped in misogyny. It was racist.

“And it is no coincidence that his post came on the heels of comments by Honourable Ratu Naiqama who called the NFP and FLP parties “vulagi” parties in Fiji.

“At the national level, the notion of being a “vulagi” does not apply to any Fijian.  No Fijian can be a “vulagi” in the country to which they are born, where their ancestors are buried and where their grandchildren and great-grandchildren will one day call home. And our Indo-Fijian brothers and sisters are not – and never will be – “vulagis” in Fiji. They are one with us and they are part of us, now and always. The NFP and FLP are both Fijian parties. They are not foreign. Their members not staying in Fiji on a tourist visa.

“Every minute we spend viewing national issues as ethnic issues, as religious issues, or as issues relating to different provinces, is a minute wasted. And when it comes to preventing domestic violence, every minute counts.

“Solving a Fijian problem – such as violence against women –  requires action from all Fijians.  It requires we put down our communal and political banners and rally together to protect those who are suffering; those who have survived abuse and those living in fear this very moment of reporting their abuser to authorities.

“Let’s not raise a generation of men like Mosese Bulitavu and Fijians who enable his behaviour.

“In this moment, the eyes and the expectations of our fellow Fijians are upon every one of us. The women of this country are watching. The young girls of this country are watching. And survivors of domestic and sexual violence are watching as well. They are waiting for us to make stand in their defence, in defence of the truth, and in defence of all those most vulnerable in society.”

Edited by Nemani Delaibatiki

Feedback: selita.bolanavanua@fijisun.com.fj

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