Race Sparks Heated Debate As Parliament Sitting Starts

The fiery debate started after Agriculture Minister Mahendra Reddy delivered his ministerial statement on the ongoing 2020 Agriculture census.
18 Feb 2020 09:42
Race Sparks Heated Debate As Parliament Sitting Starts
Niko Nawaikula

The parliamentary debate yesterday lived up to expectation.

Sparks flew when it touched on ethnicity data, xenophobia (prejudice against people from other countries) and racism.

The fiery debate started after Agriculture Minister Mahendra Reddy delivered his ministerial statement on the ongoing 2020 Agriculture census.

It got SODELPA MP Inosi Kuridrani going on ethnicity data. It was a predictable response to a statement that focused on all Fijians, not on ethnic groupings. It clearly showed that in this Parliament session SODELPA MPs will focus on race and indigenous issues as the core platform.

Mr Kuridrani expressed disappointment at the exclusion of ethnicity data in the census.

According to MP Kuridrani this is a direct translation of Government turning a blind eye to the rich identity and culture of Fiji’s multi-ethnic society.

“Ignoring ethnicity is a recipe for disaster. The disaggregated ethnicity data is required for the basic research behind policy decisions,” MP Kuridrani said.

“Because we and the Government must look at and assist the individual, families and communities holistically, rather than ignoring ethnicity-related factors that contribute to his current state, or inability to prosper in certain areas.”

While sorely attempting to justify his party’s racist agenda he said a person’s ethnic background amounted to the ‘best and full information’ required to tailor-make policies that “really help farmers to prosper.”

He rejected the Government’s position that everything must be looked at on merit – not on race or religion.

Then Opposition MP Niko Nawaikula joined the debate with his own definition of racism. He made the outrageous claim that the Open Merit Recruitment and Selection policy was racist and designed to remove indigenous Fijians from top Government positions.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum raised a point of order saying Mr Nawaikula was misleading Parliament by giving false information “of which he has absolutely no proof.

“He is also inciting Parliament and members of Parliament by using racial vilification – with absolutely no proof for that. He simply stands up all the time making all sorts of comments and thinks he can get away with it. There are certain standards that need to be adhered to – absolutely no proof of that Mr Speaker Sir. That comment needs to be withdrawn please with your indulgence,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said

Mr Nawaikula then attacked Mr Reddy calling him “the racist of them all.

“There is no one above the level of director who is native.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum retorted and called out “you are a bunch of racists, that’s what you are.”

Mr Nawaikula hit back “you are a bunch of racists.”

In the debate over the Fiji Ports Corporation Limited 2016 Annual Report, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said Mr Nawaikula’s paranoia and xenophobia about foreigners was very well known.

Mr Nawaikula had questioned why Sri Lankan conglomerate Aitken Spence was brought in as a partner and shareholder of Fiji Ports Corporation and not a local company like Fijian Holdings Limited.

“This company which is Sri Lankan is like a parasite. Parasite depending on Government.

“These are the people who come here and wreck the economy, and you know it. That’s what’s happened. You’re getting all these expatriates from overseas and what’s happened in the last 15 years? Kill the economy. No money.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum clarified saying Aitken Spence only holds 20 per cent shares with Fiji Ports, 39 per cent is owned by the Fijian government and the balance owned by the Fiji National Provident Fund. “Eighty per cent of FPCL is Fijian-owned.”

Race was the catalyst that provoked the heated debate yesterday. And it is likely to continue this week.

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

Feedback: fonua.talei@fijisun.com.fj

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