NATION

Sign Interpreter Cook Vilified On Social Media

After Thursday’s announcement, which was live on national television, keyboard warriors took to social media and attacked Melita Delaibau Cook, saying she was too animated and distracting.
21 Mar 2020 12:19
Sign Interpreter Cook Vilified On Social Media
Melita Delaibau Cook interprets the Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s statement.

First it was the young man who contracted coronavirus, then later the same afternoon it was the sign language interpreter who was vilified on social media.

After Thursday’s announcement, which was live on national television, keyboard warriors took to social media and attacked Melita Delaibau Cook, saying she was too animated and distracting.

Ms Cook was the interpreter during the, announcement by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama on Fiji’s first coronavirus case and measures Government have put in place.

What many people don’t know, Ms Cook herself is deaf.

The Sign Language Interpreters Association of Fiji decided to have her interpret the announcement because it was her language and no one could tell the non-hearing audience better than her.

She was the best person to interpret the threat of the disease and the threat that the nation was facing.

Association chairperson Tina Mareu said the technique used to interpret the announcements was called feeding.

“A person with hearing ability was interpreting and Ms Cook was using that to relay the message.

“Sign language is different from spoken language. And using a deaf person to interpret ensured that she was able to relay the message with the correct gestures.

“That is why she looked animated. Because sign language is her language, she knows the correct responses and gestures when the level of emergency is talked about.”

The interpreter stayed on with all officials who made statements about COVID-19 on Thursday.

Ms Mareu said there was a large Fijian community who were unable to hear and according to the 2013 Constitution, they too had a right to information.

Yesterday on Twitter, Mr Bainimarama praised both Ms Cook and Ministry of Health and Medical Services head of health protection Dr Aalisha Sahukhan.

“A big Vinaka to two powerful women, who are helping to keep the Fijian public informed on COVID-19 – namely, Dr Aalisha Sahukan and Melita Delaibau, our outstanding interpreter from yesterday’s press conference. You make Fiji proud.”

Ms Cook was born deaf. With hard work and the availability of sign language in tertiary institutions, she was able to obtain a Bachelor of Education.

Fiji Human Rights and Anti-discrimination Commission director Ashwin Raj said: “It is also a matter of national shame that while concerted effort was made by Government to engage a sign language interpreter to ensure that no one including our deaf community is left behind, some took to the social media to ridicule the interpreter. All right thinking should condemn this abhorrent behavior on the social media.”

Edited by Selita Bolanavanua

Feedback: shalveen.chand@fijisun.com.fj


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