‘Code Of Conduct’ Now In Question

The Ministry of Education has broken its silence on the questionable conduct of one of its high school teachers following a complaint lodged by the National Federation Party (NFP).
26 Oct 2020 09:02
‘Code Of Conduct’ Now In Question
From left-right: Kishore Kumar and Lenora Qereqeretabua.

The Ministry of Education has broken its silence on the questionable conduct of one of its high school teachers following a complaint lodged by the National Federation Party (NFP).

Yesterday, Minister Rosy Akbar issued a stern warning to teachers that as civil servants they must uphold the values and abide by the Civil Servants Code of Conduct at all times. This is in light of allegations levelled by Year 13 Suva teacher, Kishore Kumar, against NFP MP, Lenora Qereqeretabua.

Ms Akbar said the ministry would neither condone nor tolerate any breach to the Code of Conduct and would not hesitate to dish out disciplinary measures against teachers.

“No MEHA employee should engage in any activity that brings disrepute to the nobility of the teaching profession, whether in official working hours or outside of official working hours,” Ms Akbar said.

“MEHA employees are to treat all members of society with respect, courtesy and in a fair and equitable manner without harassment, victimisation or discrimination in accordance with section 26(3) of the Constitution.”

The complaint was lodged last Friday by NFP’s youth general secretary, Apenisa Vatuniveivuke, who claimed that Mr Kumar had, on repeated occasions, made public comments and allegations against Ms Qereqeretabua.

Mr Vatuniveivuke said Mr Kumar had irrefutably referred to Ms Qereqeretabua and that the posts had been available on Facebook for months.

In similar cases, he said teachers would have been publicly reprimanded and sacked. He further questioned the ministry as to why Mr Kumar was still employed.

Ms Qereqeretabua, in response to questions from the Fiji Sun, labelled Mr Kumar’s claims as “ridiculous and outright bizarre”, adding that the attacks have only created more interest in her as an MP.

“If we are serious about wanting more gender equality in Parliament and we want our young women to aspire to holding public office, then we must stand up against this kind of behaviour for the sake of every young woman or young man who may face this kind of human being as they try to forge their way forward in their studies or career,” Ms Qereqeretabua said.

“If the attacks are meant to intimidate me, they have only hardened my resolve to be more outspoken about the issues that matter to those who do not have a voice.”

She said more people were now visiting her social media pages to hear what she had to say and see what she did.

“I am tough, but for some young woman or young man facing the same kind of online harassment; bullying, racism, misogyny or homophobia, this can stop them from speaking out, running for public office or worse it can lead to depression, self-doubt, self-loathing and even self-harm. People have taken their own lives over stuff like this,” she said.

When the Fiji Sun visited Mr Kumar yesterday, he remained adamant that he had video evidence against Ms Qereqeretabua and that he was happy to provide the same to the Police, if they approached him.

He said the video had surfaced because the MP cursed him and he wanted her out of Parliament. He also clarified that he was not part of any political party.

“My page is personal and I have the right to freedom of speech, which is granted to every citizen under the 2013 Constitution. I can speak out, but with responsibility and not against the Government because I am a civil servant,” Mr Kumar said.

“I am not doing this for myself. It’s for the people. Civil servant does not mean I am a servant, that my mouth is shut.”

He said he had not breached the Civil Servants Code of Conduct and it was not the first time he was being investigated for social media postings.

Police spokesperson Ana Naisoro also confirmed that a complaint was lodged by Ms Qereqeretabua against Mr Kumar in August and investigations were continuing.

Edited by Jonathan Bryce


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