July 27, 2012

Race issues

Tevita Vuibau
Friday, July 27, 2012

THE former vice president of Fiji and roko tui Bau, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi believes race relations in Fiji are better now than they ever were.

He made the comments while addressing participants at a CCF forum titled 'Bringing Fiji Together - Addressing Inclusivity in Constitution Making' at the Holiday Inn yesterday.

Ratu Joni, who was a guest speaker at the forum had been one of two foreigners on the Solomon Islands Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Ratu Joni made the comments while speaking on racial harmony and the 1997 Constitution.

"We thought the 1997 Constitution would end our long nightmare, we were wrong," Ratu Joni said. "We are still a fractured society although I also have to say that ironically, inter-racial relations appear to be better than they ever were."

Ratu Joni attributed this current improved state to several factors including government policies and changed iTaukei mind sets.

He believes Fijians of Indian, European and mixed descent feel more a part of Fijian society because of the policies and actions of the present government.

He said, secondly, some of the iTaukei fears about domination by Fijians of Indian descent have been mitigated by the increase in the iTaukei population and continued immigration of Fijians of Indian descent.

"Third, despite some of the perceived egregious actions of the government against iTaukei interests, iTaukei still see a government dominated by them, a military that is still almost iTaukei in composition and the fact that the government does not intrude on their daily lives unless they make waves."

However, Ratu Joni also said he felt Fiji was still a fractured society because the country had yet to create and embed within itself a set of common values.

"What are these values? A common identity, a belief in our country, democracy, human rights, the rule of law and other civic beliefs."

However, Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum differed from the view offered by Ratu Joni saying instead the reality was that the same common values were already in Fiji society.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the comments made by Ratu Joni placed ethnicity at the centre of the debate which was worrisome. He added that by removing ethnic voting from the electoral system the government was working to ensure that political parties of tomorrow were not based on ethnicity.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said removing ethnicity from the system and ensuring the one person one vote principle meant government policies would not be ethnically slanted and therefore more inclusive.

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