Right of Re­ply

Fiji Sun - - Comment - Feed­back: jy­otip@fi­jisun.com.fj

SODELPA Leader

I re­spond to Ne­mani De­laibatiki’s anal­y­sis in the Fiji Sun on May 15, 2018 about my ad­dress to law stu­dents at the Univer­sity of Fiji on April 25, 2018.

He picked and chose only por­tions of my ad­dress, to crit­i­cise and to suit his ‘anal­y­sis’.

There­fore, it is im­por­tant for Mr De­laibatiki to un­der­stand my speech in to­tal­ity and its proper con­text.

It is true that I shared my per­sonal reser­va­tions on the use of “Fi­jian” as a com­mon name. These reser­va­tions were based for a num­ber of fun­da­men­tal rea­sons on in­ter­na­tional best prac­tices and ra­tio­nale that is relevant in our so­cial con­text.

These in­clude:

(i) the peo­ple were never con­sulted. It was im­posed, just like the Bain­i­marama regime’s uni­lat­eral re­vo­ca­tion of the 1997 Con­sti­tu­tion and re­moval and abo­li­tion of the Great Coun­cil of Chiefs. The peo­ple of Fiji have a right to be con­sulted and their voice heard on this very im­por­tant is­sue of na­tional in­ter­est that di­rectly af­fects them. In par­tic­u­lar, the in­dige­nous peo­ple were not con­sulted. They have been known col­lec­tively as “Fi­jians” since and be­fore ces­sion, until 2010 when it was re­moved by De­cree;

(ii) the 2013 Con­sti­tu­tion, for the first time in Fiji’s his­tory, has al­lowed a Fiji cit­i­zen to hold citizenship of a foreign State si­mul­ta­ne­ously. This dual na­tion­al­ity is a good thing in the con­text of our glob­alised world. But it cre­ates the du­bi­ous sit­u­a­tion about a per­son’s pa­tri­otic loy­alty and at­tach­ment to Fiji when one is at the same time the na­tional of an­other State.

(iii) most se­ri­ously, it ig­nores the group rights and self-de­ter­mi­na­tion of in­dige­nous iTaukei and Ro­tu­man peo­ple. These group rights had been recog­nised from the out­set of Bri­tish colo­nial ad­min­is­tra­tion of Fiji fol­low­ing the Deed of Ses­sion be­tween the Bri­tish Crown and the High Chiefs of Fiji on 10th Oc­to­ber 1874. They are cod­i­fied into the State laws of Fiji through the Con­sti­tu­tion, and statutes such as the iTaukei Lands Act and the Ro­tu­man Lands Act.

Ar­ti­cle 33 of the 2007 United Na­tions Dec­la­ra­tion on the Rights of In­dige­nous Peo­ples de­fines the group right of self­de­ter­mi­na­tion of in­dige­nous peo­ples as in­clud­ing their “…right to de­ter­mine their own iden­tity or mem­ber­ship in ac­cor­dance with their cus­toms and tra­di­tions.”

Our eth­nic, reli­gious and lin­guis­tic mi­nor­ity groups will be in­ter­ested to know that the Hu­man Rights Com­mit­tee, the over­sight body that mon­i­tors the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the In­ter­na­tional Covenant on Civil and Po­lit­i­cal Rights, has broad­ened its in­ter­pre­ta­tion of eth­nic, reli­gious and lin­guis­tic rights of mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties to in­clude the abil­ity of each com­mu­nity to main­tain its cul­ture, lan­guage or re­li­gion.

And fur­ther, it has called on States to in­tro­duce pos­i­tive mea­sures nec­es­sary to pro­tect the iden­tity of a mi­nor­ity com­mu­nity and the abil­ity of its mem­bers to en­joy and de­velop their cul­ture and lan­guage and to prac­tice their re­li­gion.

(iv) the un­ac­cept­able found­ing pre­sump­tion of the Bain­i­marama regime in the for­mu­la­tion of their 2013 Con­sti­tu­tion, is that there can be a clear sep­a­ra­tion, on the one hand, be­tween the State of Fiji as a po­lit­i­cal com­mu­nity of cul­tur­ally un­dif­fer­en­ti­ated in­di­vid­u­als and, on the other, Fiji as a multi-eth­nic, multi-reli­gious and mul­ti­cul­tural so­ci­ety. An im­posed po­lit­i­cal cul­ture based on a “sin­gle all-em­brac­ing na­tional iden­tity” is no dif­fer­ent from cul­tural as­sim­i­la­tion. Our dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties will feel more con­fi­dent and se­cure about their fu­ture in Fiji when their eth­nic­ity, reli­gious faiths and cul­tures are pub­licly ac­knowl­edged by the State and given equal pro­tec­tion and treat­ment.

(v) it would have been more ac­cept­able if we adopted the Cana­dian prac­tice of us­ing hy­phen­ated iden­ti­ties as part of its mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism poli­cies of pro­mot­ing unity in di­ver­sity.

Here in Fiji, de­pend­ing on the con­text, we can all be Fi­jians when we are over­seas, or when we are rep­re­sent­ing Fiji, but lo­cally for ease of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of who we are, we can re­fer to each other as na­tive or in­dige­nous Fi­jians, Indo-Fi­jians, Chinese-Fi­jians, Euro­pean or part-Euro­pean Fi­jians, and Ban­a­bans and Ro­tu­mans.

Whilst this method­ol­ogy iden­ti­fies who we are in terms of our ori­gin, its con­cur­rent util­ity and over­rid­ing ef­fi­cacy is that as cit­i­zens of Fiji ev­ery per­son is guar­an­teed un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion equal fun­da­men­tal rights and free­doms as laid down in the Bill of Rights.

Whilst shar­ing my per­sonal views, I also made it very clear that at the end of the day the peo­ple of Fiji will de­cide through di­a­logue and con­sen­sus build­ing on the issues that af­fect them, in­clud­ing the com­mon name.

The ‘will of the peo­ple’ is the key point of my views on the im­po­si­tion of ‘Fi­jian’ as a com­mon name. Yes, I first proposed ‘Fi­jian” as a com­mon name in 1987. How­ever due to op­po­si­tion from the peo­ple, I did not im­pose it.

I again proposed ‘Fi­jian’ as a com­mon name in 1995 dur­ing the review of the 1990 Con­sti­tu­tion.

Again, it was not ac­cepted, and the peo­ple widely ex­pressed this view to the Con­sti­tu­tion Review Com­mis­sion chaired by Sir Paul Reeves, for­mer Gov­er­nor Gen­eral of New Zealand.

That is why ‘Fiji Islander’ was the com­mon name put for­ward in the 1997 Con­sti­tu­tion.

At least Mr De­laibatiki should note and ac­knowl­edge that there is a caveat on my sug­ges­tion.

There must be con­sul­ta­tion with the peo­ple be­fore any de­ci­sion is taken on issues that af­fect them or im­pinge on their rights.

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