Fiji’s future lies in racially inclusive policies: Chaudhry

  • 2nd July 2003
  • 2003
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Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry says Fiji can only progress through a policy of inclusiveness that draws on the cultural strengths of its various communities and not racially exclusive policies.

“There is absolutely no doubt that our future as a nation, lies in drawing strength from the richness of the cultural diversity that surrounds us, for in that alone lies our sustainability and viability as a sovereign state,” Mr. Chaudhry said. .

“Our social and economic well-being also is intricately intertwined with interdependence on each other of the various communities that make up the nation of Fiji. No one community can expect to succeed alone without the help of the others,” he said.

He was speaking as chief guest at the ground launching ceremony for rental flats for the Fiji Teachers Union Wednesday. Mr. Chaudhry commended the FTU for its commitment to multiracialism over the years describing it as the Union’s greatest contribution to nation building.

The full text of Mr. Chaudhry’s speech follows:

“The Fiji Teachers Union was formed in March 1930 to safeguard and promote the welfare of those employed in the teaching profession. Before this the Methodist Teachers Association (Suva) and the Lautoka Teachers Association existed to protect the rights of the teachers working as private, grant aided, NZ scheme of cooperation and missionary teachers.

Noting the value of education and to keep focus on the importance of its proper delivery, the founders of the FTU chose ‘The Child Our Hope’ as the Union’s motto.

Over its 73 years of existence, the FTU has made immense contribution to developing policies on education and its delivery to the children of our country. It has assisted the various governments, over the period, in maintaining a balanced approach to education. In doing so, the union has not hesitated to voice its criticism where it considered such to be necessary in the interests of the future of our children.

Among its many achievements in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of its members, the FTU can count the three job evaluation exercises conducted for teachers in 1973, 1982 and 1993. These were effectively pay and working condition reviews and resulted in substantial gains for members of the teaching profession.

It is no wonder, therefore, that the Union today enjoys a multi-racial membership of around 4000.

But in my reckoning, the greatest contribution of the FTU to our nation has been its relentless support for cultural diversity and multi-racialism. The union has always been at the forefront in the fight against racism in Fiji.

There is absolutely no doubt that our future as a nation, lies in drawing strength from the richness of the cultural diversity that surrounds us, for in that alone lies our sustainability and viability as a sovereign state.

Our social and economic well-being also is intricately intertwined with interdependence on each other of the various communities that make up the nation of Fiji. No one community can expect to succeed alone without the help of the others.

Ours has to be a nation of inclusiveness and this has to be reflected quite emphatically in the field of education so as to mould the minds of our younger generation in the right direction.

There is simply no sense in propounding policies which exclude other communities to the perceived benefit of one. Such policies will not achieve anything except discord and dissatisfaction.

Having said as much on the political ideology of the FTU; I must hasten to commend its officials, both past and present, for their foresight and initiatives in establishing a sound financial base for the union.

An organisation rich in resources has the capability and capacity to provide enhanced benefits to its membership. In the case of FTU it has mutual aid benefits which are paid out on family bereavement, on retirement and for medical consultations. Put together, these benefits add up to quite a bit.

The union’s headquarters building, put up in 1994 at a cost of one million dollars, is a symbol of its financial success. It houses the union’s administrative offices and has modern features and facilities. The building earns good rental income from tenants, and has been paid off.

The FTU also has a Thrift and Credit Society – which has paid-up membership shares of around $9 million. Most members have had their financial needs met by the Society at one time or another, without having to borrow from a commercial bank at higher interest rates.

Trade unions must organise their collective strength not only in the field of industrial bargaining but, more so, in assisting their members meet their social and financial needs and obligations.

A trade union which provides mutual aid benefits is more likely to attract and retain its membership than that which offers no such advantages.

Today is a proud moment for the officials and members of the FTU in that their organisation is taking a further stride in securing the union’s financial base by undertaking the construction of a block of 12 residential flats, adjoining its headquarters building, here in Berry Road. The estimated construction cost of the flats is $2.3 million. When fully tenanted, the building is expected to earn an annual rental of $245,000.

From the financial figures I have been shown, it is more than clear that the project has been well planned and that income from it will, in due course, add to the accumulated funds of the union.

The Union seems to have taken a cue from its sister organization, FTU CTCS, which owns two up market residential properties in Knollys Street and Nailuva Road, with a combined annual rental in excess of $350,000.

As I had said earlier, good financial planning should be an integral and important part of trade union strategy to better serve its members. They alone should not be burdened with the cost of running a well-equipped organization. There is only so much that you can extract from them in membership subscription – beyond that will have to come from investments made by the union from the reserves it has built up over the years. In the case of FTU, there is no doubt that its reserves have been invested wisely.

A sound financial base provides insurance, both for your industrial as well as socio-economic activities.

I take this opportunity to congratulate the officials and members of the FTU on their fine achievement and am honoured to officiate at the foundation laying ceremony of their newest commercial venture.

May the Lord bless the Union and its members.”