Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase is once again indulging in mere rhetoric in his call for better race relations at the Economic Summit yesterday.
The Prime Minister needs to be told that mere lip service to multi-racialism is not going to create harmonious race relations in any country. There must be total and sincere commitment to fostering goodwill between the different races and this must be evident through one’s actions.
The Prime Minister’s actions in the past few weeks has shown no such commitment. How can he allow his senior Ministers and party members to insult another major community without any public rebuke; and still talk of racial harmony and goodwill?
As for his comment on affirmative policies sanctioned by the 1997 Constitution, Mr. Qarase is once again deliberately misleading the nation.
The Social Justice chapter of the Constitution makes it very clear that affirmative action programmes must be based on needs and not on race. The disadvantaged of all communities should benefit from any affirmative action programme.
The Constitution does not allow for a favoured treatment policy for any one race in Fiji that blatantly discriminates against other races. .
The Prime Minister is again misleading the nation in his claim that the indigenous people are the poorest in the country. The UNDP report on poverty has made it very clear that there is no sharp distinction between the races in terms of poverty. If anything, the Indian poor are marginally worse off than other communities, according to the report.
What Mr. Qarase should in fact do is explain to the indigenous community why they are still poor when they own 90% of all the land in the country, the fishing, forestry and mineral resources and despite having millions of dollars poured into affirmative action programmes for them in the past 32 years since independence!