Monday, January 15, 2007

Affirmative Action Policy

Policy Change Would Be a Big Mistake - By PEceli Kinivuwai, National Director SDL Party
Over the last few days since the appointment of Ministers in the military backed Interim Administration, many of them have made statements without even fully consulting with their respective departments or having received advise and briefings from their respective public servants. These ministers decide to dismantle major programs which were put in place by previous governments after careful consideration. These programs were also endorsements by previous elections and legislated.
A classical example is the case of Interim Minister Sukanaivalu who recently said he would dismantle the affirmative action policies of the Ministry of Education. Mr Sukanaivalu we understand has some background in technical education but he has to look carefully at these affirmative actions and how they work on the ground. There is a real danger that in attempting to throw out the proverbial bathwater, he will throw out the baby as well.
Mr Sukanaivalu needs to be aware that affirmative actions dates well back in the days of the Alliance of Ratu Mara. Such policies had been a subject of analysis by the most recent Fiji Education Commission Report of 2000, and have been endorsed also in two successful elections including the recent 2006 elections. In fact these programs formed an important part of the recent SDL Manifesto. Mr Sukanaivalu must note the silence of the Fijian Teachers Association when he made his comments on these programs and as a Fijian, he must know the meaning of that silence (vakanomodi). It does not mean consent .It would have been expected at the very least that he should have a discussion with the body that represents the Fijians and Rotumans in the profession.
He should also at least consult representatives of the Fijian/Rotuman School committees who form a substantial part of the school committees in Fiji. They also own most of the land on which most schools in Fiji are built on, in case he has forgotton.These Fijians and Rotumans will be there well after the Interim Administration has finished its term. They build their own schools and are in partership with the Government for the education of our people in Fiji.They have a right to be consulted in accordance with customs. I am sure that in Mr Sukanaivalu’s unsuccessful campaign for an Alliance ticket, he would have encountered strong views on affirmative action policies if he had kept his ears and eyes open. If he consults the School committees and the Fijian teachers Association, he would be told in no uncertain terms where he should or should not go.
There are other Ministers like Mr Chaudhry who seemed to have taken the same hard line actions which made him unpopular in 2000 with regards to moving people arbitrarily following his own whims and agenda. So is Mr Vayeshnoi who follows his Labour leader’s agenda which has no relevance to his own constituency in Sigatoka. It seems that the Interim Administration has provided the opportunity for people like these three to fulfill their personal vendetta against their political opponents. The Commander is well advised to keep such guys under constant check. We need to have a very clear picture from the current military backed Administration a clear roadmap for the country.
Within that, we need to clearly spell out the nature and extent of the type of issues that the Ministers need to concern themselves with.Most Interim Administrations are preoccupied with preparing the country for democratic elections, and its economic policies are therefore primarily to move the country forward but within set parameters. They are not expected to bring about drastically new policies that are diametrically opposed to those policies the majority of people supported in the most recent elections. There is no justification therefore for Mr Sukanaivalu or Mr Chaudhry or his Labour assistant Mr Vayeshnoi to use their time in the Interim Cabinet to carry out their own vendetta against SDL or NFP or against other rival groups. These people must serve all people and therefore must resign from politically aligned organizations that have been part of.
In keeping with this, Mr Chaudhry as Minister for Sugar,should resign his post as Secretary of the NFU. He owes it to the country to do that not only for transparency but more so to present a non- partisan profile to the people. It is also not enough for him to say in a remote radio interview that he is not going to stand in the next elections he must state this publicly in Fiji and in the Cabinet for all to hear. This might engender some confidence in the Interim Administration. The Commander will be well advised to keep this matter in mind.
The Clean up Campaign is a failure. All we have seen and heard are allegations and cover ups. We have not been given hard evidence that made it necessary for all to suffer and the economy to be destroyed. The shadowy figures are now exposed. Many were and are in the line up of the Military Council and the current military backed Interim Administration. We have not fooled the international community; they know and they have said so in their statements that nothing has changed since handing over authority to the President. Our own people and our chiefs and leaders had expected better but that is not to be.The Interim Administration needs to do better! It must abandon the excuse of the clean up campaign. It must now satisfy itself with the appointment of a commission to look at this issue and report accordingly and with full powers to call witnesses as required within the law. This being done, it must hand over all authorities to a properly constituted civil body under the President.
The Army must return to the barracks after that and the President must be allowed or at least seen to be exercising his authority independently for the people of Fiji. He has an obligation to do this if he is to be remembered for his service to Fiji. If he does not, the efforts and expectations of all our people will have come to naught and the high office of the President and the great Council of Chiefs would have suffered a major blow. It is in all our interests as good citizens of Fiji to ensure that the President is able to discharge his full responsibilities under the Constitution. It is in the long term interest also of the military itself that the Commander ensures that the President is able to exercise his independent authority and hand Fiji to a genuine civil Interim Administration.

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