A Truth and Reconciliation Commission will be established by the Government to facilitate open and free engagement in truth telling and confront fears in view of conflicting statements and utterances regarding motives behind the political upheavals so that closure and healing for Fiji is achieved and permanently put to rest this unfortunate and turbulent chapter of our independent history.
Assistant Minister for Women, Children and Social Protection, Sashi Kiran made these comments while tabling a motion to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Kiran says with many long years of personal engagement with the people, there are a lot of people hurting and many unresolved issues that needs closure apart from the coups and other events that have also caused pain and misery to many.
She says it is time for closure and healing for Fiji and permanently put to rest this unfortunate and turbulent chapter of our independent history.
The Assistant Minister says many have moved on but not all and therefore we need to come forward as a nation to give the true meaning of truth telling and achieving genuine reconciliation that will heal our current, past and future generations.
Kiran says reconciliation is a process of healing that acknowledges and helps in the past harm and replaces fear with a sense of security which requires a safe place for sharing stories.
While speaking in support of the motion, Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka says through this motion and driven by their combined resolve, they should aim to remove the division between the two main communities that have co-existed since well before independence.
He says he challenges them all as they do not have a reason to oppose.
Deputy Prime Minister Viliame Gavoka says the Prime Minister epitomises humility and most importantly, he does not hide anything.
He says Rabuka has apologised a number of times and here is a leader who hides nothing from his people and others can do the same for 2006.
Gavoka says he saw a lot of emotion today and it confirms to him that we need truth and reconciliation.
He says old wounds left unattended will fester so it is better to cleanse those wounds and it is political maturity to take on the challenge and do it.
The Deputy Prime Minister further says there is an unprecedented level of interest in Fiji where our people over the last eight months have come back in big numbers to invest in Fiji.
Deputy Prime Minister, Professor Biman Prasad says attempts to reconcile, confessing wrongdoings were turned into a political football for many years while truth telling had disappeared until 14th May 2023 when the Methodist Church did a peaceful reconciliation on Girmit Day.
Professor Prasad says if there is no trust and unity between different communities they will not feel included on the issues that matters and will feel suppressed.
He says in any conflict, even small household settings if there is a dispute and people do not talk about it will never be resolved and it is the same for the government.
Professor Prasad says that FijiFirst MP, Premila Kumar said this will somehow shatter confidence but if the Members of the Opposition give bipartisan support it will be the defining moment for the country as it will bring unity.
However this did not happen as the FijiFirst opposed the motion.
While opposing the motion, FijiFirst MP Viliame Naupoto says the Commission will open up wounds of the past.
Naupoto has cautioned that as we try to open the wounds of the past, treat it and get it healed, we must make sure that we are not creating wounds now.
He is pleading that if we want this country to be prosperous, peaceful, stable and good for our grandchildren, we have to be tough and face those deep rooted problems that we have.
FijiFirst MP Premila Kumar says what we need in this country is not truth and reconciliation but political maturity, adherence to the rule of law, compliance with the 2013 Constitution and recognising that Fiji is a multi-racial and multi-religious country.
Kumar says it hurts when Indo-Fijians are called vulagi and asks is this reconciliation.
She says the Prime Minister has apologised to the girmitiyas many times and barely a few months later, he calls the same people vulagi and the main reason for it is that Indo-Fijians came after.
She further says the establishment of the Commission is more to deviate attention from the real issues facing the country such as economic inequality and as leaders they should be focusing on policies where the economy grows and the disadvantaged in our community are looked after.
She further says that establishing a Commission in a small country like Fiji gives a signal to the world that we do have some serious issues and this will have a negative impact on investor and consumer confidence and huge impact on the economy.
Kumar says one of the main challenges in establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission is the danger of political manipulation and government might use it to selectively investigate their political opponents while protecting their own interest.
She says this can undermine the impartiality and credibility of such a Commission.
The MP further says it can also lead to a form of leniency and amnesty for those who have committed serious crimes.
She says the coalition government continues to disregard the rule of law, are pursuing their agenda without legal procedures which poses significant threat to the stability and integrity of the nation.
Kumar says victims will have a high expectation that the Commission will provide them with justice and compensation but if this expectation is not met, it can lead to disillusionment and disappointment.
FijiFirst MP Faiyaz Koya says people of this country have scars all over them and we will never ever be able to remove that but we must put that at the back of our minds and move forward.
Koya says truth can be told and there is no need of a Commission and if there is areal need of reconciliation then there is no need to go further than how it is culturally done.
In her right of reply, Kiran says she has seen in the Prime Minister's eyes and his voice on deep commitment to rebuilding the nation and was blamed for starting all the problems.
She says while he has taken responsibility, he wants to do everything possible to lead the country to a better place.
Kiran further says she has seen him apologising many times and as a leader she wishes he would not do that anymore and hopes through this process there will be no need to apologise.
While responding to Kumar's comments on the Prime Minister using the world 'vulagi', Kiran says the Prime Minister in his speech reflected himself as a guest and not anyone else as vulagi and used it for himself.
28 members voted for the motion, 23 against while 4 did not vote.
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