The Leader of the Opposition, Inia Seruiratu and Fiji Labour Party Leader, Mahendra Chaudhry have condemned the comments of Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka where he referred to the other races apart from the iTaukei in Fiji as ‘vulagi’ during the World Indigenous Day celebrations.
Rabuka had said ‘vulagi’ is the term used by the iTaukei to acknowledge and take responsibility for other races.
The Prime Minister said on that day that from today on if you are called ‘vulagi’ do not take offence, as it is a term used by the iTaukei to acknowledge you and you become their responsibility that they are undertaking.
Rabuka said if you do not understand the words, please understand the deeper meaning of the word and the ceremonies and the day that they acknowledge.
He had also made the call to the indigenous community to accept the challenges of those who have lived and called this land their home.
However Seruiratu says he condemns Prime Minister Rabuka's recent divisive remarks and calls for unity and respect for Fiji’s constitution.
He says Rabuka’s comments go against the spirit of unity and mutual respect that our constitution - a constitution that he has sworn to uphold - so clearly embodies.
Seruiratu says this is a tactic that only serves to divide our people further and is in direct contravention of the principles that we, as Fijians, hold dear.
The Leader of the Opposition says we must ask ourselves - how long does one have to live here to be recognised as a Fijian.
Seruiratu says this name-giving exercise only breeds uncertainty, continuing to fan the flames of divisiveness, a stance that, sadly, appears to be a core value of the current government.
He says this continuous discussion does absolutely no good for our country and is a direct affront to the principles our constitution has set in stone. Seruiratu stresses that we are all Fijians, full stop.
He says this is no longer a debate; this is the reality and the universally accepted identity of Fiji as a nation from many years ago.
Seruiratu asks why is the Prime Minister insisting on tearing us apart again.
He also commends SODELPA for making their stand.
The Opposition Leader says we are either naturalized or natural-born citizens.
He says the Prime Minister's disregard for the 2013 constitution and the new Fiji that came into being with it is alarming and unacceptable.
Seruiratu says Rabuka took an oath under that constitution; he needs to accept and respect that and move on.
Mahendra Chaudhry says Prime Minister Rabuka should understand that the Indians did not come here as vulagi.
Chaudhry says the Indians were bought here by the British which ruled over Fiji and India at the time.
He says Indians came as British subjects and, upon serving their indenture, were free to return to India or settle in Fiji with full citizenship rights.
Chaudhry says they have lived here for over 140 years in the course of which their contribution to Fiji’s development remains unmatched.
The former Prime Minister says Indians have endured two racist coups despite which they have remained committed to Fiji.
He says many have left but that is natural for those seeking a peaceful, progressive and secure life.
Chaudhry says he for one is a victim of both the coups, and was removed at gunpoint as Prime Minister of a government elected with the biggest mandate in Fiji’s political history.
He says he is still here speaking out not for the Indians alone but the nation as a whole.
Chaudhry says national unity was a rallying cry of Rabuka’s Alliance Party during the last elections.
He says it’s a contradiction now for him to alienate the ethnic Indians by calling them vulagi.
Chaudhry asks Rabuka if it is time for yet another apology from him.
We have sought comments from Rabuka and Deputy Prime Minister, Professor Biman Prasad.
There has been no response so far.
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