Common identity

SOME major political parties are in agreement that the “common identity” of a nation should be achieved through a public consultation and not imposed on its citizens.

The Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA), National Federation Party (NFP), Unity Fiji party and the Fiji Labour Party (FLP) believe “Fijian” as the common identity for the people of Fiji under the 2013 Constitution was not achieved through wider public consultation.

As we head towards the 2018 General Election, The Fiji Times asked the six registered political parties about their views on the issue of common identity.
We asked:
– What is your party’s view on the issue of common identity?

The FijiFirst party and the Freedom Alliance Party did not respond to the questions when the edition went to press last night.

Questions were sent to the parties via electronic mail (email) on Monday.

The NFP, FLP, Unity Fiji and SODELPA responded to the question.

FLP leader Mahendra Chaudhry claimed the issue of a common identity for Fiji’s multi-ethnic population had long been a source of debate in the country.

“It continues to be a matter of contention today.

“Proponents of a common identity view it as a vehicle for nation building that will foster a better sense of belonging and integration,” Mr Chaudhry said.

“Indeed, it has long been a grievance of the Indo-Fijian community that by not granting them a common name along with the other communities, Fiji was relegating them to second class citizenship, thus creating a sense of alienation, rather than belonging,” he claimed.

NFP leader Prof Biman Prasad said the imposition of a common name did not promote common and equal citizenry.

“Imposition of a common name does not promote or achieve equality, dignity and justice for our ordinary people,” Prof Prasad said.

“Imposition of a common name does not promote meritocracy in recruitment and appointment to positions, particularly in the civil service and our security forces, equal opportunities and a sense of pride and patriotism.”

Unity Fiji party leader Savenaca Narube said a common name alone did not achieve a common identity.

“The search for a common name is nothing new. Our leaders realised very early that we needed a common name. But on this sensitive issue, they did the right thing and deferred to the people,” Mr Narube said.

He said the lack of consensus on Fiji’s common identity did not signal failure, but rather that the country was not yet ready to embrace a common name.

SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka said on issues such as common identity, the people of Fiji have a right to be consulted and to be heard.

“Here in Fiji, depending on the context, we can all be Fijians when we are overseas, or when we are representing Fiji, but locally for ease of identification of who we are, we can refer to each other as native or indigenous Fijians, Indo-Fijians, Chinese-Fijians, European or part-European Fijians, and Banabans and Rotumans,” Mr Rabuka suggested.

  • More on this  story in today’s The Fiji Times or on our e-edition.