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Who's obsessed

Richard Naidu,Suva (Mr Naidu Is A Suva-Based Lawyer Who Has Done Some Work For The Fiji Times)
Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The Attorney-General, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum, claimed repeatedly in Parliament on Monday that Opposition parties were "obsessed" with ethnicity.

This is because the Leader of the Opposition asked the Government to reveal Fiji's population breakdown by race, which the minister says he is unable to do.

But it's his obsession to suppress anything — any fact, any opinion, or any data, of any kind — that has to do with ethnicity. It is as though our ethnic differences are something to be ashamed of or feared.

Most of us understand and respect the fact that others are different from us, in many different ways. Ethnicity is but one of these ways.

We are not so obsessed about all being "Fijian" that we desperately try to look past these differences. We are relaxed about them, and in many cases embrace them, enjoy them and joke about them.

Data on ethnicity is a basic statistical building block. It is important to understand outcomes in health, because people of different ethnic groups have different health characteristics. Even in New Zealand, doctors statistically profile Fijians of Indian descent — a small minority there.

It is important for education, if we want to preserve and develop vernacular languages and for other reasons related to how students learn.

And, for those of us who want to understand (or are obsessed with) our multi-ethnic assimilation, it is also important to measure how much better (or worse) we are physically integrated with each other in different rural and urban areas in the country or if we are marrying (or at least procreating with) each other.

I believe Mr Sayed-Khaiyum is an admirer of Singapore. Go to the results of its 2010 census. The first statistical table breaks down the population by race. In virtually any other civilised country, ethnic breakdown is easy to find.

Generally, governments try to gather in and make the most of useful facts, not run away and hide from the obvious.

Many of us in Fiji are a bit tired of being treated like children who do not know what is good for us and being told that only the Government knows best.

When a major national fact-gathering exercise like a census is distorted by one person's particular version of ethno-political correctness, it's clear that someone's obsession is being indulged. But who's obsessed?

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