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Media Center > Speeches > HON ATTORNEY-GENERAL STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF THE HON PRIME MINISTER AT THE PUBLIC FORUM ON THE DESECR

HON ATTORNEY-GENERAL STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF THE HON PRIME MINISTER AT THE PUBLIC FORUM ON THE DESECRATION OF TEMPLES IN FIJI

1/30/2018
I apologise that I cannot be there this evening, but I’m glad that the Honourable Attorney-General and the Commissioner of Police are here to share my message to condemn – in the harshest terms – these attacks on Fijian places of worship.

There are some places in the world where people are divided by religion and where religious violence is all too common. But that is not Fiji. We cannot tolerate these acts of vandalism, particularly when they have been carried out in places of such sacred importance to our fellow Fijians. Whether it be churches, mosques or temples, these places are meant to be homes of worship, togetherness and peace. And most importantly, places where Fijians are meant to feel safe.

While the Commissioner will update you on the Fiji Police Force investigation on the temple break-ins, he has given us full assurance that the Police have been working tirelessly to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. The Police are treating this matter with the same importance as they would the break-in and desecration of any religious house anywhere in Fiji.

My fellow Fijians, the Fijian Constitution guarantees religious freedom in our country. We are a secular state; a nation where every Fijian can choose their own religion, and no one – I repeat, no one – can force one denomination or faith on anyone, or prevent anyone from following the religion of their choosing.
It saddens me greatly that we’ve seen a recent escalation of religious vilification in Fiji. Unfortunately, it is even more widespread than these attacks on temples. I know many of you are on social media, you have Facebook and you’ve seen it for yourselves; some people are trying to turn fellow Fijians against each other on the basis of Hindu against Muslim, one Christian denomination against another, iTaukei against Indo-Fijian, North Indian against South Indian, Arya Samaj against Sanatan Dharam Sabha, this province against that province and this confederacy against another. None of that is right and none of it is acceptable.

I’m here tonight to tell you that we need to move away from that backwards way of thinking. Otherwise we will never progress as a country. We have seen so much progress because we have put our faith in stability and unity. We believe that as fellow Fijians we need to love each other, that is why, under my Government, we’ve seen such tremendous development in Fiji. That is why we’ve grown the economy for eight straight years, that is why unemployment in Fiji is the lowest in 30 years, that is why we’ve been able to make education free in Fiji, provide free textbooks, subsidise transportation for students to school and vastly expand scholarships on the basis of merit and access to TELs for students pursuing higher education. That is why we are reforming our civil service to ensure that we not only have better wages and salaries, but that we appoint civil servants on the basis of merit. So don’t let these people take us back in time. Don’t let these politics of division – the inability to love each other as human beings – do any more damage to our nation.

That is why we need to condemn that way of thinking wherever we see it or hear it. We need to speak up and confront those forces of division, because we cannot afford to allow that way of thinking to push Fiji back into the past.

I would like to thank the Methodist Church President, the National President of the Shree Sanatan Dharm and the National President of the Fiji Muslim league for condemning intolerance in Fijian society. And I must say, their support and their commitment to a unified Fiji has made the silence of others all the more deafening.

I know that opposition politicians, political parties and their supporters are keeping quiet when people speak in divisive ways. They should be openly condemning such behaviours. However, as we know, they like to divide people, because they see their political fortunes in a divided Fiji. Be wary of these people. People who think this way, people who remain silent in the face of division, will take us back to the days of 1987 and the days of 2000. Where race and religion was used to only bring some people power and, in the process, many people left Fiji, many people were discriminated against and we lagged behind in development.

Let me tell you, when the waters stops running through your tap or the lights go out, do you care who the CEO or the engineer from WAF or FEA is? Do you care about the persons’ race, religion, or where they come from in Fiji? Or do you simply care about getting the water and electricity back on. All you want to know is whether or not they can do the job. All you want is that clean water in the tap and the lights to be on. For these services not to go out in the first place, you need well qualified CEOs and engineers. That is what matters. What about when your child is sick and needs an operation, will you care if the surgeon has the same religion as you? Or would you want the best doctor, no matter what religion they follow?

What I am saying is that my Government is focussed on getting the best people for the right job. That is my mentality, that is the mentality of my Government. We are focussed on merit. We are focussed on putting talented people in positions where they can do the most good for Fiji, regardless of religion, regardless of ethnicity, or location, or any of the differences that make up our society. That is the mentality that has built the Fiji we know today, and that mentality will continue to carry us into a more prosperous future.

There are places in the world where people live in fear of religious attacks and extremism, but not here in Fiji. We must not allow that to happen here. We are one nation, home to all Fijians united in a common purpose.

These attacks on our temples are attacks on every Fijian and every religion in Fiji. They are attacks against our Constitution and our secular state. And they are attacks on the very bonds of nationhood that connect us all and that unite us in our great journey forward as a nation. As one nation, and one people, we must stand together to condemn these acts of hatred. We must stand in defence of our Constitution and we must stand together in the defence of our countrymen and women, who have every right to practice their own religion and feel safe everywhere in Fiji.

We all know there have been dark times in our history where Fijians felt unwelcome in their own country. We all know there are still old forces in Fiji that want to drag us back into that past by dividing us along ethnic, religious and communal lines. And these attacks are designed to do just that. They are designed to intimidate, they are designed to make us fearful and they are designed to divide our way of thinking along the lines of ethnicity, religion and communalism. As I’ve said, there are politicians, political parties and their supporters who either directly, publicly or privately add fuel to the fire or at best, keep quiet. Don’t let them lead you down this destructive path again.

I am here today – we are all here today – to say loudly and clearly that those old forces, those seeking to divide us, will not succeed. We will not become a divided nation.

I’ll tell you what we will do: we will take action against those responsible. And from this, we will only emerge more united and more dedicated to building a better nation, side-by-side, as equals, as Fijians, as patriots for Fiji.

Tonight, we are here to tell you that we are with you. We are here to make sure you are safe and secure and that we must work together to help our Police find out who did this. Work with the Police so we can stop things like this from happening again.

My fellow Fijians, in moments such as this, we can always find great comfort and motivation in the wisdom of scripture.

The Holy Ramayan contains many tales of Lord Rama standing up for truth and justice, no matter the personal cost. In the Mahabharata, as well as the Bhagvad Geeta, Lord Krishna teaches us that where there is righteousness, there will be victory. And we all know that truth and justice will always prevail despite any attempts to undermine those timeless values, or as said in Sanskrit, SATYAMEV JAYATE.

I would like to give every assurance to our Hindu brothers and sisters, and to every Fijian: you are respected and you have the full protection of the law. And righteousness, as always, will triumph.

I wish very much I could be there with all of you this evening for your important conversation. Please openly discuss your issues this evening with the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Police, and others who are there this evening.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.
 
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