Fiji Times

SUVA, Fiji (April 30, 2008) - Fiji is a racially divided country when it comes to politics.

That is the fact of the matter, but few people are brave enough to admit this in public.

On Tuesday, however, Professor Satendra Nandan admitted at the Fiji Teachers Union annual general meeting that society is deeply fragmented along racial lines.

A victim of Sitiveni Rabuka’s putsch in 1987 and a long-time stalwart of the Fiji Labour Party, Professor Nandan should know all about the differences which threaten society.

He states correctly that these differences are divisive and have the potential to cause irreparable damage.

Successive governments have been voted into office on the back of promises to heal divisions and the wounds caused by racial differences.

But the truth is that whatever the promises, all political parties have some element of racism in their policies. For until now, that has been the only way to draw a number of voters and supporters to tick that valuable box on the ballot paper.

Not one political party can deny that it has made provisions in their manifesto to cater for specific racial groups. This is a form of racism which must end immediately.

The time has come for leaders of all communities political or religious to ace a conscious effort to steer people away from race.

The issues which affect the country have nothing to do with race.

Poverty, violence, crime and land use affect people of all races and religions. Race plays no part in the difficulties our people face in this regard.

And so we each have a duty to ensure that race is kept out of politics, no matter what the cost in terms of mileage.

Parents must teach their children that no matter what race or creed, we can love our neighbors.

In fact, our young people should be encouraged to make friends with people of other races, learn their languages and appreciate their cultures and traditions.

This is the real way forward.

By placing ourselves in situations where people of other races and religions are involved, we will find that issues which affect them are equally important to us.

It is from this common ground that we can find a national way forward to peace, progress and prosperity.

If we are unable or unwilling to find a common way forward, we place this nation and all her people at risk of losing all that is dear to us.

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