Hon. Tupou Draunidalo’s response on the Report that calls for suspending her from Parliament for the rest of her term

Friday 3 June, 2016

Madam Speaker

It is sad that the Attorney has seen fit to create this big drama from his and his government’s racist and insecure perspective of everything.

We in my party know only too well that this government loves the race card. Their very existence and survival depends on it.

Their movement began in December 2006 after successfully painting the SDL government as a racist government and it did not help that prominent leaders of the non-indigenous communities at the time fell for that spin and joined the then Commodore’s bandwagon.

They have since fallen out of course because those leaders saw the error of what they had joined and are now back in a large grouping of multicultural opposition parties who are opposed to the race/card playing government that sits on the other side.

This government wants everything to be about race because it suits their agenda of divide and rule.

It is sad, very sad for Fiji. A country that has had political upheavals for thirty years because politicians have played the race card – which gives the military the key to carry out their military coups.

The military coup culture that I have railed against in this House and outside, day in day out.

And really Madam speaker, that is what this government objects to. They want me and my party out of here by any means because we do not subscribe to their race relations disaster views nor do we subscribe to their pro coup culture views. We detest both and say so in their face – and they just can’t handle that.

Now to address what transpired on the day in question- it is clear to us from the video and audio that the Hon Minister for Education was insulting us, taunting us and denigrating us – all of us on the opposition benches.

The Minister was pointing at the Leader of the Opposition and Members. Nodding his head and to us – it mirrored the racist ape gesture of the AG or darth vader in this House.

And all the while telling us that no one on our side including the Hon Prem Singh was a topper, he was implying that we were intellectually inferior.

This is not the first time that the Minister has behaved in this way. He always finds a way to insult Members of the Opposition. It’s a sport for him and he visibly enjoys himself while at it. He loves to dish out the insults.

But he can’t take any retort.

Back to the relevant time – the Hon Prem Singh by the way M/S is a fourth generation native of this country. Just in case that little fact was lost on the government.

Carrying on, Hansard does not record that I referred to the Minister as a fool. It is the AG who complained that I called the Minister a fool.

The Hansard does not pick up all of the free flowing discussion, interjections and words spoken at the time. But if you listen to the audio, it clearly is different from what the Hansard records.

And this is not the first time we have had issues with Hansard or Verbatim, M/S. It has happened before in committee and it led to the suspension of an important standing orders committee meeting (with you as chair) so that the verbatim could be corrected.

Back to the recording, I got up at the relevant time to reply to the AG’s complaint and I said ‘And he implied worse in his speech…’

then I asked ‘calling us dumb natives?’

before I said ‘You Idiot!’.

At the same time, the recording picks up an Hon Member near me asking the Minister ‘Are you calling us fools?’

Let me say something else about that exchange M/S – the Minister was calling himself a ‘topper’ back in the day but this term has only become part of a government policy over the last two years? Not when the Minister was qualifying for tertiary studies. It is therefore fair to say he was misleading parliament.

If he did not mean it in a literal sense then he was implying that he was an elite matriculating student while no one on the opposition bench was including the Hon Singh.

He was implying that we were intellectually inferior, dumb or idiots.
If he can dish it out M/S and you allow it- he should expect it back. And if that was his intention M/S – to denigrate all of us on this side in that way then he was a fool and an idiot for doing so.

And let me remind this government again, the Hon. Prem Singh is a fourth generation native. We don’t and did not see race. Only the government does because it suits their political agenda to carve up the country on race, gender and whatever else they can.

Divisive.

In any case M/S – you made a clear ruling after that exchange *Speaker made Ruling “Quote”

*And the House continued with its business

*We broke for morning tea and the AG joked to me while I was in line for lemon tea – about why did we get so riled up about being referred to as ‘non toppers’ and that instead of the words used I could have used the word ‘obtuse’.

I also shared a brief light moment with Minister Reddy on the way back to the House from the break.

That is where we could have left the matter M/S, but no… the AG and his government want to play the race card in bringing these shoddy charges.

Again, when I asked the Minister if he was ‘referring to us as dumb natives?’ that included the Hon Prem Singh (fourth generation native) who was sitting next to me and was certainly subjected to the Minister’s derogatory conduct.

And yes, I thought he was an idiot for doing so, behaving in such derogatory manner.

Especially when he has shifty ground to stand on- his ministry is a shambles, M/S. Children never get their materials, textbooks and learning on time.

There is mounting pressure on teachers and students. Especially regarding content and exams. 85,000 students are still under sheds and yet the Minister wants to spend his time in parliament acting in the way that he does.

So this is all a distraction from his problems, we know. And now the AG wants the distraction to last a little longer.

They should both take a leaf out of their PM’s book who made concessions in his speech yesterday instead of distractions, distractions, distractions to take attention away from the real issues of post Winston lack of finances and lack of recovery.

As for the charges of inciting ill will in the community- that is a joke coming from this divisive government that hangs on to the race card.

This government – that runs roughshod over indigenous cultural institutions- GCC, NLTB – and doing its best to tear up the social fabric or ‘solesolevali’ part of the indigenous culture… With ministers who make racist, derogatory comments whenever they feel the need…and insulting all races while they’re at it. Then they bring these shady charges to add salt to the wound.

Just yesterday, the AG implied that the Hon. Prem Singh was just a cane farmer who had no business discussing passport laws. You asked him to withdraw and he did after I intervened on behalf of the Hon Singh. Because I found his comments denigrating to cane farmers or those in cane farming in general.

I say again MS, please consider the context that I have put to you. You have the powers under S/O to put an end to all of this now without it going to a vote.

Everything that occurs here largely reflects back on you as you have the ultimate power to stop it.

And when you contemplate all of the context M/S, let me humanize this issue a bit more by telling the House (in case it needed telling) – that I come from a proud line of leaders who gave their lives to the service of racial harmony in this country.

My stepfather in 1987 and mother in the 1990s. Both removed from office (PM and DPM respectively) at gun point by soldiers with a racist and bigoted cause. My father suffered the same fate in 2006 and he had more close friends and namesakes in the other communities than the rest of us put together.

I followed both of the former into what was then predominantly parties for communities other than the indigenous community.

We could have all joined the predominantly indigenous parties and thrived, led there too in due course but we were and are about a beautiful vision for Fiji – a multicultural one where all cultures can be celebrated without offending another and where indigenous rights thrived simultaneously.

None of us could achieve any of that if we were all lumped on one side of the political divide. We needed to bridge the gap.

I am now president of the NFP, a party of fifty years plus that has always idealized multicultural harmony and peace. And by its many actions put that into practice. Working with the Alliance and later SVT governments to find common ground between the two big communities. Give and take and that is what we have preached to this divisive government day in day out… to be inclusive and to stop promoting feelings of ill will between the large communities…

As I said, others before me have given lifetimes of service to those ideals. I do and will continue to.

And all of these interruptions placed in our way are temporary in nature. History has shown – the interruptions and injustices augur well for us in the long run, history judges us very kindly.

So as PM Winston Churchill once told the fascists and Nazis of Europe – ‘Do your worst and we will do our best’. Thank you M/S.