Reply to AG’s Ministerial Statement – Funeral Rites facility

Parliament of Fiji – Thursday May 17, 2018

Madam Speaker, I thank the Acting PM for his statement. A funeral rites facility or a “ghaat” was long overdue. In fact such facilities should be built in all districts so that our communities who cremate their loved ones, can perform the final rites and prayers with dignity.

We are hopeful that the Vatuwaqa Funeral Rites Committee that has been tasked with looking after the facility, will do so to preserve the cleanliness of the facility and maintenance of the environment and surroundings. It is god to see all Hindu religious and cultural organisations come together  in unity to look after this project.

Madam Speaker it was the NFP through  the then honourable Sayed Khaiyum, who by the way was the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee for 7 years between 1992 and 1999,    first mooted the idea of a Ghaat for Hindu prayers in his Maiden speech  on  July 13, 1992 and again during his budget address in November  18. 1992.

Honourable Sayed Khaiyum moved an adjournment motion In Parliament on 4th December  and reiterated his 1992 statement that he was pleased that the Crown Law Office had clarified that offerings of religious nature by the Hindu community into rivers and the sea were not litter but clean offerings.

He said a ghaat should not be used  only for funeral rites but offerings from other Hindu religious events and prayers as well as weddings.

The Motion was agreed to unanimously and referred to the PM’s office to see under which Act it could be dealt with.

However four months later on 25th March  in 1999 Parliament was dissolved for the  May 1999 elections and both SVT and NFP lost. So nothing could be done.

But we are pleased that after almost 12 years in power, this Government has initiated and completed the project.

Madam Speaker, We do agree with the Acting PM that religion should be a unifying force. Indeed Madam Speaker mostly throughout our history, all our major communities have peacefully co-existed except  for those brief periods of political turmoil on four occasions between 1987 and 2006.

During these times racial and religious intolerance raised its ugly head  as seen after 1987 and 2000 coups. After  the abrogation of the   1997 Constitution on 10th April 2009 following the 2006 coup, the Public Emergency Regulations were imposed  permits were needed for any Hindu  religious event.

Unfortunately Madam Speaker, there was instruction from the controlling authority of Hindu Religious Organisation that only registered Ramayan Mandalis were to be granted permits to hold weekly prayers.

So after every political upheaval we have had brief flare-ups of religious intolerance and impositions. But by far and large we have peacefully co-existed in our multi-ethnic, multi-cultural ad multi-religious country. And as it befits this occasion, I wish our Muslim community and followers of Islam a blessed start to the holy month of Ramadan.

Madam Speaker while opening the facility last Saturday, the Honourable Acting PM turned the occasion into a political one by saying while NFP mooted the idea of building such a facility in the 1990’s , the Government didn’t do anything about it and it was a possibility that the NFP was likely to form a coalition with a party led by the same person who was the leader then.

Madam Speaker, nothing can be further from the truth.  These are wild and unsubstantiated allegations against the NFP  and is  yet another clear signal  of this Government going berserk in a bid to remain in power.

We have repeatedly stated publicly that we were not in a coalition  with any other party in 2014. And we are not in a coalition with any other party and are fighting the 2018 general elections on our own. We have not at anytime  since 2014 discussed a post-election scenario and are  solely focused on fighting the  2018 elections.

This is not the first time the AG has made such a statement. We have evidence of him saying the same thing in Vunivutu, Vanua Levu, in March, where he said NFP on its own will never will majority seats and were hoping to form a coalition with SODELPA. He  urged the voters of Vunivutu to prevent this from happening.

The Acting PM  and his minions should stop this fear mongering and intimidation by spreading lies about NFP’s policies”.

Instead of uttering a litany of lies, he should start advocating policies benefitting all the people of Fiji as well as god governance, transparency and accountability.