Sunday, October 14, 2012

Family calls for Common Identity and Language, Human Rights and Religious tolerance in Constitution Submission

Sunday 14th October, 2012

Maelin Pickering Bhagwan with children Francisco-Xavier
and Antonia Bhagwan  outside the GCC Complex in Suva
on Satuday 13/10/12 after making her submission to the
Constitution Commission
A mother of two made a submission to the Constitutional Commission on Saturday and called for a constitution that while upholding universal principles and international conventions and norms, must reflect the uniqueness of Fiji.

Maelin Bhagwan, a high school teacher presented a submission in Suva on Saturday (13/10/12) on behalf of her husband Rev. James Bhagwan, who is currently a post-graduate student in Korea.

In a 12-page submission, Mrs. Bhagwan presented proposals concerning the issues of Common Identity; Common Language; Citizenship; Religious Tolerance and Human Rights; Participation in Decision-making; and Religion and the State.

The submission included proposals for:

A common identity - All citizens of Fiji to be known as Fijians with the historical Identity of indigenous Fijians and Rotuma and resettled Ocean Islanders to be maintained through the use of Kai Viti, Kai Rotuma, Kai Rabi.

Common language - Vosa Vaka Viti be the National Language of Fiji, while English, Fiji-Hindi, Rotuman and Vosa Vaka Viti be classified as Official Languages of Fiji. Vosa Vaka Viti to be compulsory subject at all registered educational institutions. (Up to Certificate of Proficiency level.)

In making her family’s submission, Mrs Bhagwan called for a mechanism in which all Fijians regardless of their heritage may be able to part of the Vanua, as members of the community, with equal responsibility and recognition.

“We believe that we who are born and raised here, or who have adopted Fiji as their home, must have a place within the Vanua,” she said.

“At the same time, and further to our submission on Provincial Identity, we humbly ask not only your consideration, but through your good offices, that the traditional leaders of the Vanua reconsider their understanding of both who they consider themselves leaders of and who constitutes the Vanua.?

“My husband and I are both from Rewa. My husband’s forefathers settled in Vuci and I have maternal links to Lomanikoro. My husband is also vasu i Macuata. While we teach our children about their diverse ethnic and cultural heritage, at the same time we want them to also be Fiji’s children and have their links to Rewa and Macuata recognised. We want them to know and understand who and what their vanua is, who their high chief, and understand what that means for them.”

“This is not just for the minorities who have some blood ties to the Kai Viti. We believe that this is important for all Fijians regardless of ethnic background as it adds to social cohesion through a sense of belonging and commitment to the wider community. “

“All chiefs should be encouraged to practice inclusive leadership of all people in their villages, districts and provinces. This, we believe, will not only help in the development of common identity and common or national culture, but also benefit the Vanua as many more people will be able to contribute to development and stewardship of its resources.”

The submission also addressed the issues of Human Rights and Religious Tolerance, calling for the Strengthening of the Obudsman’s Office, affirmation of the Bill of Rights in the 1997 Constitution and the maintaining of a Human Rights Commission along with the establishment of two new commissions: A Fiji Interreligious Council comprising all faith based organisations and registered religious groups; and a Commission for Reconciliation and Peacebuilding to focus on restorative justice issues.

On the issue of Religion and State, Rev. and Mrs. Bhagwan proposed that the commission look at the option of Civil Religion. “Civil religion is comprised of a sacred system of beliefs, myths, symbols, and ceremonies that give meaning to the concepts of "nation" and "state." Civil religion presents an understanding of a society's role in history and each person's role as a citizen. In other words, a civil religion is an expression of the cohesion of the nation. It transcends denominational, ethnic and provincial boundaries.”

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