People's Charter Pillar 2 (Nation Building) and State of the Nation Paper Chapter 2: For Discussion
BUILDING SOCIAL COHESION
Critical Problems and Issues:
- We lack a common national identity and unity as citizens of Fiji.
- Beginning with our colonial legacy of “divide and rule”, and the institutionalisation of communal identities, our people have tended to identify more strongly with their religions, ethnicity and by their various communities or provinces than by nationality.
- Racially divisive leadership has contributed to the situation that we are now a fractured and fragmented society.
- We have tended to focus on the differences that divide us rather than on our common shared values and interests.
- We must change for our common good, as one nation and as one people, through our shared vision and values for a common national destiny.
The Way Forward:
The following key measures and actions must be taken with due priority and urgency (For the detailed recommendations and proposed implementation actions, see the Report on the State of the Nation and the Economy) :
- The name of our Nation to be: FIJI.
- Adopt as the common name: “Fijian” for all the citizens of Fiji with full recognition that the indigenous peopleare the i Taukei.
- Develop a national moral vision for the common good.
- Conduct national interfaith dialogue and sharing of spiritualities.
- Promote shared national values through the national education curriculum.
- Ensure teaching of the vernacular languages (Vosa Vakaviti and Hindi) and the comparative study of major religions.
- Promote multicultural education.
- Phase out institutional names that denote racial affiliations.
- Promote national moral vision, narratives, rituals and symbols. One National Anthem to be in the three main languages; flag ceremony to be observed in all schools and important State functions.
- Review and revitalise National Youth Service Scheme.
- Eliminate racial categorisation in all government records and registers.
FIJI: THE STATE OF THE NATION AND THE ECONOMYEXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Chapter 2: National Identity and the Role of Religion, Culture and Education in Nation Building
One of the most fundamental problems in Fiji is the lack of unity and a new electoral
system, by itself, will not be sufficient to ensure continuing cooperation between the
major communities. We need to forge a consensus based upon our common interests as citizens who will continue to live side by side in these islands. This process involves reminding everyone that there is by now a community of birth in Fiji and a continuity of affiliation through the decades that have created a history in which the livelihoods and cultures of the different communities in Fiji have become inextricably intertwined. It involves acknowledging and emphasising the collective interests that are evolving from the many social, cultural and economic linkages between our different communities in their daily lives. It also implies a conscious effort to participate in a common political project aimed at increasing the perspectives that bind the citizens of Fiji together in forging a common national identity. The feedback from the consultation process, and the WGs and NTTs, identified this as the next most urgent problem to be addressed.
A nation’s identity encapsulates the shared underlying worldview and values of its
citizens, communities, and institutions and is made visible through a variety of symbols such as a flag or national anthem.
A national identity is inclusive: it includes the members of all communities in the country within a broad allegiance. It binds all of them as citizens to a larger and wider sense of belonging to ‘their’ nation state. The overarching significance of a national identity, for governance and public policy, is that it creates a moral community within which everyone has equal rights to the care and attention of the Government and the wider community. The role of the Government within a nation state is to advance the interests of all of its citizens regardless of the community to which they belong. In this sense, it is an essential force opposing the pull of the more selfish of communal politics.
If Fiji is to escape from the orbit of selfish communal politics, Fiji’s people must have a sense of national identity. At present, people have a strong sense of ethnic identity which has been reinforced by rhetoric and the ethnic institutions created during the course of Fiji’s history. Thus, Fiji’s people are more aware of their ethnic identity than they are of their national identity and this awareness is reflected in official documentation and most remarkably in two phenomena: the long standing discussion, yet unresolved, over a name for Fiji’s citizens; and the subcategories of citizenship that must be stated in the national census and immigration entry and departure forms.
The Role of Religion, Culture and Education
Education has been used globally in nation building while culture and religion are strongcomponents of individual identity and necessary components in developing a national identity. What is needed in developing a national identity is emphasising and building upon shared elements such as a common national name that will strengthen and enhance a sense of belonging and nationhood.
Culture and religion must play important roles in promoting national identity. At present, however, they appear to be fragmenting Fiji rather than assisting in developing a national identity and in nation building. To address this problem, the shared values from Fiji’s various religions and cultures need to be identified and articulated clearly so as to promote meaningful coexistence. Two concepts that have been fragmenting — but could be uniting — are multiculturalism and pluralism.
However, these concepts, properly understood, could enhance a united nation.
Major issues that contribute to the fragmentation of Fiji’s society include, amongst
- The absence of a common national identity;
- The inadequacy of the education curriculum at all levels to teach social cohesiveness, inclusiveness and how to live meaningfully in a pluralistic society;
- The failure to emphasise the teaching of comparative religious studies, moralvalues; and an appreciation of national symbols; and
- The fact that many of the leaders of Fiji’s political, religious and cultural groups are acting independently and are not coming together to build the nation.
The process of developing a national identity includes discovering and articulating
national narratives, symbols and shared values and peoples’ expectations of, and for, Fiji.
Such a process needs to be designed and facilitated in Fiji. Representatives of all of Fiji’s peoples should participate. And Fiji’s leaders need to focus on the nation rather than on their particular sectoral or communal interests. Institutions need to be strengthened in a way that ensures all their efforts are directed towards supporting a national identity and the national interest.
The most obvious symptom of the lack of national identity is the lack of a common name. The NCBBF recommends that the name of our nation should be Fiji (not the “Fiji Islands”) and that all citizens should have a common name – Fijian – as their common national identity. Of course, primary identities may need to be retained with indigenous Fijian continuing to be called ‘iTaukei’, Fiji Indians being called Fijian Indians, and others such as ethnic Chinese being called Fijian Chinese.
NCBBF also recommends the promulgation of an Anti Discrimination Act and the establishment of a National Identification System for the registration of all Fiji citizens.
The NCBBF calls upon all relevant institutions to promote unity among the diverse
cultures of Fiji; to make changes to the education curriculum to allow for community and service learning that will promote and encourage social cohesion and national integration; to teach the basic values of truth, right action, love, peace and non violence; and to promote national symbols (flags, anthem, currency) in schools and offices while also reviewing them to integrate the different languages (’Vosa Vakaviti’, Hindi and English) and music (styles and the national anthem).
The NCBBF also recommends that the teaching of conversational ’Vosa Vakaviti’, Hindi and English be made compulsory from Class 5 to Form 7 in all schools; creation of a Commission of Healing and Reconciliation, Truth and Justice; the teaching of comparative religious studies; promoting the sharing of spiritualities and interfaith dialogue amongst all religious groups; the establishment of a National Book Trust for the publication of textbooks and literature for Fiji’s children; the inclusion of multicultural education in the curriculum at all levels; an initiative to articulate, promote and sustain a national narrative; and that the Foundation for the Common Good based on Shared Values, Vision and Principles as contained in the Peoples Charter be included as aschedule in Fiji’s Constitution.
Pillar 1 of the Charter and Chapter 1 of The State of the Nation paper were pubished last Saturday. Discussion is still invited.