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Muslims don’t run the country: Fiji AG

Muslims don’t run the country, says Fiji's Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

His comment follows a question raised at the 2018/2019 National Budget consultation in Savusavu Monday.

He told those at the consultation that Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama was not a Muslim which proved the perception that Muslims run the nation wrong.

Savusavu resident Sheik Mohammed asked Sayed-Kaiyum whether the nation was controlled by Muslims.

“A lot of rumors going on and what I want to ask you does not sound good,” he said. “First of all people are saying that this country is ruled by a Muslim.

“And sir, a person is holding about six or seven portfolios and paid for all portfolios and I think it’s directed to you sir.

“So can I have a clarification on that because through the media we can tell the people of Fiji.”

In his response, Sayed-Kaiyum described the question as surreal.

“In regards to the place being run by Muslims, no. “The country is led by a Prime Minister and he is not a Muslim.

“And people get appointed on merit. At one stage people like (Opposition MPs) Niko Nawaikula and (Mosese) Bulitavo were saying in a video that if you vote for Bainimarama Government, iTaukei people will live on reserve land.

“Today, 91 per cent of land in Fiji is iTaukei Land and it has increased. “Today we have a Constitution that protects iTaukei and forever.” Sayed-Kaiyum added that his appointment was because his boss believed he could do the job.

Meanwhile, the Fiji Independent Commission Against corruption (FICAC) is investigating some political parties and political party agents for inciting racial discrimination and religious vilification.

Electoral Commission chairperson Suresh Chandra confirmed this and they were not in a position to name those that are being investigated.

“There are complaints with FICAC which has been reported by us and the supervisor and reports are being investigated by FICAC,” Chandra said.

“We are not in a position to name people involved, but these are all political party agents or campaigns done by political parties and themselves, but we confirm there are some cases being investigated.”

Chandra said it was imperative political parties and their representatives keep their election campaigns clean and clear from religious vilification and racial discrimination.

“We have asked FICAC to immediately investigate and finalise all the complaints in relation to elections. “FICAC has assured us that they will deal with these types of complaints expediently and take cases to court where they find there is sufficient evidence to support a charge.”

He also requested members of the public, who are present during political party meetings, to use their smartphones to record such behavior.

Chandra said political parties could consider having their own recording apparatus during their meetings to protect their interest.

“Parties must have their own disciplinary process to deal with breaches by their own representatives and parties must keep an eye on their own campaigns,” he said.

National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad says political parties should not use race or religion as campaign tools.

Prof Prasad said NFP do not condone any campaign along racial and religious lines.

“We have consistently reminded all our provisional candidates to campaign on issues.

Our provisional candidates are equipped with publications of issues that we are promoting.

They have been in the public domain since July 29 last year,” he said.

Prof Prasad said no NFP provisional candidate has in 2014 elections campaign or during the current campaign, used race and religion as a campaign issue.

He urged the Electoral Commission, FICAC and especially the media, not to rely on heresay reports, but irrefutable and conclusive evidence like voice and video recordings.

“It is easy to malign provisional candidates and political parties by making wild and unsubstantiated allegations.

Failure to do so on the part of the media organisations make them guilty of colluding to fabricate such reports,” he added.

Unity Fiji party leader Savenaca Narube said it was important for people to voice their opinion when political parties conduct their pocket meetings.

Efforts to get comments from other political parties were unsuccesful.

Electoral Commission chairperson Suresh Chandra said anyone convicted of inciting religious vilification could face a fine not exceeding $50,000 (US$25,000) or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 10 years, or both.

He said he and the Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem had lodged a complaint each with the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC).

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