More on state and religion


Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama was asked to clarify on prayers in schools or at public functions at the talanoa session at Ratu Cakobau House. At the session, after opening the Tailevu Provincial Council meeting last Tuesday, he said, the issue would be a campaign topic for certain political parties.
Those involved, he said, were making their own interpretations on the particular section of the constitution just to suit their own agendas.
He said that while he was the Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, the RFMF was asked why it was conducting their church service in the presence of the chief of staff, Brigadier Mohammed Aziz. Brigadier Aziz is not a member of the Methodist Church.
The Prime Minister said under Fiji’s 2013 Constitution any individual has the right not to attend any prayer session. “If you belong to a different religous group and a prayer session is carried out by another group, then you have the right not to attend or be part of it,” he said. “This is clear under the constitution and this has been left out by political parties.”
A certain Jai Narayan, a parent at Suva Grammar School, had raised whether the action by the school, to carry out school devotions and prayers, is in breach of section 4(3) (b) and (c) of the 2013 Constitution of the Republic of the Fiji. The Fiji Sun sought the advice of prominent Suva lawyer, Nazat Shameem and below is her response:
“The basis of a declaration of a secular State is not that people are not free to practise their religion but that the State must not favour any one religion over others. In other words the Government must not be seen as being a Catholic government or a Methodist government or a Muslim government.
In Government schools care must be exercised that any prayer is multi-denominational so that Hindus and Catholics will not be excluded if the prayers are Muslim prayers or Methodist prayers. It is also true that any religious ceremony at Government schools will automatically exclude atheists who have a right to be atheists.
If there are prayer sessions at a Government office according to Muslim or Hindu or Christian rites then there is a risk that people will feel that non-attendance will lead to demotion, or lack of promotion at work.
However religious schools are not restricted in this way because they are not State institutions. Similarly with the Fiji Sun or any other media organisation which is not State- owned. Thus if the Fiji Sun decides that it will start the day with a Christian prayer, that is the choice of the Sun.
Section 22(4) of the Constitution specifically preserves the right of religious communities to establish and run schools and to teach religious instructions as part of its syllabus. However section 22(6) states that children of other faiths have the right not to attend such religious instructions. Such schools, run by religious communities have the right to teach religion at the schools whether or not they receive funding assistance from the State.”

feedback: maikab@fijisun.com.fj

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3 thoughts on “

  1. It’s simply astounding how Nazhat Shameem is the immediate ‘go to’ point of reference for the illegal & treasonous regime and all their cronies such as the Fiji Sun & MIDA.

    Shameem thrives on her self-perpetuated perception that she is some kind of beacon of light on all things legal but the fact that it is a gross conflict of interest on her part seems to conveniently ignored.

    Lap it all up while you can lady. Taxpayers will gladly hold a collection that ensures a orange sari collection is ready for you and your open-ended vacay in Naboro.

  2. Equally astounding are the types running to the regime legal consultant the past 8 years as if she’s the repository of all things legal, objective and impartial on Fiji’s history and coup d’etats, notwithstanding her ongoing role as a paid junta advisor.

    Those who’ve rightly treated her invite post Dec 2006 (but prior to the High Court and Court of Appeal decision in 2009) to “come talk to her if they have any questions/queries/doubt regarding the ‘legality’ of Bainimarama’s Dec 2006 coup with a very healthy dose of scepticism, ought to pat themselves on the back. For that law degree has got to be of some use that it allows one an arms-length, critical and independent mulling over of the state of Fiji’s affairs in the aftermath of the ousting of a democratically-elected government in Dec 2006.

    Why have a consultant borrow your watch to read you the time of the day when you’ve been educated and equipped to read the correct time yourself. Or if you’re without a watch, find the appropriate resource (as u’ve been taught) and work it out yourself, having used your God-given eyes to look out the window and see where the sun’s at.

  3. The government does not belong to any religion but those running the government do and they are the ones who have the right or freedom to practice their religion. They cannot however force others to attend.

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