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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

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Fiji Party Names In English To Prevent Discrimination: AG
Sayed-Khaiyum says ‘linguistic exclusivity’ will not be allowed

By Felix Chaudhary

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Jan. 22, 2013) – In Fiji, political party names have to be registered in English to eliminate linguistic exclusivity and discrimination.

This was the explanation given by the Attorney-General and Minister for Electoral Reform, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, to the requirement for parties to register names in English under the Political Parties Registration Decree 2013.

Political parties must register their names in English but could translate the name if they wished to do so, he said.

"There is no discrimination that takes place on the basis of ethnicity or linguistic differences. English is the accepted medium of communication in terms of business and government transactions and the medium of teaching in schools also.

"Therefore, by having the name in English, you are essentially saying that the party does not discriminate on the basis of linguistic exclusivity or ethnicity," he said.

Mr. Sayed-Khaiyum said comments by existing political parties that all three languages should be treated equally exposed that parties were not open to all ethnicities, something that would not be entertained under the new decree.

"If you look at the code of conduct for what political parties must do, they must not discriminate. By starting off with a name that is linguistically exclusive, you are already being discriminatory. The idea is that you have political parties that can appeal to anybody.

"There is of course nothing stopping a political party (translated) into a vernacular but the registered political party name must be in English," the A-G said.

[PIR editor’s note: Despite initial protests over the requirement, the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) Party has announced it will change its name to adhere to the new provisions, according to senior party official Pio Tabaiwalu. He says the party will try to formulate a name as close to possible to its current acronym.]

"Some political parties are saying that all three languages must be treated equally. By having the name registered in English does not mean the party is not being treated unequally. Political parties need to have national appeal.

"In the day and age where you have votes purely on a communal basis and have names based on ethnicity, no country in the world that is democratically stable and has a sustained economy has discrimination on that basis. Parties have to be open to anybody."

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