From Fijileaks Archive
"I have instructed my Minister for Education to ensure that all Hindu faith-based schools are to be closed tomorrow (Friday) to enable Hindu students and teachers to celebrate Ram Naumi, the birth of the Hindu God, Lord Rama. This is in line with the practice of previous years and there is no reason to deviate from that practice in 2016.
The Minister had originally ruled that these schools be opened because of the amount of lesson time lost to students because of Tropical Cyclone Winston. But he has since accepted my advice on the matter.
Fiji is a multi-faith country and a central tenet of my Government’s philosophy is that the religious beliefs of all Fijians must be respected. The strength of our secular state derives from our mutual respect for our respective faiths and we must always uphold the beliefs of others and strive to celebrate with them.
The nation joins me in wishing our Hindu brothers and sisters, and others taking part in Ram Naumi, the holiest of days as they commemorate this important event tomorrow.
"Should someone with a mind as twisted as his [Reddy] be permitted to continue as Minister for Education?...He gets to be even more preposterous when he suggests that Hindus can stay home to celebrate but the schools must remain open for the other children."
Hindu organisations are rightly upset at Education Minister Mahendra Reddy’s unilateral decision to stop schools managed by Hindu religious organisations from closing on the final day of the annual Ram Naumi festival which falls tomorrow (Friday).
In adhering to the policy that there are only three official public holidays to mark religious festivities, Reddy ignores the age-old practice in Fiji of allowing Hindu and Muslim run schools to close for religious events other than Diwali and Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday.
It has been an age-old tradition in Fiji for Hindu and Muslim schools to close for Ram Naumi and Eid celebrations.
His dictat that schools cannot close for Ram Naumi this year, is rightly seen as an imposition and a denial of their rights by Hindu organisations. If he wanted to change the past practice, then he ought to have initiated dialogue with the organisations to reach some understanding on the issue
Where one wonders is our much vaunted freedom of religion or the regime’s off-repeated rhetoric about One Fiji and all of us having equal rights?
Reddy should know very well, the significant role religious organisations have played in providing education to our children going back to the Girmit days when the few government schools that existed, catered only for White children while a few special schools were set up for children from the indigenous community. There was nothing for the children of the Indian indentured labourers.
As a result of their immense contribution and initiative, these schools operated by religious organisations were given a fair latitude in observing their religious occasions. Why interfere with it at all, Mr Reddy? Why willy-nilly trample on the rights of one community only?.
Says Reddy that as teachers are paid for that day, they should be in school teaching the children of other faiths. He gets to be even more preposterous when he suggests that Hindus can stay home to celebrate but the schools must remain open for the other children.
Isn’t this fostering religious separatism, Mr Reddy? You are also hurting the sensitivities of our multi-cultural society?
Should someone with a mind as twisted as his be permitted to continue as Minister for Education?