11 Oct 2004

Calls for Fijian to be the official language of Fiji

6:52 am on 11 October 2004

Several indigenous Fijian chiefs have called for Fijian to be made the official language of the country.

The Fiji Times reports that the minister for lands, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, has told a radio talkback show that the prime minister has also raised the need to make Fijian the official language in parliament.

Ratu Naiqama is quoted as saying it is ridiculous and culturally insensitive for Fijian leaders to speak in English during official meetings when they are all Fijians well versed in their language.

He said the government is working on making Fijian compulsory for all school students.

The opposition leader, Mick Beddoes, says he has no problem with Fijian being the official language but he would rather see the government introducing the teaching of all three main languages - English, Fijian and Hindi - in every school from next year.

The former chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, says it would be better if the two major races learn to speak each others language as this would improve race relations.

The South Indian cultural organisation, SANGAM, has already been teaching Fijian in its schools for some years.