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Salient: An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University. Wellington Vol. 23 No. 6 1960

Does The Commonwealth Stand For Anything?

Does The Commonwealth Stand For Anything?

"We submit that the Commonwealth is an alliance of hypocrites. It stands for justice, but is just only when it is convenient to be so; it preaches racial equality, but practises discrimination." This outburst from K. Govind summed up the Affirmative, taken by the Fijian Students' Association, in the debate on the proposition "That the Commonwealth is an Alliance of Hypocrites." Other members of the Fijian team were D. Singh and S. Randand. The opposing team included T. Boyle and T. Roberts, and was led by Warwick Dent.

New Zealand, Australia, India, Canada and Fiji were all the subject of acidic remarks by the Fijians, but South Africa received the worst of the flak. Recalling the recent shootings, one speaker said "South Africa is a disgrace not only to the Commonwealth but to the rest of the human race as well." Doubts were expressed as to the real motives of much of the aid, such as that under the Colombo Plan, given to "underdeveloped areas."

In trying to disprove the Fijians' assumptions the Negative side found themselves forced to admit the existence of the faults that their opponents had condemned. However, several speakers made the point that countries were in fact acting according to their lights—they were not "saying one thing and doing the other." South Africa is not being hypocritical, since the government's avowed aim is to promote apartheid and segregation Similarly, Australia's "White Australia" policy is no secret. Dent made the slip of referring to the Maoris as "more equal than the others," and Boyle introduced a theatrical element by crushing in his hands a sheet of blank paper on which, he said, he had been waiting to record significant points made by the Affirmative side. The same speaker mentioned that he had, in Australia, sat next to two aborigines in a cinema This brought the prompt interjection: "Not in Alice Springs!"

Roberts claimed that the Fijians were personally prejudiced by their individual experiences in New Zealand. "Just because they may have been refused admission in some boarding houses, or just because they have experienced discrimination in a mild form in New Zealand, and perhaps at Victoria does not mean that New Zealand, and so the whole British Commonwealth, is hypocritical."

Floor Speakers

Mr Nash came under fire from the floor several times. Tamasese condemned his "cheek" in "going to London and declaring that there are no superior races after allowing the All Blacks to go to South Africa." Larson, one of the few to support the Negative, mentioned the Balfour Declaration of 1926—certainly a great statement of ideals. O'Brien violently denied the value of this. "This is 1960," he said, "and the hopes raised in 1926 are still not realised." Similarly, McNeill declare heatedly that the Commonwealth "was being tolerant of the intolerable."

The Victoria team found the going tough. They fought a losing battle, backing down on several important points. A house vote resulted in a 33-8 victory for the Affirmative.