No substitute for smacking, Fiji archbishop says

Reacting to a unanimous decision by the Fiji Methodist Church at its recent annual conference to allow corporal punishment in its schools, Suva Archbishop Petero Mataca says there is no substitute for corporal punishment, even though it is against Fiji law.

Archbishop Mataca was commenting on a statement by Methodist Church Assistant General Secretary Rev Tuikilakila Waqairatu that people needed to understand they represented the predominant group who knew of the effectiveness of corporal punishment, the Fiji Times reports.

Rev Waqairatu argued that the church condones corporal punishment because it goes hand in hand with the teachings of the Bible.

He said the Methodist Church's stand is consistent with the text in Proverbs which says "the rod of correction imparts wisdom but the child left to himself disgraces his emotion."

Rev Waqairatu said while some would argue that the text was outdated today, the church would defend it because history repeats itself.

However, the Methodist Church's decision to allow corporal punishment in schools has drawn criticism from human rights groups.

Human rights commission director Dr Shaista Shameem noted that corporal punishment in the school system was illegal and any person caught handing it in school could be prosecuted as a result of a landmark court case in which corporal punishment was declared inconsistent with the 1997 Fijian Constitution.

As a result, the Education Ministry banned corporal punishment in schools.

However, in comments that mirror a similar debate this week in Australia, Archbishop Mataca questioned whether there was any substitute.

"What are we replacing corporal punishment with, culturally and religiously. I would like to know. You cannot put in place a law without having a substitute," the Archishop told the Fiji Times.

Archbishop Mataca said mistakes would be made time and again by students so some form of discipline was needed to keep them in check.

Ministry of Education Chief Executive Officer, Alumita Taganesia strongly supports the need to maintain discipline among students but stands by the no corporal punishment in schools rule, the Fiji Times concludes.

The Fiji debate comes as new research by the Australian Childhood Foundation shows that nearly half of the Australian community believes it is reasonable to leave a mark on a child as a result of physical punishment.

Catholics raise issue of disciplining kids (Fiji Times, 12/9/06)
Children's group wants smacking banned (Herald-Sun, 10/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Petero Mataca (Wikipedia)
Archbishop Petero Mataca (Catholic-Hierarchy)
Fiji Human Rights Commission

New Zealand bishops highlight shame of corporal punishment (CathNews, 14/10/03)

Spare the rod, spoil the child (Fiji Times, 8/9/06)
Bill looks to outlaw corporal punishment at home (Fiji Times, 7/9/06)

13 Sep 2006