The Victorian Ombudsman, which claims to “hold the Victorian public sector accountable to the people”, has declined to look further into the denial of Hindu opening-prayer request in Victoria Parliament in Melbourne.
On taking the chair at each sitting, Victoria Legislative Council President and Legislative Assembly Speaker read the Lord’s Prayer, a well-known prayer in Christianity. Lord’s Prayer has been read in the Legislative Council since 1857, and in the Legislative Assembly since 1928, reports suggest.
Responding to the request of distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed (who spearheaded the issue), Victorian Ombudsman officials wrote that the complaint was outside the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction and the Ombudsman does not have jurisdiction to deal with complaints about Legislative Assembly Speaker and Legislative Council President.
Despite boasting that “We promote fairness, integrity and respect for human rights”, “Dealing with complaints about government” and “Independent, impartial and free”; Victorian Ombudsman seems to be shying away from its responsibilities by not pressing forward with this issue of blatant unfairness and inequality; Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, emphasizes.
Rajan Zed urged Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass to serious relook into her claimed “firm belief in public sector integrity and advancing human rights” and enlighten herself about the “real” role of taxpayer-funded Victorian Ombudsman.
Both the houses of the Victoria Parliament, Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly, have turned down Zed’ requests to have Hindu opening-prayer in an upcoming session.
Rajan Zed, who wrote to then Legislative Council President and Legislative Assembly Speaker requesting that he be scheduled to read opening-prayer in an upcoming session of Council and Assembly respectively and received the denials; feels that it is simply a case of blatant unfairness, exclusionary attitude, discrimination, favoritism, imposing one kind of religious observance; and does not speak well of a democratic society.
Adherents of minority religions and non-believers, who had made a lot of contributions to Victoria and Australia and continued to do so and paid their share of the taxes, thus felt left out by this monopoly on prayer. Not allowing prayers of minority religions in the Victoria Parliament seemed like efforts at belittling these faiths under government patronage; Zed pointed out in a statement today.
Democratic governments should not be in the business of promoting one religion and excluding others and non-believers and thus infringing upon the human rights of minority religions and non-believers; Rajan Zed, who has opened both the United States Senate and US House of Representatives in Washington DC with Hindu prayers, noted.
Zed further said that Standing Orders handling the prayer in the Victoria Parliament needed to be urgently changed as we were well into 21st century and Victoria was much more religiously diverse now.
Rajan Zed suggested that it was time for the Victoria Parliament to move to multi-faith opening prayers. Since Victoria Parliament represented every Victorian irrespective of religion/denomination/non-belief, it would be quite befitting in this increasingly diverse state to do a rotation of prayers representing major religions and indigenous spirituality and including slots for the thoughts of non-believers.
Zed was of the view that the existence of different religions was an evident symbol of God’s generosity and munificence. Victoria Parliament should quest for a unity that hailed diversity.
How much one could rely on an organization like Victorian Ombudsman, who had developed a 21-page “Gender Equality Action Plan” “to address gendered structural and cultural inequality”; continued to call itself “Ombudsman”, while many such organizations, including “International Ombuds Association”, were now named as “Ombudsperson” or “Ombuds”; Rajan Zed asked. Other examples included: Organization of American States, US House of Representatives, U.S. Olympic Committee, British Columbia, Inter-American Development Bank, Concordia University Montreal, etc.
Parliament of Victoria consists of the Legislative Council with 40 elected members; and the Legislative Assembly with 88 elected members. “Its main roles are to debate issues, pass laws and hold the government to account.”
Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about 1.2 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal.