A Pacific Islander soldier in the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces who says he suffered a “campaign of racist bullying” and harassment from his white comrades will receive a whopping $630,000 settlement (£490,000) from the Ministry of Defence, the Daily Mail reported.
Lance Corporal Inoke Momonakaya, a Fijian soldier who served in the 2nd Battalion, Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, said he was left feeling suicidal after his complaints about the racist harassment fell on deaf ears. After a six-year legal battle, he’ll walk away with what’s believed to be a record settlement for racial discrimination.
“The racism left me wanting to kill myself. I was going to buy a rope,” Momonakaya told the Daily Mail. “Today, I am still undergoing psychological treatment, and I may not be able to work again. It left me suffering from a complex form of post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Recalling an incident from 2011, the father of four said he and five fellow Fijian soldiers were cast to portray Taliban terrorists in an MoD training video intended to help incoming soldiers in Afghanistan spot potential roadside bombs planted by insurgents. Momonakaya, who served on tour in Iraq and two in Afghanistan, said white soldiers were cast as British soldiers in the film while he and his comrades of color were made to portray the enemy because of their skin color.
“You guys must be feeling right at home wearing them dishdash [Arab robes] — no one can tell the difference [between] you guys and the Taliban,” he recalled one of the commanding officers telling them.
For one of the scenes, the Fijian soldiers were ordered to swim 500 yards across a lake. When Momonakaya challenged this, an officer reportedly quipped, “The reason they don’t want to swim is because they are afraid of water and black people don’t swim. Have you ever seen a black Olympic swimmer?”
Momonakaya said he and other Commonwealth soldiers were routinely treated as “second-class citizens,” calling it “a disgrace and a stain on the reputation of the British Army.” In his lawsuit, the soldier said a senior officer once called him a “Black bastard” and likened him to a black “troll doll.”
“This doll was black and had frizzy hair and a big nose. It was very ugly,” Momonakaya said. “When he said this, everyone in the platoon started laughing. Afterwards, he wrote my name on the doll and said it was the platoon’s new mascot.”
He had finally had enough, and reported the racist harassment to the Service Complaints Commissioner, an internal watchdog for the armed services. However, his case was thrown out in November 2012, prompting him to pursue legal action against the MoD.
“‘I enlisted in 2005 and intended to serve for a full 24 years,” said Momonakaya, who was medically discharged in 2012 due to PTSD. “The bullying cost me my career, hence why I had to sue the MoD.”
The ministry declined to comment on settlement but said in a statement, “Discrimination and bullying have no place in the Armed Forces and will not be tolerated.”