Bainimarama: On De-establishing Great Council of Chiefs

Published: Wed 14 Mar 2012 04:44 PM
Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Strategic Planning, National Development and Statistics, Public Service, Peoples Charter for Change and Progress, Information, i-Taukei Affairs, Provincial Development, Sugar Industry, Lands and Mineral Resources
Good morning to you all.
The President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau has approved decrees that formally de-establish the Great Council of the Chiefs an institution created by the British during colonialism, and one that in modern times has become politicized to the detriment of Fiji’s pursuit of a common and equal citizenry.
The Great Council of the Chiefs is a product of our colonial past and Fiji must now focus on a future in which all Fijians are represented on the same basis.
If all Fijians are to have their say during the consultations for Fiji’s new constitution, we must ensure every voice is equally heard and equally represented.
In 1875, the British under colonialism created an elite body of iTaukei Chiefs known as the “Native Council” to directly and indirectly implement its rule over Fiji. The members of this body, which later came to be called the Great Council of Chiefs, held certain privileges.
Over the last 20 years the GCC, including its secretariat, became highly politicised, with its members having political affiliations and membership in political parties.
Unfortunately, this resulted in the GCC and its members unduly involving themselves in national politics and/or taking advantage of the GCC’s traditional role to assert personal or political agenda.
Fiji’s iTaukei heritage is a distinct and fundamental aspect of Fiji—this cannot be denied.
However, as an institution the Great Council of Chiefs perpetuated elitism and fed into the divisive politics which plagued our country. We must now look to our commonalities as citizens of the same nation, not to what separates us as individuals or groups.
In recent years, my government has done much to ensure that many of the challenges facing the iTaukei have been addressed—including equal distribution of land lease monies.

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