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Editorial, Opinion, Opinion

WHY BRINGING BACK THE GREAT COUNCIL OF CHIEFS IS A LOST CAUSE

WHY BRINGING BACK THE GREAT COUNCIL OF CHIEFS IS A LOST CAUSE
Niko Nawaikula. Photo: Simione Haravanua
September 10
12:46 2018

This is an edited version of Nemani Delaibatiki’s My Say for the FBC TV programme ‘4 The Record’ last night.

 

Niko Nawaikula has once again jumped on his hobby horse – indigenous rights, the Bose Levu Vakaturaga (BLV) and the 1997 Constitution.

He gets emotionally carried away and loses focus on answering the points that I raised.

I had said in My Say last week that SODELPA was out of its mind and still living in the past by calling for the restoration of the BLV or Great Council of Chiefs so that it could choose the President.

I said the BLV had become irrelevant. It was used by certain politicians to gain political advantage and therefore became a hotbed for politics.

Mr Nawaikula’s ideologies are not in line with modern thinking and reality.

He and others want to drag us back to a dark past.

Mr Nawaikula said: “What’s archaic and of a dark past is the school of thought that called for the removal of indigenous culture, their land, cultural institutions and language and their assimilation.”

He has read more into my statement and misinterpreted it. There is no suggestion, indication or by implication or otherwise that I have called for the removal of indigenous culture, their land, cultural institutions and their language. Mr Nawaikula has clearly misinformed the iTaukei in a bid to scare them so that they can vote for him in the election.

This is cheap and gutter level politics.

Everyone knows iTaukei rights, culture, land, customary practices and important cultural institutions are safe and intact because they are protected by the 2013 Constitution. iTaukei land cannot be alienated.

In the past four years there is overwhelming evidence that many iTaukei do not miss the BLV.

The only noise we hear is from Mr Nawaikula and his cohorts because it’s part of their political agenda.

It is clear to the people that the BLV is not the repository or icon of everything iTaukei because since its demise, life carries on normally.

I reiterate that the BLV or Great Council of Chiefs had become irrelevant.

It was a toothless tiger, powerless to stop the 1987 military coups.

If it was the great stabiliser or great influence for the iTaukei and the country that some people like Mr Nawaikula claim, why couldn’t it tell the agitating iTaukei demonstrating on the streets of Suva with anti-Indo Fijian chants and placards to call it off.

More importantly, why didn’t they prevent the demonstration and give the correct chiefly advice like – let us uphold democratic principles, accept the general election results and respect the National Federation Party-Fiji Labour Party coalition Government led by then Prime Minister Dr Timoci Bavadra, a prominent iTaukei commoner anyway.

Mr Rabuka said then he had stepped in and staged the country’s first military coup to prevent bloodshed.

We know that some chiefs and religious leaders were involved.

If Mr Nawaikula does not know Mr Nawaikula should ask his SODELPA leader Mr Rabuka: “Who gave him the idea to carry out the first coup.”

In his first military government Mr Rabuka appointed radical nationalist leader the late Sakeasi Butadroka as Minister for Lands.

The man who had called for the repatriation if Indo-Fijians back to India started immediate land reforms.

He told me at the time that he wanted all Crown land (State land) to be reverted to native or iTaukei land. He wanted, above all, political supremacy for iTaukei or the indigenous people.

But he told me he was utterly disappointed that Mr Rabuka stopped him in his tracks.

He also wanted that freehold land taken from iTaukei under dubious circumstances be given back under a Government buy-back policy.

Mr Rabuka sacked him when the then military strongman was informed that such land reforms would cause instability, drive investors away and seriously damage the economy.

Many iTaukei, like Mr Butadroka, who backed Mr Rabuka became disillusioned and turned their backs on him.

We failed to learn from the lessons of 1987.

In 2000 the country was again plunged into turmoil by the George Speight coup which toppled the democratically-elected Government of Mahendra Chaudhry, the first Indo-Fijian Prime Minister.

It was claimed then that the coup was to finish off what Mr Rabuka had started.

Again, the BLV chiefs intervened after the coup but could not resolve it.

It was the Republic of Fiji Military Forces led by Voreqe Bainimarama, its commander then, that broke the deadlock and ended the siege in Parliament.

If there was a time that the BLV needed to prove that it had the support of the iTaukei, it would have been 1987 and 2000.

Its failure was because of the fact it was heavily politicised and therefore had lost its moral authority to show leadership when it was needed the most.

What makes Mr Nawaikula think that he can achieve this today?

 

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 

 

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