Opinion

No Valid Grounds To Reinstate GCC

At a time when we should be discussing how we can improve our rebuilding efforts after Cyclone Winston, the Opposition saw it fit to bring a petition to Parliament about
02 May 2016 09:27
No Valid Grounds To Reinstate GCC
From left Sitiveni Rabuka, the late Dr Timoci Bavadra and the late Tui Nayau, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

At a time when we should be discussing how we can improve our rebuilding efforts after Cyclone Winston, the Opposition saw it fit to bring a petition to Parliament about the reinstatement of the Great Council of Chiefs as the most urgent and pressing matter.

Is this for real? What do you think are the most important issues in the minds of our people, particularly those in disaster-affected areas, right now?

Food, shelter, continuing education for the children, rebuilding and rehabilitation, jobs, security, health, business, investment, economy etc. Disasters strike us across the board irrespective of our socio-economic status. We all get affected one way or another.

You throw in the reinstatement of the Great Council of Chiefs into the mix and they don’t gel because it does not provide an essential ingredient to effect the kind of change the country needs right now.

Since the Great Council of Chiefs was abolished in 2012, we as a nation have progressed.

There is more equal distribution of national wealth through infrastructure development and various Government assistance and subsidy like free education, free school bus fare, free milk and Weet-Bix for class one students, cheaper electricity, water, medicine and bus fare for the poor, destitute, physically disabled and the elderly. The list goes on.

Those in the corridors of power are insensitive if they think the GCC is the most important thing to talk about now. Think of our brothers and sisters who are out there desperately waiting out for assistance to help them survive and live a decent standard of life that others enjoy.

The GCC was an institution set up by our British colonial rulers to keep the iTaukei, the indigenous people, under control and prevent dissent. They used the chiefs to use their influence to keep the ordinary iTaukei away from challenging the establishment.

When Fiji became independent in 1970, it brought about positive change.

Democracy and freedom of choice became the buzz words. But this freedom fundamentally challenged the concept and foundation on which the GCC was built. The British created the GCC as a political tool to become the repository, guardian and symbol of things iTaukei.

The only problem was that it was autocratic and therefore undemocratic. Some would argue that GCC delegates were free to express themselves and vote on issues based on democratic principles. The process was merely academic. At the end of those meetings politicians usually had the final say.

The GCC was not independent in that sense. When Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara’s Alliance Party was in power most of his Cabinet sat in the GCC. The GCC became another mouthpiece of the Alliance Government, the elite and their hangers-on.

It became entrenched in the system under the then Constitution. The GCC elected the President and Vice-President for a five-year term and nominated 14 senators.

After more than 40 years in power, the Alliance government was defeated in 1987 by the powerful Fiji Labour Party-National Federation Party coalition of Dr Timoci Bavadra.

Ultra nationalist Taukei Movement supporters took to the streets with the passive support of some members of the GCC to protest against an Indo-Fijian-dominated government. They backed the military coup led by Sitiveni Rabuka in a bid to restore iTaukei political supremacy.

The Alliance defeat was also a rejection of the GCC because it lost a significant number of traditional iTaukei support to the new coalition Government.

These were iTaukei who were fed up of political rhetorics and false promises from the Alliance Government.

The other time this had happened was in 1977 when Fijian Nationalist Party leader Sakeasi Butadroka snatched away enough iTaukei votes from the Alliance government to lose to the NFP which could not form a government because of internal bickering. The Alliance government bounced back to power in the fresh election the same year.

These were early signs that the GCC really had no power to control the iTaukei. Again in 2000 the GCC was powerless to stop the rampaging mob of mainly iTaukei who rioted and looted shops in the Suva streets.

On this score the GCC had become irrelevant and we cannot really justify its reinstatement.

The Opposition had argued that the GCC had a stabilising influence. If it did there was no overwhelming evidence to prove it in the political upheavals that changed the course of history for our nation.

It remained as what our British colonialists had envisaged it would become.

Even on that score it became a failure because it could not contain iTaukei discontent. Those who are pushing for GCC restoration still live in a time warp and need to wake up to the realities facing our nation. The relationship between chiefs and ordinary iTaukei is as strong as ever even without the GCC and the iTaukei culture and traditions are still intact.

Let’s forget about the GCC and talk about issues that will move us forward.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 

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