Analysis

No Need For Great Council Of Chiefs

The general consensus among this majority is that the GCC is irrelevant because many do not miss it.
17 Apr 2019 10:00
No Need For Great Council Of Chiefs

The majority of iTaukei randomly interviewed think there is no need to resurrect the Great Council of Chiefs.

It reflects the changing perception of many people about the role and responsibilities of the GCC.

Those who oppose it say it is an unnecessary expense to Government and a terrible waste of taxpayers’ money which should go to worthwhile projects.

The general consensus among this majority is that the GCC is irrelevant because many do not miss it.

The only ones who miss it are politicians, their families and their hangers-on who are far removed from the modern day realities in Fiji.

They seem to be caught up in a time warp.

They refuse to admit that the GCC was created by the British colonialists to minimise iTaukei dissent.

In other words it was to control ordinary iTaukei from expressing opposite views.

The GCC was disestablished in March 2012 by the Voreqe Bainimarama led Government seven years ago last month.

After Independence, the GCC became a political hotbed for politicians who used it for their own agenda.

It reached the stage of absurdity in 1987 when some GCC members openly supported the 1987 military coups instead of going against them.

The GCC lost its moral direction and never recovered until its scraping.

The composition of the GCC was questioned from time to time on the criteria used to select members.

Usually those ranked the highest sit on the GCC.

But even the ranking was a sensitive exercise and although it was not openly expressed it created tension and disharmony. There was perception that it was based on political allegiance and alliances.

In fact the state of politics dictated the proceedings.

Those with the political power controlled them.

He said that the British used the GCC to serve their own purposes.

“They had hereditary chiefs of their own their dukes, earls, barons and so on. So they were very comfortable dealing with hereditary chiefs in Fiji.

Not with troublesome commoners but people like them who owed their power to an accident of birth. People who could order everyone else to fall into line. This arrangement worked well for the British until they left Fiji 94 years later in 1970.”

It was established by the British in 1876 – initially as the Native Council – two years after the Fiji islands were handed over to Queen Victoria by Ratu Seru Cakobau and the other chiefs who signed the Deed of Cession.

It was set up so the British could govern and control the indigenous population through the chiefs at that time.

Mr Bainimarama noted that the GCC had become so politicised, so divisive, that it was a significant obstacle to improving the lives of ordinary Fijians.

“It was certainly a major obstacle to the most important issue of all – our pursuit of a common and equal citizenry to finally build one nation and move forward together.

“It was also an obstacle to the development of the iTaukei themselves. The unfair distribution of lease monies which favoured the chiefs deprived ordinary iTaukei people of the share they were entitled to.”

A paramount chief in Vanua Levu who wants to remain anonymous asked: “If GCC was restored what will they be discussing?”

The past GCC had in fact divided the chiefs into three categories.

Those in the first group were the front liners and they were the ones who usually contributed in the meeting, the middle class who were merely at the meeting to give support and those who remained at the back.

The spokesmen for the Turaga na Ratu, the chief of Verata, Ratu Sevanaia Verata, said the GCC should not be restored. Instead, the chiefs should be looking after their own people.

Naitasiri chief Ratu Timoci Rokobukete said the GCC should not be brought back. He said the chiefs should instead work with the people and raise their concerns at the provincial council meetings which will then be forwarded to the ministry and later to Government ministries for action.

Tailevu chief, Turaga na Tui Nabou Semi Matalau said no one could question Government’s decision about the GCC.

“Already chiefs are the chairpersons of their village and district meetings. They are also members of their provincial council meetings,” he said.

“They are the advisers at the meetings.”

Their advice is forwarded to the Ministry of the iTaukei Affairs and later relayed to Government ministries.

District and provincial council meetings are recognised by Government,” he said.

He said there was no need for GCC to be back in place because Government has put in place a replacement.

The chiefs would be fulfilling their responsibilities better if they focus on their traditional jurisdictions. They do not need the GCC to do it.

Feedback: maikab@fijisun.com.fj

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