Shine A Light

Shine A Light: Chiefs Must Be Inclusive- Kepa

“Governments come and go in four years, eight years, 16 years. What people want is stability. The vanua can give a sense of identity to the other races we live with,” she said.
20 Feb 2023 15:10
Shine A Light: Chiefs Must Be Inclusive- Kepa
Burebasaga paramount chief, Na Gone Marama Bale na Roko Tui Dreketi, Ro Teimumu Kepa. Photo: Ronald Kumar

It is the vanua, through the chiefs, who can give other ethnicities a sense of identity and a home, Burebasaga paramount chief, Na Gone Marama Bale na Roko Tui Dreketi, Ro Teimumu Kepa said.

As the coalition Government progresses with plans to revive the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC) or Boselevu Vakaturaga, Ro Teimumu said council members must be reminded their role was not just for the iTaukei people.

The GCC has been non-existent for the past 16 years. It was abolished in March 2012 by the previous FijiFirst Government because they saw it as a relic from the colonial era.

“Governments come and go in four years, eight years, 16 years. What people want is stability. The vanua can give a sense of identity to the other races we live with,” she said.

“While the mandate of the GCC is to look out for the well-being of the indigenous, we must not forget the other communities who live among us.”


The coalition Government has set in motion plans to revive the council by no later than May this year.

The announcement was made by the President, Ratu Wiliame Katonivere, while opening the Parliament sitting earlier this month.

However, to do that, Ro Teimumu believes the iTaukei Affairs, given the mammoth task of re-birthing the GCC, must involve the chiefs.

The decision to re-establish the GCC has been welcomed by chiefs we spoke to.

Nonetheless, the role and responsibilities of the council must be carefully reviewed to avoid any political interference.

Instead, the council must prioritise the empowerment and development of iTaukei individuals and communities to fully utilise their natural resources for their benefits.


“I have always supported its re-establishment with a view of transforming the pinnacle of iTaukei culture and tradition to its revered status of old with new innovations, in line with the challenges of today’s society that is socially, economically and culturally,” Roko Tui Bau, Ratu Timoci Tavanavanua said.

Tui Nalawa of Ra province, Ratu Epeli Niudamu said the council should never be involved in politics, but instead focus on serving the interest of the iTaukeipeople.

Speaking on behalf of a Tui Ba, Bulu district representative, Noa Kautoga, said the council would ensure the affairs of the iTaukei people are discussed and positive ideas on how to develop the iTaukei would be shared among the chiefs.



In a post-Cabinet statement released on Wednesday, Government announced that the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs has been given the lead task of reviving the council, through the permanent secretary and a Strategic Advisory Group (SAG).

The SAG will be appointed by the Minister responsible, on the advice of the Permanent Secretary, who will provide oversight and guidance to the review team.

The SAG will comprise iTaukei individuals from across development spectrums such as business investment and governance. Expressions of interest will be called from individuals and groups to undertake the review.

The review and consultation are expected to take four months, after which the final report will then be presented to the Minister and Cabinet.

Ro Teimumu Kepa said the iTaukei affairs should take advantage of the knowledge and expertise of chiefs in consultation processes and reviews.

“The majority of the chiefs live in rural areas, and the involvement of the chiefs could ensure the involvement of the people in decision-making.

“This ensures a bottom-up approach, where people are also involved. The top-down approach needs to go, that has been happening for the past 16 years,” she said.

“The iTaukei Affairs should simplify the process and ask the chiefs on how they think the council should operate.”

Ro Teimumu said it was time that people, including youths, were involved in the decision-making processes.



If the GCC is to be re-instituted, its purpose may need to be made responsive to contemporary Fiji, says freelance advocate on indigenous iTaukei values, Simione Sevudredre.

“Perhaps, the time is nigh for the Boselevu Vakaturaga to be the voice and arbitrator of the indigenous Fijians with matters regarding traditional knowledge, culture, ceremonies and its embedded complexities,” Mr Sevudredre said.

“Fiji has modernized, but there is no authority to sit and provide direction for the indigenous population on matters relating to kinship, land, vanua, traditions and traditional knowledge.”

He said there should be a clear indication of the different roles the Government and the GCC needed to play.

“Let Government handle the day to day economic, social, and contemporary issues via its laws, the civil service, and the courts.

Let the Boselevu Vakaturaga be separate and sacred and sit twice or thrice to year to listen to traditional issues that can only be understood by traditional ears and vanua hearts and placate the indigenous ears and hearts to ensure sautu and harmony in the people flourishes.”

Ro Teimumu said after 16 years, the GCC needed to be revamped, remodeled, and revised so that it remained relevant to today.

“Regulations and decrees that had been put in place had a detrimental impact on the GCC because of the 16 years in the wilderness,” she said.



Mr Kautoga said the GCC needed to look into the iTaukei land.

“We Fijians need to truly know whether our land is secure, whether the law in Fiji safeguards our land as iTaukei people, because there has been a lot of rumours floating around that iTaukei land is slowly being alienated,” he said.

“The council needs to also look into how we can raise the standard of living of iTaukei.”

Ratu Niudamu said the GCC should also enrich and impart knowledge of the iTaukei tradition, culture to the iTaukei people, especially protecting its sacredness.

Ratu Tavanavanua said one of the main challenges was to find the fit to make it relevant to the ordinary iTaukei again, considering the number of years it was disbanded.

“It will need to deliberate and mitigate the process of ratifying the United Nations Declaration on the rights of Indigenous People and their group rights,” he said.

“It needs to explore ways and means of merging the traditional leadership style with today’s modern-day leadership.”

Ratu Tavanavanua said the GCC should also equip iTaukei traditional and potential leaders with precise and strong leadership, admin, and technical skills to compete in the corporate sector.

He added the GCC should also be a forum where other ethnicities could look to in times of adversity.





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