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Confusion Surrounds Chief's Decision

Issue No: 579 14 March 2001

Much confusion still surrounds the decisions which the Great Council of Chiefs made yesterday.

The resolutions have not been made public.

But Council Secretary Ratu Epeli Ganilau told the media that the Chiefs decided to appoint Ratu Josefa Iloilo to the post of President and Ratu Jope Seniloli as Vice President. He also told the media that the chiefs left the Council accepted the Fiji Court of Appeal decision, but left the implementation of it to the President. Ratu Epeli stated: "The GCC is unanimous in its support for the President. As such it will also be unanimous in its support for whatever path that His Excellency chooses to take Fiji forward".

The media has been speculating on the deliberations and the decisions. One media outlet, claiming to have in its exclusive possession the resolutions of the meeting stated that the chiefs had decided to accept the Appeal decision in its entirety. Another media outlet claimed that the chiefs decided to ask the President to let Qarase and his team continue in their positions. Yet a third outlet published what it called the 6 resolutions of the meeting. These were:

a.. the 1997 Constitution is still the supreme law of Fiji
b.. Ratu Josefa Iloilo be appointed President and Ratu Jope Naucubalavu Seniloli as Vice-President effective 1`5 March
c.. The Chiefs accept that the President has reserve powers which can be used at certain times. The powers can be used in the present political climate;
d.. The council proposes that Parliament be dissolved and elections held at the earliest possible time if the president deems fit;
e.. The President appoint the interim administration to continue as a caretaker government if he decides to dissolve; and
f.. That the interim administration's blueprint be maintained and the Constitutional Review Commission to continue its work. The GCC spokesman told the media yesterday evening that it was impolite within the ethnic Fijian protocol for the resolutions to be released before the President is informed of it.

Today's Fiji Times, while endorsing the decision of the Chiefs to uphold the 1997 Constitution, made a scathing attack of the chiefs. It stated that the GCC has no powers to make law or to abrogate the Constitution. Calling some chiefs "feudal relics who sincerely believe that they are born to rule and that their word should be all the law the nation needs", the newspaper called upon the President to decide according to the Constitution.

END 14 March 2001

Chiefs defy Constitution; appoint President
Issue No: 578 14 March 2001

Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs defied the 1997 Constitution and decided to appoint a President without consulting the Prime Minister.

The Fiji Court of Appeal had decided this month that the 1997 Constitution remains the supreme law of the country.

According to the 1997 Constitution The Great Council of Chiefs appoints the President but after consultation with the Prime Minister (c90).

But in making their decision yesterday, neither did the Chiefs meeting invite the Prime Minister nor did their Council consult him.

It even ignored the advice of former High Court judge and high chief Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi that the Prime Minister be consulted for the appointment. Today's Fiji Sun states that this was "an unfortunate oversight for [the President's] 750,000 plus Fiji Islanders".

END 14 March 2001


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