Interim Govt Acting Responsibly On GCC Review
Interim Government Acting Responsibly On Review Of GCC - Media Statement By Acting Prime Minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau
The Interim Government would like to clear the air on the distorted statements that have been made in regards to the appointment of the Chairperson of the Great Council of Chiefs.
The Interim Government is greatly concerned at the insinuations made that the Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama appointed himself as GCC chairman.
These comments, you all fully realize, not only politicizes but also sensationalizes the issue and is a distortion of the real facts.
In our view, matters of this nature should be reported accurately, fairly and with balance. Otherwise all it does is paint a negative picture of government’s intentions on the issue.
You have therefore missed a unique opportunity to properly inform and educate the indigenous population of the new changes in legislations and how it will benefit them.
The new Fijian Affairs (Great Council of Chiefs) Regulation 2008, which governs the administration of the GCC is clear on the issue.
Regulation 3(5) of the Regulations clearly stipulates that the Minister shall be the Chairperson of the Council.
Cabinet deviated from the recommendation of the GCC Task Force on this because it felt the Minister for Fijian Affairs should not only continue to be a member but that he should also be Chairman of the GCC. Cabinet made this decision to ensure that the direct link that the Council had with Government through the office of the Minister was maintained and to reflect the status of the Council in national affairs – that it was chaired by none other than a full Cabinet Minister and that being the Minister responsible for Indigenous Affairs.
Therefore, Commodore Bainimarama as Prime Minister and as Minister for Indigenous Affairs in this case is the Chairperson of the GCC under the regulations.
It must be clarified in this case that PM Commodore Bainimarama did not directly appoint himself as GCC Chairperson.
In fact this is not the first time that the Minister for Indigenous Affairs happens to be the Chairman of GCC. Prior to 1999, the Minister for Fijian Affairs presided as Chair of the GCC. Since then, however, the GCC has appointed its own Chairman.
Cabinet in deciding to appoint for the first time only those chiefs who have been formally installed as traditional heads of their Vanua to be members of the Council were addressing a longstanding concern of the Council that such headship positions which have remained vacant for a long time should be filled.
The Interim Government had extensive consultation on the new regulations through the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC) Special Task Force (STF) Report.
The Special Task Force appointed to review the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC) carried out wide-ranging consultations throughout Fiji via the 14 Provincial Councils, Rotuma Island Council and down to Turaga ni Vanua, Turaga ni Yavusa and Turaga ni Mataqali level. In total 4912 Chiefs were consulted apart from the Councils.
It was clear from discussions with STF and from their briefings to the sub-Committee that there was overwhelming support from Chiefs to the work undertaken by the STF and for the review of the GCC which according to the Chiefs was long overdue.
The recommendations have as much as possible been incorporated into the Fijian Affairs (Great Council of Chiefs) Regulations 2008, which was endorsed by Cabinet.
Government is very appreciative of the work of the Task Force and looks forward to working closely with it in implementing the new Regulations.
The Interim Government will take the new Fijian Affairs Regulations 2008 to the Fijian people through the Provincial Councils to explain the new provisions and changes and the reasons for those changes.
The Interim Government realises the important role the GCC plays in the affairs of the nation and to the Fijian people. And as such, the Interim Government will make it priority that all matters relating to the GCC is properly disseminated and communicated to the people.
The Interim Government wishes to voice its disappointment over the irresponsible slant taken by the media without properly clarifying the facts.
Such acts are harmful and distracting the very focus of the Interim Government in moving Fiji forward.
On that note we would like to reassure all concerned that matters relating to the GCC are firm within the Interim Government’s hands and there should not be a matter for alarm.