Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Chiefless Fijian Society


Sunday, April 15, 2007
NI sa bula. In 1988, I became very unpopular with the two great chiefs I was working with in the interim government of Fiji for advocating the slow demise of the traditional Fijian aristocracy and the steady ascendancy of the new indigenous elite heralding the new indigenous meritocracy.
Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau was more diplomatic about his rejection of my views while Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara called me "just an angry young man".
Last year during the public discussions about the Qoliqoli Bill, I mentioned during casual conversations after a presentation I made to a group of concerned environmental experts, the Kenyan experiment when they got their independence and what their first President did about the dismantling of their customary social set up and their tribal landholding.
I was asked then about nationalising the traditionally indigenous land, and I said it was possible but perhaps too late because our chiefly institutions and land were all part and parcel of the indigenous society.
The only way possible was, perhaps, to abolish the chiefly system, and that would free up Fijian ownership for the nationalisation of land, qoliqoli etc.
The first to criticise that view was Ratu Epeli Ganilau, our current Minister for Fijian Affairs in the interim Government, who so vehemently condemned the Council of Chiefs this week for its decision not to endorse the President's nominee, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, for Vice President.
Am I now wrong and likely to be accused by our Prime Minister for countermanding his decision to "suspend" the Great Council of Chiefs and "not recognise" chiefs by still calling these men Ratu?
How far do we go in "not recognising" the Great Council of Chiefs and the chiefs?
Will the people be allowed to "not recognise" their chiefs?
Can I "not recognise" and no longer respect my paramount chief that I am so accustomed and have been time and custom bound to call Na Gone Turaga na Ai Sokula, Na Turaga Bale na Tui Cakau?
Am I now redundant as chairman of the Cakaudrove Provincial Council?
Are the provincial councils now purely a part of the Regional Development Department of government and no longer part of "Fijian" Affairs? What aspects of Fijian Affairs retain their status and roles?
It will be interesting to watch how quickly we can dismantle the old Fijian system and begin to replace it with a system that draws its strength and powers from Central Administration, rather than the inherent "mana" in our indigenous society.
About 1000 people belong to my village of Drekeniwai.
The village is home to the people of Yavusa Navatu and Yavusa Loa in the Vanua of Navatu.
Our chiefs (probably until Thursday this week), Tui Navatu and Tui Loa, have always understood their role of vakarorogo vakavanua vua na Turaga na Tui Cakau, as passed down from generation to generation and codified in the Tukutuku Raraba during the Veitarogi Vanua of 1926-1928.
Will my village be now authorised by an interim Government decree to elect a village commander or have one appointed (equivalent to a battalion commander) who will be commissioned to organise, administer and provide for the people of Drekeniwai using all the resources available to the village by decree?
It would not be too difficult because we already have the infrastructure the mataqali can have a platoon commander equivalent, the groupings of the mataqali can have a company commander equivalent, the I liuliu ni Tokatoka can have a section commander equivalent etc.
Village, district, provinces and divisions can have commanders who are politically appointed by and owe allegiance to the national political leaders not too different from the "political commissars" that came out of the great cultural revolutions of Russia and China.
And like those revolutions, we would have to totally remove and cease to recognise or acknowledge the former tsars and the dynasties so that we can proceed with the new order.
The interim Government has taken the next step, after no longer recognising the Council of Chiefs, by removing the secretariat of that council from their premises in Draiba.
The oldest and perhaps last bastion of Fijian dominance in the affairs of state in Fiji and the government should now retire the name to Ovalau and call that new ownerless complex by its original name of Naiqasiqasi.
The rest are easy:
n Cancel the appointments of the members of the Fijian Affairs Board and Native Land Trust Board because they are joint committees of government and the Council of Chiefs, and
n Abolish the provinces and their councils, tikinas and their councils, villages and their councils as they all are but instruments and subordinate organisations of the Fijian affairs.
So, we may now be well on our way in our march towards a classless Fiji with its own chiefless indigenous race where we will have a level playing field for all and there may be hope for meritocracy in Fiji if the army will allow it.
And the military, as they believe they are doing by their campaign to free the people from old bonds and customary shackles, may want to change their title to the "Peoples' Liberation Army".
Have a very peaceful Sunday.

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