Tuesday, April 17, 2007

GCC - The last vestige of Fijian identity

www.fijidailypost.com- 14-Apr-2007

Commodore Frank Bainimarama’s bold move to suspend the Great Council of Chiefs is a serious matter that needs careful consideration, especially by indigenous Fijians.
The GCC is a constitutional body with its functions clearly outlined - that is to appoint a President and Vice President.
This announcement by Commodore Bainimarama is now another Constitutional issue and it would be up to the courts of law to determine whether the GCC as a constitutional body has been forcefully undermined.
The declared suspension of the council by Commodore Bainimarama is another step in the ‘clean-up’ campaign being conducted in the Fijian administrative system.
The GCC is not simply a constitutional body.
It also plays a symbolic unifying role for Fiji’s once-fragmented tribal groups and vanua.
It is the head of the Fijian people.
It is what makes, defines and distinguishes them from other ethnic groups, not only in Fiji but overseas.
Whilst many ethnic Fijians do have pertinent questions to raise about the relevance of the GCC, its functions and its role in modern society, it nevertheless is a very important unifying body.
Fiji’s first British governor, Sir Arthur Gordon, saw the Bose Levu Vaka Turaga as a necessary institution not only for colonial administrative purposes but also in the best interest of the indigenous tribes.
Some commentators have agreed that the GCC was a necessary evil when taking into account that colonial rule and Europeans were bringing new forms of governance and foreign customs.
The 18th and 19th centuries were times of change as small-scale indigenous societies became swallowed up by European colonial expansion, international trade and commerce.
The option for Fiji’s indigenous tribes was either to unite or wither away.
We fear that the GCC’s demise may not be good for the indigenous people.
In fact it may be the beginning of the end of Fijian unity and cohesiveness.
And we cannot blame Commodore Bainimarama and Interim Government for this.
The GCC and all other Fijian institutions are themselves to blame for not being tactful enough to change, adapt and step into the 21st century where daily realities are not about tradition or customs but development and better livelihoods.
The GCC is not only a symbol of Fijian solidity, but a living institution of leaders of people.
Amongst former colonies in the developing world Fiji has been spared of the violence and gross human rights violations evident in coup-afflicted African countries.
Conflict in those countries have a tribalistic or inter-ethnic character and we are quite lucky that so far we have not gone down this dreadful path.
The reason perhaps lies in the fact that Fiji’s fragmented indigenous tribes have been successfully integrated into an ethnic construct.
And it’s such quasi-traditional institutions like the Great Council of Chiefs which have been duly codified under our laws and Constitution to neutralise, albeit in an undemocratic way, any likelihood of inter-tribal conflicts.
We hope that the events of the past two days will open the eyes of traditional Fijian leaders in the council to realise a time for change.
We hope that the GCC is not totally disbanded but maintained and reformed so that its roles and functions are in tandem with modern Fijian society.

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