Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Back off, chiefs tell regime - Tuesday, February 05, 2008

THREE chiefs have cautioned the interim Government over the appointment of a President.

Bua chief Ratu Kinijoji Vakawaletabua said most Fijians were not ready for a non-Fijian President, let alone a commoner.

Speaking from his village in Dama, he said he would rather die than see a change in leadership.

Ratu Kinijoji said many things affecting Fijian institutions and Fijian leadership in the country had been changed.

He said the Great Council of Chiefs had been suspended and the Ministry of Fijian Affairs downgraded to a department.

The only thing the Fijians could look up to was the Presidency, he said.

Ratu Kinijoji warned if that was taken away from Fijians, then nothing would be left for chiefs and Fijians to aspire to in terms of leadership in this nation.

Rewa paramount chief Ro Teimumu Kepa said the point was not whether the next President was a Fijian or a chief.

It was about letting the Great Council of Chiefs choose the best person for the job, she said.

"In my view, I don't really know where we are heading to," she said.

"These changes that the interim administration is doing regardless of whether it's constitutional. They just do whatever they want."

Ro Filipe Tuisawau said people in Fiji should understand the basic rationale of the GCC choosing a Fijian President.

"That is to recognise and appreciate the role of the Fijian chiefs," he said.

"The Fijian people and their chiefs have played a key role in the building of the modern nation state of Fiji and their role in directly choosing one of their own as the President is recognition of this.

"It was a political settlement and is politically correct and any pragmatic person can understand this."

He said the President's Office represented the unity of traditional Fiji and the modern state.

"The key to all our on-going problems is to return to democratic rule as soon as possible and for the regime to stop creating legal minefields as it created too many already," he said.

Ratu Ovini Bokini, the former GCC chairman, said he had no comments to make.

Ratu Inoke Takiveikata, the turaga na Qaranivalu from Naitasiri, declined to comment.

Efforts to get a comment from Tui Cakau, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu proved futile yesterday.

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