Editorial | At the GCC

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Ratu Isoa Gavidi and Ratu Epenisa Cakobau during break yesterday. Picture: JONA KONATACI

A number of issues have emerged from the Great Council of Chiefs meeting on Bau Island this week as important discussion points.

For instance, what is the core role of the GCC?

Is there a role for youth, women and people of other ethnicities in the GCC for instance, and whether it is ready for a modern Fiji?

iTaukei Affairs Minister Ifereimi Vasu believes the GCC has a duty to address issues affecting the iTaukei people.

He highlighted this yesterday.

The GCC, he suggested, should be a place where chiefs came to discuss ways to develop the iTaukei people.

Questions had been raised, he said, about the motive behind reinstating the GCC.

“So, it is very important that you know the purpose of your being here and we are here to talk about developments that will benefit future generations.”

Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka said the GCC was established by genealogy.

He said chiefs could listen to the youth and women and bring their issues to the discussion table.

He was responding to questions about the lack of youth and female representation in the reconvened GCC.

On the selection process, Mr Rabuka said those elected to sit in the GCC meeting were selected by their respective provinces.

Because of the way GCC members were elected through inheritance and geneology, he noted, it could not reflect the concerns raised by the handful of Fijians who want to see a modern council.

Agreeing with the suggestion of having people of other ethnicities being represented at the GCC, Mr Vasu said it was the way forward in a modern Fiji.

In the face of these sentiments, Ra representative to the GCC meeting on Bau Island, Ratu Manoa Seru said some chiefs in the province were being sworn at by youths, some of whom were addicted to alcohol and drugs and did not contribute to the yearly provincial soli.

He spoke about disrespect towards leaders and elders and said this had become the norm.

He hopes education on their traditional role in light of the GCC restoration would change things for the better.

Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry also raised a point yesterday, while endorsing what he says was a very strong social message from the president of the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma, Reverend Ili Vunisuwai.

Mr Vunisuwai challenged members of the GCC to refrain from fulfilling their own agenda, urging them to make it their priority to discuss ways to address the issue of iTaukei living in poverty and look after the people under their care.

Statistics about the large number of iTaukei people living in poverty, he noted, was both alarming and shocking and must be addressed urgently.

The GCC, he said, as an indigenous Fijian institution must give this urgent priority and come up with solutions to deal with the problem.

There will understandably be mixed emotions and reactions to the meeting.

Some discussions have obviously focused on the financial aspect of the event, and for those in favour of it, the lessons they can take off it.

As this first GCC meeting in 16 years comes to an end today, we look forward to outcomes of discussions on the chiefly island of Bau.

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