‘Wellbeing rests on Government’

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Former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry shake hands with Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka after the Thanksgiving and National Reconciliation church service at the Vodafone Arena in Suva on Sunday, May 14, 2023. Picture: FT FILE / JONACANI LALAKOBAU

The ultimate responsibility for the security and wellbeing of the people rests with the elected government in a democratic country, says Fiji Labour Party leader and former prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry.

He was responding to the call by former permanent secretary and academic Jioji Kotobalavu that the role be delegated to the Great Council of Chiefs and that the 2013 Constitution be amended to accommodate this.

Mr Chaudhry said the role could not be delegated to any other body like the GCC, the armed forces included.

He said the GCC was an institution for the iTaukei.

“It’s role in governance is confined to that of an advisory body to the Government on issues affecting the indigenous community,” Mr Chaudhry said.

“The Reeve’s Commission Report on the 1997 Constitution made several important recommendations on reforming the GCC.

“This might be an appropriate time to revisit those recommendations with a view to implementing them, particularly those relating to depoliticising the GCC.”

In an interview on Sunday, Mr Kotobalavu said the GCC and not the military should be conferred the constitutional responsibility to serve as the guardian of the well-being of all people of Fiji.

The 2013 Constitution Section 131 (2) states “it shall be the overall responsibility of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces to ensure at all times the security, defence and well-being of Fiji and all Fijians”.

Mr Kotobalavu said if the GCC accepted this extended role, it would mean that while its primary responsibility will continue to be the protection of the collective interests of the iTaukei and Rotumans, it would henceforth be also concerned about the interests of other communities.

He said the role of the GCC should also be included in the Constitution.

The GCC meeting will be officiated by President Wiliame Katonivere on Wednesday.