The FDFM Agenda, the 1997 Constitution, Communal Voting … and the Great Council of Chiefs

  The Australian-based Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement (FDFM) interim president Suliasi Daunitutu has again defended the inclusion of the Great Council of Chiefs in his organization’s solution to the Fiji situation, saying that opposition to the GCC being allowed to ‘reconvene to deliberate on the affairs of the nation because it is unelected or a colonial invention ’ is irrelevant and misplaced.’ 
The FDFM in Australia is sticking to its belief the Bose Levu Vakaturaga (GCC) must play a crucial role in its plan for a return to a fair and free Fiji.
"The BLV,” says Daunitutu, “ is one among many institutions in our national political and social life that has been dismantled and harassed by a government that wants to destroy all institutions of representation, association and dialogue, and has systematically used the public emergency regulations to achieve this.”The FDFM is also sticking to its demand that the 1997 constitution be restored, saying that those who claim, that  “the legislation's  provision for communal electoral rolls is flawed or that its electoral system is too complex, is unproven." [ my italics!] 
Suliasi Daunitutu  is to be commended for his honesty.  

His “Return to Democracy” is  a return to the authority of the GCC, with the sole power to appoint the President, Vice-President and  14 of the 32 members of the Senate;  a return to a Constitution that ensures ethnic Fijian hegemony; a return to SDL rule; and a return to communal voting system where some votes count more than others and where chiefs and church leaders have excessive influence over how ethnic Fijians vote. 

Not surprisingly all three would re-entrench the power of those ethnic Fijian chiefs and business elites that held —and abused— power under the Qarase SDL government.  In this scheme of things the 43% of the population that is not ethnic Fijian, and the very many ethnic Fijians who did not share in the SDL spoils, are unimportant.  

Where later he concedes that some changes may be needed to the Constitution and the electoral system, it is interesting that he did not do so because they are unfair or undemocratic but because “the time has passed when communal seats are reasonably necessary for the alleged ‘protection’ of the indigenous Fijian community.” Besides, the need for some change was acknowledged by all of the major elected political parties, and it may now be necessary to “compromise” and be “flexible” on some details of the FDFM  “Ten-point plan in order “to broaden and strengthen our movement.”
He is also to be commended for his statement that  The choice is plain: either we embrace the promised arrangements [of the Bainimarama government] upon which deliberations will  allegedly commence in 2012,  or we build upon those [outlined by the FDFM to]  which Fiji’s leaders from across the political spectrum agreed in the mid-1990s. "
He asks doubters: "Whose side are you on? In theory, you back the creation of a future perfect democracy, but in practice you back a military dictatorship and attack those pressing for democratic government. We appeal to you instead to unite around our chosen programme, and build support for the transition to democracy in Fiji." 

We could turn this argument on its head and ask: Whose side are you on?  One that offers some hope for a better Fiji than it was under the Qarase government, or one that puts  the old cronies back in power again.

For democracy to have any chance, major changes are needed to the 1997 Constitution and Fiji’s electoral system.  But this does not mean there will be no place for the Great Council of Chiefs.  I would assume its chiefs  will be restored to their former,  but much earlier, role as respected and knowledgeable  advisers to  government on all matters concerning itaukei custom and land. 

But the GCC  should play no greater part in national politics than the English Queen in the United Kingdom or the Waikato King in New Zealand.   

The FDFM agenda is a return to the injustices and inequalities that existed under the Qarase SDL government. In fact, it's an SDL agenda.

More on the Great Council of Chiefs …
In a Nutshell
by Epeli Hau’ofa (jnr) on Facebook

The GCC was useful during the colonial days. It was important for the British to have the chiefs involved in some capacity, the British being the head chief so to speak.
However Fiji was moving in a direction that threatened the chiefly system. The Indian community has never been tied to this chiefly system and as a result never been easily manipulated by them. Seeing as the GCC had little to no influence over Timoci Bavadra’s Indo-Fijian-dominated government it was then deemed a threat to the privileges, power and influence of many who had grown greedy, fat and lazy under British rule. It was then not hard to convince a large number of the indigenous population of the threat that the Indians were taking over the country.
This then led to Fiji’s first coup by Rabuka in 1987 which was simply to rid the country of an Indo-Fijian Majority government less swayed by the will of the GCC and its perceived threat towards the indigenous people of Fiji.
The failure to heed to the will of the GCC also led to the downfall of Mahendra Chaudhry’s government in the George Speight led coup in 2000. George Speight’s coup would have been successful if it weren’t for one major factor. They only had the armed support of the CRW. The rest of the army were loyal to Frank Bainimarama and Frank Bainimarama was not loyal to Speight’s cause. This played a major role in the mutiny attempt and failed assassination attempt on Frank Bainimarama at the Queen Elizabeth Barracks.
After the military quashed the coup that led to the removal of Mahendra Chaudhry, Laisenia Qarase joined the Interim Military Government as a financial adviser on June 9, 2000. It was important to Frank Bainimarama at the time that someone of indigenous heritage with some distance (not of chiefly decent) to the influence of the GCC be chosen to head the Interim Military Government and so Qarase was appointed as Prime Minister on July 4.
After openly buying votes Qarase won “democratic” elections in 2001 which led to five years of corrupt practices, shady business dealings and the appointments into his government of people involved in the 2000 coup.
During this time Qarase was also chumming up to the GCC of whom many may assume were instrumental in his election victory. This behaviour was in direct conflict with the advice and warnings from Frank Bainimarama for Qarase to stay clean, keep his distance and limit the influence of the GCC to a bare minimum.
After being ignored Frank Bainimarama put his foot down and began to warn Qarase of the dangerous road he and his government were taking the country. Many of these warnings were replied to by Andrew Hughes the then Commissioner of Police who would remind Frank Bainimarama of his place and then proceeded to threaten Frank Bainimarama with arrest if he were to continue over stepping his constitutional obligations. 
After the end of Qarase’s SDL governments five year term he then narrowly won the parliamentary election held on 6–13 May 2006, with his party taking 36 of the 71 seats in the House of Representatives.
By now Frank Bainimarama and Fiji collectively had grown sick and tired of the constant setbacks to national development and progress by a government led by Qarase that was only focused on making money for the few and the unchallenged carrying out of the will of the GCC. 
Frank Bainimarama was well aware of the closed door wheeling and dealing between groups of chiefs, politicians and businessmen. This behaviour was of course simply corrupt and undemocratic.
It can be argued that Frank Bainimarama had other options instead of carrying out the coup of 2006. This of course was easier said then done.
How was one to successfully carry out formal complaints within a broken system plagued with high level corruption driven by greed and subject to the will of the GCC?Keeping all this in mind I can’t view the GCC as being very productive or contributing to the well being of all Fijians. I personally view its removal by Frank Bainimarama as a step in the right direction. If we are to join our neighbours Australia and New Zealand in prosperity and as a nation share in their higher standard of living, it is fundamentally important that Fiji shed its old and corrupt ways. This is by no means to say indigenous Fijians must give up their culture. We can learn from our former colonisers who have kept their culture and traditions well intact (the royal family) while leaving the affairs of running the country purely to their democratically elected government. May the good sense of the people of Fiji prevail.


Je Geniko said…
Croz, I would like to bring an error to your attention. In the first paragraph you mention Suliasi Daunitutu but in the 3rd paragraph you mention Suliana Daunitutu.

Sorry for nitpicking but thank you for posting this and I enjoyed Epeli's piece also.

I think Fiji's chiefly system is important but I think they should remain politically neutral (like the royal family in the UK). When the GCC starts to endorse a particular political party, democracy suffers. Let every man and woman make their own decision.
Anonymous said…
Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna the greatest of all the chiefs during the colonial era, told the Council of Chiefs meeting -
"We need to understand, and always be conscious of the fact that we can only be sure of our people continuting to follow us provided they appreciate that our authority is better than anyone else, that as a result of our forethout and energy they prosper - that is when we cease to rely on status to see us through, and we prove once more that we possess both qualifications and authority such as our ancestors possessed. If we confine ourselves to pleasure-seeking only, no useful purpose will be served in maintaining our claim to the chiefly status... If we are merely decorative our position is finished forever There is an insufficient number of men at present available who are either capable of, or who possess sufficient initiative effectively to carryout the responsibilitis of leadership".

On analysis of this statement one can easily see that -
*Chiefs have lost their following, as those elected have greater following;
*The authority of the chiefs is now vested in the elected reps;
* The chiefs, in the words of Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna now are pleasure-seekers, decorative, incapable of providing effective leadership.
* A majority do not live within the vanua but continue to take advantage of their positions, as if they still provide the same services as they provided during the colonial days;
* They do not have the qualification or ability to provide leadership relevant to today's world;
* They had actively supported the coups of 1987 and 2000; they instigated the mutiny in the army in which 8 innocent soldiers lost their lives, they helped in deposing the Father of Modern Fiji and last of the great chiefs, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, as President of Fiji in 2000.
* They are biased, racist and cause of political instability in Fiji.
* Their only value is to the SDL Party because both can gel effectively in keeping racism alive and sharing in the spoils - remember the SDL gift to the Chiefs - House of Chiefs at a cost of $40 million dollars - it would have been the SDL Party's headquarter for drinking grog and hatching plans to rob the nation.
A Man for All Seasons said…
This succinct analysis of Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna's wise observations on the GCC and its incumbents is as true now as when he made it.

How unwise some of us have been to overlook or to cast aside the reflections of this honorable, modest but acute man. A Man for All Seasons. Let us now reread his considered thoughts which are still so relevant and try to be more modest and less fiercely self righteous. We would also do well to curb our considerable displays of costly extravagance which give rise to so much angst and querulous complaint among the increasingly impoverished and struggling populace.
One of the truly Great Chiefs of Fiji said…
In his history of the Papacy, the writer John Julius Norwich had this to say:

"Truly great Popes were outnumbered by the corrupt, the inept, the venal, the lecherous and the mediocre".

He might have been speaking of the members of the Great Council of Chiefs in Fiji. Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, whose National Day has been dropped we note, was one of the Great Chiefs of Fiji and we shall not see his like again.
Anonymous said…
Will today's educated one's follow the uneducated chiefs? It will be slight to their intelligence and demeaning to allow to be led by the blind. The chiefs have not met since December5, 2006 it has not made an iota of difference to our people.
They cannot now share money from the rental income - it was robbery. Now there will not be fight for chiefly positions - it was not to serve but to rob and get rich. End of story!!

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