Great Council of Chiefs scheduled for May

Fiji Parliament speaker and Tui Cakau Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu shakes hand with President and Tui Macuata Ratu Wiliame Katonivere at the opening of parliament in Suva, on Friday, February 3, 2023. Picture: ELIKI NUKUTABU

The first meeting of the re-established Great Council of Chiefs (GCC) will be held in May.

However, by recognising indigenous rights, the Government does not seek to place indigenous rights above the rights of members of minority ethnic communities.

President Ratu Wiliame Katonivere emphasised this while opening the 2023-2024 Session of Parliament yesterday.

He said the GCC was traditionally the apex of the vanua and that the Government would undertake consultations and preparatory work before bringing the relevant Bills to the House.

“Government must respect the human rights of every person in Fiji as guaranteed in the Constitution of the Republic of Fiji 2013, as well as the rights of all communities in Fiji,” he said.

“We must also continue to recognise the rights of the first peoples of this nation or the iTaukei and the people of Rotuma, as guaranteed in international agreements like the International Labour Organisation Convention 169 on the Rights of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, as well as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

During his speech, Ratu Wiliame also quoted the former leader of the National Federation Party (NFP) Jai Ram Reddy, who had addressed the GCC during his term as leader of the opposition in 1997.

“He asked the Chiefs to consider themselves leaders not just of the iTaukei, but of all of Fiji’s people.

“He reminded them that Indo-Fijians did not wish to separate themselves from their iTaukei brothers and sisters.

“And, speaking for the Indo-Fijian community, he told the chiefs, and I quote: ‘Fiji is our home. Fiji is our only home. We have no other. We want no other’.”

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