Role of the GCC
14 May, 2016, 12:00 am
There has been a lot said about the GCC; its relevance or otherwise, whether to be reinstated or not and so forth.
I am of the view that the GCC is still relevant, however, its membership and roles need to be reformed.
The indigenous Fijian communal structure in ascending order is as follows; Family, tokatoka, mataqali, yavusa and vanua. Each unit has a head, leader or chief of its own. The highest ranking chief is the head of the vanua or turaga ni vanua. There are 215 vanua in Fiji thus 215 high ranking chiefs of equal status. In my view these are the rightful members of the GCC as against the previous arrangement of three chiefs representing each province. Prior to Fiji’s cession to Great Britain in 1874, the indigenous people appeared to have existed mostly either in individual yavusa or combination of yavusa (or vanua) groupings. The heads or chiefs of these groupings did own all the land; qoliqoli and what have you then.
After cession, the freehold lands in Fiji were identified first and demarcated before native lands were then identified and demarcated. During this latter process, some chiefs allotted more lands to their subjects than to themselves on the understanding that the subjects would use the land to fulfil their traditional roles, obligations and/or responsibilities to the chief, yavusa or vanua.
Thus some prominent chiefs own little or no land at all. The previous arrangement of distribution of land incomes by NLTB/TLTB whereby 5 per cent share for the turaga ni vanua (chief), 10 per cent share for the turaga ni yavusa, 15 per cent share for the turaga ni mataqali and 70 per cent share for the members of a mataqali yavusa or tokatoka was in recognition of the fact that land ownership was handed down from the chiefs through sub-chiefs to the subjects and more so that the monetary shares compensate for the traditional obligations that would have been met from the land.
To say that there is no link between a landowning mataqali or yavusa to the GCC I believe is dumbfounded ignorant irrelevant and hollow.
The main role of the GCC is to make policy decisions on matters pertaining to the indigenous people and to advise the Government of the day accordingly.
I believe one of its landmark decisions is the setting up of the NLTB/TLTB to administer native land on behalf of its owners and in that process the demarcation of reserve land for the use, maintenance and support of its owners and land outside of reserve made available for leasing to those who need land.
I believe this particular decision was made in recognition of the fact that the landless Fijians of Indian descent population in Fiji needed land to survive on after they decided to remain in Fiji post indentured labour period.
I believe the NLTB/TLTB was created through legislation after a collective decision of the GCC to do so. If the GCC is not revived the NLTB/TLTB must accordingly be abolished and landowning units to administer their own land.