Radio New Zealand Pacific Senior Sports Journalist, Iliesa Tora, recently posted a story about how history will be created when an Indo-Fijian dance group will perform at the reinstatement ceremony of Fiji’s Great Council of Chiefs (GCC) – 16 years after it was abolished by former prime minister Frank Bainimarama.
The GCC, regarded as the apex of indigenous Fijian politics, will be meeting on Bau Island in Tailevu, about 35km outside of capital Suva, on May 24 and 25.
The council had been a platform where selected members get to discuss and agree on the pathways for indigenous Fijians issues such as land, culture, education and development.
Over 40 chiefs from around Fiji and Rotuma will be joined by six nominees of the Minister of iTaukei Affairs and 14 provincial representatives as the GCC returns to the chiefly island.
Speaking to RNZ Pacific, iTaukei Affairs permanent secretary Pita Tagicakirewa said Namosi will not be part of the event following a request from high chief and Tui Namosi Ratu Suiano Matanitobua. “I confirm that the Turaga Tui Namosi has requested that Namosi be excluded from this year’s GCC,” Tagicakirewa said.
Ratu Suliano is currently serving a jail term for charges of corruption in falsifying housing allowance claims brought against him by the former FijiFirst administration in 2022.
Bau chief Ratu Aisea Komaitai also confirmed that the Indian Cultural Centre dance group will be the first ever Indo-Fijian group to take part in any GCC opening event.
He said their participation will be an outstanding part of history.
“The Indian Cultural Dance Group will be one of the performers at the opening of the GCC. It will be the first time for the Indian cultural dance to perform at the Bose Levu Vvakaturaga or the GCC,” Ratu Aisea added.
Tagacakirewa confirmed that each of the 14 provinces and Rotuma were asked to nominate three chiefs each to participate at the GCC meet.
“The iTaukei Affairs Board had approved that three chiefs from each of the 14 provinces will attend the GCC meeting. So, in total we are looking at 42 chiefs and three from Rotuma.”
These will be joined by six nominees of the Minister for iTaukei Affairs and 14 provincial reps, plus one from Rotuma.
The traditional heads of the three confederacies of Kubuna, Burebsaga and Tovata will also attend the event.
These are Ratu Epenisa, the Turaga Vunivalu na Tui Kaba of Kubuna, Ro Teimumu Kepa, the Marama na Roko Tui Dreketi of Burebsaga and the Turaga na Tui Cakau, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu of Tovata.
Ratu Naiqama is also the Speaker of Parliament.
President to preside over ceremonies:
The meeting will be officially opened by the President of Fiji, Turaga Tui Macuata, Ratu Wiliame Katonivere.
Tagicakirewa said it will also mark the official opening of the Ratu Sukuna Day celebrations in Fiji.
“The President will open the GCC meeting and this year the GCC meeting is to go together with the Ratu Sukuna Day celebrations,” he said.
Three dance performances will be part of the opening ceremony, with the Gonesau group from Nakorotubu in Ra and the Wailevu group from Macuata in Vanualevu also marked to perform along with the Indian Cultural Centre group.
The first meeting will be chaired by the Minister for iTaukei Affairs, Colonel (Retired) Ifereimi Vasu and the meeting will have to select a new Chairman and Deputy.
Colonel Vasu told the media in March that the meeting is critical.
“I am hoping that it will be a place where chiefs will gather to make wise decisions for this country and to bring all races together,” he said.
“There are many issues facing our country. The GCC holds an important role in contributing ideas of how best we can all work together to address them.”
A highlight of the meeting proper will be the presentation by the GCC Review Committee, led by Chairman Dr Ratu Jone Baledrokadroka.
The Review Committee has been visiting parts of the country to assess and collect views on the new GCC set up.
Chiefs will also be able to make their submissions to the Review Team at the meeting.