14 Feb 2004

Fiji chiefs concerned by government's proposed constitutional changes

8:31 am on 14 February 2004

A fight is looming between Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs and the Qarase government over constitutional changes being proposed by the state.

Under the changes, elected MPs will be allowed to be members of indigenous institutions like the Great Council, the Native Lands Trust Board, and the Fijian Affairs Board, something which the 1997 Constitution currently forbids.

The Chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, has told Fiji TV that the government has not consulted the Council on the amendments.

He says in the 1970s and 80s when politicians were allowed to be members of indigenous institutions, they brought their political agendas to the meetings.

Ratu Epeli says politicians should stay away from such institutions.

Constitutional changes not only require the support of two thirds of both houses of parliament, but in matters affecting indigenous Fijian interests, they also require the support of three quarters of all the senators appointed by the Great Council of Chiefs.