22 Sep 2004

Senior Fiji chief says indigenous Fijians wary of the rule of law

10:19 am on 22 September 2004

One of Fiji's highest chiefs says for many indigenous Fijians, the rule of law is a foreign concept imported to undermine their way of life.

And, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi says the fear of losing their land and political control is what shapes the perspective of many indigenous Fijians today.

Ratu Joni, who is the Roko Tui Bu and a former High Court judge, says the process of setting the rule of law in place would be slow and difficult in Fiji.

Ratu Joni made the comments at the Transparency International Siwatibau Memorial lecture in Honiara.

He says it is the recurring nightmare of many indigenous Fijians that one day they will be a mendicant people without land, tradition, culture or soul.

Ratu Joni says in 2000, many indigenous Fijians acclaimed George Speight because he "presented himself as the new interpreter of indigenous aspirations."

He says few paused to question George Speight's origins or his new found commitment to the indigenous cause.

Rather, they were persuaded by the rhetoric and vision he projected of giving back to Fijians what was taken from them - control of their destiny.

Ratu Joni says to Fijians, the rule of law is a foreign concept imported to subvert their way of life and an obstacle to their aspirations.

He says they regard indigenous rights as superior to and beyond the rule of law.

"But, he says,there is grudging recognition that without the rule of law there can be no firm foundation for lasting stability."