4 Sep 2006

Former Fiji PM at centre of chief role debate

3:07 pm on 4 September 2006

The chairman of Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs has called on the former prime minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, to resign his life membership of the council.

It follows suggestions by Mr Rabuka that Fiji's chiefly system should be abolished and all land and sea resources nationalised and entrusted to the state.

He said Tanzania had done both after independence and become the most stable country in Africa.

The chairman of the Great Council, Ratu Ovini Bokini, has told Radio Legend that Mr Rabuka should re-examine his life membership of the council if he does not have faith in the country's traditional chiefly system.

Ratu Ovini says Mr Rabuka knows what he should do and if it comes to that he should resign.

The former chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, made a similar call at the weekend.

Mr Rabuka told an NGO group last week that he would probably be assassinated for making his suggestions but that was the way to go.

He now says he has not called for the abolition of the chiefly system nor for the nationalisation of all land.

Mr Rabuka says Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs, of which he is a lifelong member, is doing a great job but he believes much more needs to be done to strengthen and educate chiefs at a village level.

"The actual chiefly system in the village is meaningless because they have no executive authority anywhere. They have to go and ask the state to introduce bylaws which give their authority some teeth but then they cannot carry out the disciplinary measures."

Mr Rabuka says he would like to see land that is not being used, nationalised, and a land tax introduced that benefitted indigenous Fijians so they could actively participate in the economy.

He says other politicians are unlikely to support the concept and the idea will take time before it becomes acceptable.