The Press Release given by Interim Minister Epeli Ganilau dated 08/08/07 regarding the purpose of the GCC is factually flawed and misleading.
In essence, he interprets the main purpose of the GCC’s existence is to support government because it is an arm of government.
Whilst it is not disputed that it is an arm of government, the GCC will co-operate with government so long as they share common interests. The GCC is a creature of statute (section 3(1) Fijian Affairs Act [Cap 120]), but to claim that it exists to support government is not only highly offensive, but clearly shows Minister Ganilau’s utter failure in understanding the unique role the GCC plays in nation building, which may at times diametrically oppose government policy.
It was never the intention of the legislators when it introduced the Fijian Affairs Bill for the GCC to be a rubber stamp to government. The legislators foresaw the GCC to be a pro-active body working for the benefit of the Fijian people. To illustrate my point, its duties are contained in section 3(2) of the Fijian Affairs Act [Cap120], which reads:
‘It shall be the duty of the Council; in addition to any powers especially conferred upon it to submit to the Governor General (President) such recommendations and proposals as it may deem to be fit for the Fijian people and to consider such questions relating to the good government and well being of the Fijian people as the Governor General (President) or Board from time to time submit to the Council, and to take decisions or make recommendation thereon.’
To further prove my point, section 185(1)(k) of the Constitution, headed Chapter 13 ‘GROUP RIGHTS’ and ‘Alteration of certain Acts’ clearly states that any Bill that seeks to alter the following Acts namely; Fijian Affairs Act; Fijian Development Fund Act; Native Lands Act; Native Lands Trust Act; Rotuma Act, Rotuman Lands Act; Banaban Lands Act & Banaban Settlement Act cannot be passed by simple majority as in relation to other acts. It specifically requires that any Bill to alter the abovementioned Acts shall not be deemed to have passed the Senate unless it is supported by 9 of the 14 members of the Senate appointed under section 64(1)(a). Section 64(1)(a) reads:
‘(1) The Senate consists of 32 members of whom: (a) 14 are appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Bose Levu Vakaturaga (GCC).’
In other words, matters of great importance pertaining to Fijians, Rotumans or Banabans are not entrusted to government, but to the GCC. Its 75% approval is needed in the Senate before any Bill to alter any of the already mentioned Acts can be passed.
I therefore rest my case that the GCC was never meant to exist only to support government. In passing and for Minister Ganilau’s information, the GCC acted correctly and legally when it rejected President Iloilo’s nominee of Interim Minister Nailatikau for Vice President. To try and reconstitute a GCC that will be a pawn of the IG is short-sighted and reckless bordering on genocide and should be vehemently opposed by all 14 Provincial Councils because it has the potential of exposing the Fijian, Rotuman and Banaban peoples to external forces well beyond their control spelling their doom.
The Press Release given by Interim Minister Epeli Ganilau dated 08/08/07 regarding the purpose of the GCC is legally flawed and erroneous.
It is curious that his Press release posted in the Fiji Government Online page on Wednesday has already been removed.
He erred when he summarised the purpose of the GCC in his Press Release as:
‘Therefore, what this means in very simple terms is that: (1) the GCC is an arm of government, (2) it exists to support government & (3) government is empowered under the law (Cap 120 Fijian Affairs Act) to regulate its operations to ensure that (1) & (2) maintained at all times.’
Whilst (1) is not disputed that the GCC is an arm of government, to claim it solely exists to support government (2) and that government is empowered to ensure that GCC does support the government is erroneous and misleading.
Furthermore, Minister Ganilau’s desire to add via regulation the taking of oaths and disciplinary measures is wholly dependent on his legal capacity. For instance, the reason why the GCC rejected President Iloilo’s nominee of Interim Foreign Minister Nailatikau for VP is because the GCC realised that if it approved President Iloilo’s nominee it would amount to the GCC condoning the illegal takeover and its illegal Regime.
Minister Ganilau’s further intention to insert disciplinary measures to ensure there is no repeat of the above is tantamount to altering the Fijian Affairs Act, which cannot be done via regulation. This means that even if Minister Ganilau has legal capacity to make regulation, he still needs Parliament and the approval of 9 of the 14 Senate Members of the GCC as defined in section 185(k) of the Constitution to amend the Act.
The reason Parliament only can pass the amendment pursuant to section 185(k) of the Constitution is because it was never the intention of the legislators to entrust all things Fijian to the government of the day. It was foreseeable that since Fiji was moving towards a democratic system of government, the possibility exists that one day a non-Fijian led government will govern. This happened in 1999 with the Chaudary government and there is no legal impedient to prevent further non-Fijian led governments in the future. It would be also natural for non-Fijian led governments to pursue policies in line with its manifesto, but opposed by the Fijians and the GCC. For instance, a non-led Fijian government wanting to abolish the NLTB, GCC, etc and free up native lands in Fiji would face objection from the GCC; hence the Fijians interest is protected by section 185(k) of the Constitution. This protection also applies to future Fijian led governments who may want to abolish the NLTB, GCC, etc and free up native lands for sale as well, so the GCC is indeed the depository of Fijian interests and not the government of the day.
To accept what Minister Ganilau is proposing needs to be carefully scrutinised by all 14 Provincial Councils because if it is to take away the independent decision making of the GCC and be a rubber stamp of the government of the day, then it should be rejected outright because it would be tantamount to selling our birthright and genocide of the Fijian race. I counsel the GCC to work together, carefully scrutinize the proposed changes carefully & test the legal capacity of Minister Ganilau first before considering its intended course of action.
MEJU HILA VATA!!!!