20 Dec 2006

Fiji GCC meets with key people absent

3:06 pm on 20 December 2006

Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs has begun meeting in Suva to resolve the crisis caused by the military coup earlier this month in the absence of some of its key players.

Not present is the deposed president, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, who sent his apologies, and the army commander, Commodore Bainimarama, who has been invited only for the second day of the meeting but will not go.

The deposed prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, is absent because no airline or shipping company is willing to transport him to Suva from his home island.

Meanwhile, some chiefs who are not members of the Great Council are present at the meeting.

Radio Legend reports that among them are deposed education minister and Roko Tui Dreketi, Adi Teimumu Kepa, Bau high chief Adi Litia Cakobau and her sister Adi Samanunu Talakuli Cakobau, and a deposed junior minister, Ratu Sulianao Matanitabua.

Sitiveni Rabuka who was rewarded with a life membership of the Great Council of Chiefs for carrying out his military coups in 1987, is also present.

In opening the meeting today, the chairman of the Great Council, Ratu Ovini Bokini, reminded the chiefs of the words of the former opposition leader Jai Ram Reddy when he addressed the chiefs in 1997.

Mr Reddy had told the chiefs at the time that the whole nation is affected if the Great Council makes a mistake.

The Chiefs will explore the legal options available to them with the help of the former president of the Fiji Law Society, Graham Leung, who is advising them.

The Chiefs will also consider an offer by the ousted vice president, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi to resign if it helps them make a better decision.

Traditional politics involving the three indigenous confederacies or power bases are expected to play a part as the Chiefs make their decision