9 Aug 2002

Fear of tribal warfare in Fiji over title dispute

10:40 am on 9 August 2002

The former Fiji prime minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, has warned of tribal warfare if the tribunal mediating over a key chiefly title, bases its decision on undocumented evidence.

Mr Rabuka says any move to inquire beyond records held by the Native Land Commission has the potential to destabilise the country and the traditional chiefly system.

The Fiji Times reports that Mr Rabuka's warning came in response to a statement by the tribunal chairman, Ratu Timoci Vesikula, that investigations would go back as far as they can, even beyond written records.

But Mr Rabuka said they should only look at written records because beyond that lies legend and folklore.

He says depending on unwritten records would set a dangerous precedent, open up old rivalries and cause friction in the indigenous community and the chiefly system.

The dispute is over the highest chiefly title in Vanua Levu, that of Tui Cakau.

The lands minister, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, was installed as the Tui Cakau last year but he is being challenged by the chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs and former air commander Ratu Epeli Ganilau.