6 Aug 2003

Fiji government minister calls for Chief Council to replace Senate

9:10 am on 6 August 2003

A senior Fiji government minister has called for the Senate to be replaced with the Great Council of Chiefs.

The Fiji Times reports that the minister for lands, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, has made the call in parliament, saying the constitution should be amended to recognise the paramount authority of the chiefs.

Ratu Naiqama says when he looks at the constitution, he does not see a reflection of himself, his culture, his social institutions and his local conventions.

Yet, he says, the clear intent and purpose of Fiji's colonial history was to nurture and maintain the customary and chiefly institutions and to invest in them the power to manage and administer.

Ratu Naiqama says when Britain returned power to Fiji, indigenous Fijians had expected it to be handed back to their chiefs because it was they who gave it away.

The minister says replacing the senate with the Great Council of Chiefs would be the first step in breaking down Fiji's racial barriers because they would then become the chiefs of Fijians, Indians and all other races.