20 Jul 2004

Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs leader surprised by government dumping

2:29 pm on 20 July 2004

The leader of Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, says he has had a flood of support over government moves to dump him as chairman.

Ratu Epeli says he was informed in a letter that his membership of the GCC had lapsed and therefore he could no longer be chairman.

He says he's taking the matter to court because he has a government gazette stating that his appointment is until 2006.

Ratu Epeli says his phone has rung non-stop since the news broke and GCC members have expressed shock that they weren't given notice of the move.

"They're absolutely surprised and this is a move that is not only done in a manner that is, to them, unchiefly, that they should have had at least the courtesy of telling the Great Council of Chief members that my membership had lapsed. To be done in such a manner seems so unprofessional."

Ratu Epeli says the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, also informed him that he had named Ratu Rakavo Lalabalavu as a GCC member in his place.

He says he won't be attending the GCC meeting tomorrow which is scheduled to elect the new chairman nor will he seek discussions with Mr Qarase.