Friday, April 13, 2007

Chiefs can help - Thursday, April 12, 2007


IT is not uncommon for members of the Great Council of Chiefs to differ in their views on certain matters of national importance.

In fact, there had been some lengthy debates on critical issues affecting the nation, such as the repercussions of the May 14, 1987 military coup, but in the end, somehow, they always reached a consensus. Everyone would shake hands afterwards and return to their respective districts to brief their people on what had been discussed.

That has always been a tradition among the members of the august body which today is recognised and delegated duties by the Constitution.

One such duty is its approval of the nomination by the President of a new Vice President when the position is vacant. The council was tasked to do that yesterday but couldn't.

Why it rejected the nomination by President Ratu Josefa Iloilo of Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, a former Speaker, High Commissioner to London and military commander, is unclear.

But it was most likely based on the premise that Ratu Epeli, as interim Foreign Affairs Minister, is part of an illegal regime and thus should not be accepted for that position.

The Tovata confederacy, comprising Cakaudrove, Macuata, Bua and Lau accepted the nomination of Ratu Epeli. But the Kubuna and Burebasaga confederacies rejected it.

Kubuna is made up of the provinces of Tailevu, Lomaiviti, Naitasiri, Ra and parts of Ba. Burebasaga comprises Rewa, Kadavu, Serua, Namosi and parts of Ba.

Ratu Josefa is now expected to forward another name for the chiefs' council to consider. How long that will take is again unclear at the moment but it becomes critically important that this issue be resolved as soon as possible.

It would greatly help if a delegation from the council meets with Ratu Josefa to find a quick way within the law to appoint a Vice President whom both parties will be happy with. This can then be taken to a full council meeting for formal endorsement.

What has become increasingly pressing now for the members of the council, the interim administration and everyone else who cares about this land is that we need to move quickly back to parliamentary democracy.

Everyone should set that as a priority.

There is a desperate need to save this country from economic ruin and social chaos and this can only be done if there is a civilian government, the holding of a general election and a return to democratic rule. There is no other way.

The chiefs have a role to play in this and the interim administration should seek and use their wisdom to help get us back on the road to recovery.

Instead of pulling apart, they need to pull together, for all our sakes.

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