Saturday, April 14, 2007

Chiefs now face clean-up'

www.fijitimes.com - Friday, April 13, 2007

THE interim administration has directed a "clean-up" of the Great Council of Chiefs with the Fijian Affairs Ministry tasked to execute the directive.

Interim Fijian Affairs Minister Ratu Epeli Ganilau said a committee, to be formed from within the ministry, would review the council and its membership.

"Interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has stated there is an urgent need to conduct the review and that is what we will do," he said last night.

Another related priority is to determine how ousted Education Minister and Burebasaga confederacy's paramount chief Ro Teimumu Kepa attended the council meeting on Wednesday, he said.

Ratu Epeli said there were procedures that had to be followed for members to be part of the council and that included being nominated from the province.

"Yes, that is something that we will be looking at firstly while conducting our review," he said.

Ro Teimumu said everything had been checked and her attendance as a member on Wednesday was legal. "They have checked it and there is nothing wrong with my attendance at the meeting. My membership is through provincial level and it is legitimate," she said. Commodore Bainimarama said the Fijian Affairs Act and the Fijian Affairs Regulations 1993 would be amended to ensure a clean up of all Fijian institutions.

On Wednesday, Ratu Epeli said he had the legal powers to remove members of the Great Council of Chiefs under the Fijian Affairs Act.

But when questioned if he would use these powers to change the members after some council members rejected President Ratu Josefa Iloilo's nomination for Vice President yesterday, he said he would not in this case.

"I will not be doing that for the time being and will have to see what will happen once another name has been brought up again," he said. He said the decision by the council members showed they still recognised the ousted Qarase Government.

Ratu Epeli said the chiefs should understand it was time to move forward despite what had happened.

"The members keep on referring their decision to reject the nomination of interim Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau as Vice President on the framework of the ousted government," he said. "They have questioned the legality of the interim administration and powers it held despite the speech made by the council chairman, Ratu Ovini Bokini, before the start of the meeting."

He said the decision of the council members was their prerogative but they would not stop there. Ratu Epeli said what took him by surprise was when the members questioned the legality and the illegality of the nomination by Ratu Josefa Iloilo.

"They are still harping about the ousted government but it is about time we accepted what has happened and move on," he said.

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