Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fijian Paramount Chiefs Positions on Rights of Fijians


"We advise therefore that rather than removing the entrenched provision from the constitution, terminating the GCC and passing other laws and policies to terminate or compromise our group rights and to thereby nationalize our companies and institutions, those individuals that disagree with native Fijian group rights should simply declare their choice, cut off their connection with their native groups and delete their names from their VKB."
 
STATEMENT BY ADI TEIMUMU KEPA, ROKO TUI DREKETI, PARAMOUNT CHIEF OF REWA, AND HEAD OF BUREBASAGA TRIBAL CONFEDERACY AND RATU NAIQAMA LALABALAVU, TUI CAKAU, PARAMOUNT CHIEF OF CAKAUDROVE AND HEAD OF TOVATA TRIBAL CONFEDERACY.

THE APPOINTMENT OF THE HEAD OF FIJI’S 3RD TRIBAL
Marama Bale Roko Tui Dreketi Ro Teimumu Kepa
CONFEDERACY, KUBUNA , IS STILL GOING THROUGH TRADITIONAL PROTOCOL AND ADI TEIMUMU KEPA AND RATU NAIQAMA LALABALAVU INVOKE THEIR TRADITIONAL AND CUSTOMARY AUTHORITY TO SPEAK ON HIS BEHALF FOR THE PEOPLE OF KUBUNA IN RESPONSE TO THE CONSTITUTION PASSED BY THE INTERIM MILITARY GOVERNMENT (IMG) ON 6TH SEPTEMBER 2013.

1. Introduction
We issue this statement in response to the Constitution that is now passed by the Interim Military Government (IMG). We do so with the mandate we have, as the customary heads of Fiji’s Tribal Confederacies or the Vanua, whose population constitute over 57% of this country and whose members continue to live and organize themselves under their customary institutions within their tribes, their Vanua, Yavusa, Villages, Mataqalis, Tokatokas and Family Units.

We select this day 10th October 2013 to release this statement in response to the Constitution of the IMG because this day is significant. Today is Fiji Day. It is the 10th of October.

It was on this very same day in 1874 that our ancestors and our Chiefs signed the Deed of Cession, to cede this country to the British Crown in exchange for the Crowns promise, contained under clause 4 and clause 7 of that Deed, to protect their land rights and their way of life under their customary Institutions and Chiefly system.

The essence of clause 4 and clause 7, in addition to being transmitted to the domestic laws of this country, initially under the Native Affairs Ordinance of 1876 which is currently maintained under the Fijian Affairs Act, the Native Lands Ordinance of 1882 which is currently maintained under the Native Lands Act of 1905 and the Native Lands Trust Act of 1940, have been entrenched in every previous Constitution of this country until removed by the IMG in its Constitution of 6th September 2013.

It was always so as the Crown and successive government after that were obliged, because of Clause 4 and Clause 7, to respect our land rights, our custom, our tradition and our chiefly institutions in exchange for our chiefs giving up the sovereign authority of this land.

And now it is apparent the IMG has seen it fit to deny us that respect by removing those entrenched provisions from its Constitution. It is a wanton act and the highest form of disrespect and it did so with a very clear motive and intent.

2. The IMG Constitution

We have examined this IMG Constitution for what it is and what it intends to achieve. It confirms all that we have anticipated and feared and therefore it must be objectively described for what it is.

We say to the public and to the international community that this constitution does not carry the mandate of the will of the people of Fiji, as a constitution should. The original and properly consulted version, known as the Yash Gai Draft, was burnt and its content edited in isolation before being taken about to the public.

Like the “Peoples Charter” that has gone before it, this edited version was taken around the public under a well orchestrated and controlled media to create the impression to the international community that the Public has been widely consulted and has consented to it , when in truth it has not done so.

This constitution, in all objectivity, is designed to keep the perpetrators of the 2006 coup and their advisers from accounting for their unlawful actions in removing a democratically elected government. We caution that, however hard they may try and whatever way they may wish to do so, even using the provision of a constitution such as this, the will of the people and the Court of Appeal decision in Qarase v Bainimarama of 2009 will still have their final say on them. It is because they carry the essence of mandate and judicial authority. For those are caveats which we cannot avoid or bypass.

It is the reason also why we have maintained all along that the perpetrators of the 2006 coup will do well to go before the chiefs and the people of Fiji for remorse rather than to rely on the provisions of this constitution to exonerate them. They choose a different path and history will judge them.

The essence of a Democracy is representative government, clear separation of power, independent constitutional positions, accountability, transparency and the protection of the rights of citizens. These are the necessary elements that a constitution must have, and those factors must be properly set about, to ensure the outcome of a true Democracy. We say that this constitution is plainly lacking in these factors. There are experts who have already given their views, and continue to do so, on those short comings but we limit our comments here on its failure to protect the group rights of indigenous Fijians.

3. Group Rights
The essence of Group Rights is identity, manifested in the uniqueness of the way of life of a group; in our case the indigenous people or native inhabitants of this country, Fiji. It refers to our language, our custom, and our tradition, our customary institutions, our traditional knowledge or the totality of our culture and our cultural way of living entrenched in the customary ownership of land that give it meaning. It refers to the need to safe guard and protect them to maintain our identity as a group. These measures are now recognized and protected under the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 169 that Fiji ratified in 1998 and the 2007 UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights.

Tui Cakau Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu (middle)

We know as a fact that from as early as 2006, when the IMG took power by force, it had moved about purposely to remove all semblance of our group rights and dismantle institutions that manifest them. The IMG argued that it was a necessary measure to bring about equality or “equal citizenry” as the IMG calls it. Its purpose was all too clear in its policy announcements, laws passed and even in its submission to the 81st session of UN committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in August 2012 where it argued that customary institutions like the GCC, are a source of discrimination, that must be dismantled.

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