The Press Release given by Interim Minister Epeli Ganilau dated 08/08/07 regarding the purpose of the GCC is factually flawed and misleading.
In essence, he interprets the main purpose of the GCC’s existence is to support government because it is an arm of government.
Whilst it is not disputed that it is an arm of government, the GCC will co-operate with government so long as they share common interests. The GCC is a creature of statute (section 3(1) Fijian Affairs Act [Cap 120]), but to claim that it exists to support government is not only highly offensive, but clearly shows Minister Ganilau’s utter failure in understanding the unique role the GCC plays in nation building, which may at times diametrically oppose government policy.
It was never the intention of the legislators when it introduced the Fijian Affairs Bill for the GCC to be a rubber stamp to government. The legislators foresaw the GCC to be a pro-active body working for the benefit of the Fijian people. To illustrate my point, its duties are contained in section 3(2) of the Fijian Affairs Act [Cap120], which reads:
‘It shall be the duty of the Council; in addition to any powers especially conferred upon it to submit to the Governor General (President) such recommendations and proposals as it may deem to be fit for the Fijian people and to consider such questions relating to the good government and well being of the Fijian people as the Governor General (President) or Board from time to time submit to the Council, and to take decisions or make recommendation thereon.’
To further prove my point, section 185(1)(k) of the Constitution, headed Chapter 13 ‘GROUP RIGHTS’ and ‘Alteration of certain Acts’ clearly states that any Bill that seeks to alter the following Acts namely; Fijian Affairs Act; Fijian Development Fund Act; Native Lands Act; Native Lands Trust Act; Rotuma Act, Rotuman Lands Act; Banaban Lands Act & Banaban Settlement Act cannot be passed by simple majority as in relation to other acts. It specifically requires that any Bill to alter the abovementioned Acts shall not be deemed to have passed the Senate unless it is supported by 9 of the 14 members of the Senate appointed under section 64(1)(a). Section 64(1)(a) reads:
‘(1) The Senate consists of 32 members of whom: (a) 14 are appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Bose Levu Vakaturaga (GCC).’
In other words, matters of great importance pertaining to Fijians, Rotumans or Banabans are not entrusted to government, but to the GCC. Its 75% approval is needed in the Senate before any Bill to alter any of the already mentioned Acts can be passed.
I therefore rest my case that the GCC was never meant to exist only to support government. In passing and for Minister Ganilau’s information, the GCC acted correctly and legally when it rejected President Iloilo’s nominee of Interim Minister Nailatikau for Vice President. To try and reconstitute a GCC that will be a pawn of the IG is short-sighted and reckless bordering on genocide and should be vehemently opposed by all 14 Provincial Councils because it has the potential of exposing the Fijian, Rotuman and Banaban peoples to external forces well beyond their control spelling their doom.