Prime Minister and former Chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs, Sitiveni Rabuka says he hopes the GCC will assist in the strengthening of iTaukei leadership and also support in getting the large number of iTaukei living in poverty out of that cycle.
Speaking after the opening of the GCC meet on Bau Island, Rabuka says people expect wisdom and compassion from the GCC, and there is a lot of work to do with 75 percent of the iTaukei living in poverty.
He hopes the members of the GCC will take heed of the advice given by the President, Ratu Wiliame Katonivere and Methodist Church of Fiji President, Reverend Ili Vunisuwai.
Rabuka also says non-iTaukei should not be worried when they are talking about empowering the iTaukei and reducing those living in poverty as there is an assurance to everyone that all the citizens will be treated equally.
Rabuka is also sitting in the GCC as an ex-officio member according to the new iTaukei Affairs Regulation.
He says the old regulations barred anyone who is holding public office or constitutional office to be a member of the GCC.
The Prime Minister says today, the GCC is discussing the recommendations of the GCC Review Team and the issue regarding land leases.
Rabuka says the decisions of the GCC will be communicated to the government, and they will guided by what the GCC says but not be dictated by the council.
He says he has worked with the GCC before and he knows that a lot of what the chiefs wanted in the past did not translate into government policy.
The paramount chief of the Burebasaga Confederacy and Na Marama Bale Na Roko Tui Dreketi, Ro Teimumu Kepa says the Great Council of Chiefs meeting today signifies a new dawn for the nation, especially the iTaukei people.
While receiving the tabua on behalf of the Great Council of Chiefs, Ro Teimumu acknowledged the decision made by the government to present a matanigasau to the GCC.
She says the GCC has not sat for 16 years, and with the meeting commencing and the matanigasau presentation, it is a great day for the nation.
Ro Teimumu says the Bureau of Statistics report states that 75 percent of iTaukei are living in poverty.
She adds the new GCC should come up with solutions to this as the iTaukei own 92 percent of the land in Fiji.
She also urged the members to play their roles diligently as they are there as representatives of their people.
The government also presented a matanigasau to the church, while the church presented a matanigasau to the GCC.
Lau representative and the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara's son, Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba was not seen in the GCC meeting.
The meeting ends today.
President, Ratu Wiliame Katonivere has urged the Great Council of Chiefs members to ensure that the issues and concerns of the iTaukei are their top priority as they have been selected by the Vanua to represent their people in this meeting.
In his opening address for the GCC meeting and the Ratu Sukuna celebrations on Bau Island, Ratu Wiliame reminded the members that the GCC was setup to be the voice of the iTaukei people to the Government and this should be its top priority.
He says the members are leaders in their own Vanua and they are tasked to look after their people.
The President adds they hope this meeting will bring about change, not only in the iTaukei community but for everyone who call Fiji their home.
Ratu Wiliame also reminded the members of the legacy and life of the late Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, who was a great statesman of Fiji.
He also acknowledged the coalition government's decision to bring back the GCC.
The government then presented a matanigasau to the members of the GCC to ask for forgiveness in relation to the disestablishment of the GCC and they also presented a matanigasau to the church.
The church also presented a matanigasau to the GCC members.
Methodist Church of Fiji President, Reverend Ili Vunisuwai has called on the members of the Great Council of Chiefs to ensure that the new GCC will do the things that is intended to benefit the people.
He says the members should not forget why they are part of the council as they are there to represent their people.
Reverend Vunisuwai also highlighted that he was so emotional to be invited by the leaders of the religious bodies from the Hindu and Muslim faith, where they acknowledged what the Methodist Church in Fiji did in organising the reconciliation service.
He says this is a new dawn for Fiji.
Meanwhile, thousands have turned up to Bau to witness the return of the Great Council of Chiefs meeting after the indigenous body was disbanded in 2007.
Members of the government and foreign delegates are on the island to be part of this occasion.
GCC Chair and Minister for i-Taukei Affairs, Ifereimi Vasu escorted President Ratu Wiliame Katonivere to the meeting hall.
Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka, Deputy Prime Minister Manoa Kamikamica, Deputy Prime Minister Professor Biman Prasad, Deputy Prime Minister Viliame Gavoka, Attorney General Siromi Turaga, Minister for Home Affairs and Immigration Pio Tikoduadua, New Zealand High Commission Charlotte Darlow, members of Cabinet, political party representatives, foreign delegates and the diplomatic corps are at the opening ceremony.
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