The latest Fiji Bureau of Statistics report which highlighted that 75 percent of the iTaukei live in poverty is expected to feature prominently in the Great Council of Chiefs meeting starting today
Turaga Roko Tui Bau and member of the GCC Review Team, Ratu Timoci Tavanavanua says this is a contentious issue, and the GCC has to take the lead to ensure that the lives of the iTaukei community improve for the better along with other races.
Chair of the GCC Review Team and former senior military officer, Doctor Jone Baledrokadroka says the iTaukei have regressed in the society over the past few decades.
He says people just have to look around us in all the towns and cities - the lack of iTaukei empowerment in business.
Baledrokadroka says you can see the disparity of the iTaukei in all aspects of commercial life, he asks why is it that the iTaukei are so slow.
When asked on the issue that people may see this as a ethno-nationalist agenda, Baledrokadroka says identity politics is here to stay and we now have the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Rights.
He says countries like New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the US have all ratified the declaration.
Baledrokadroka says with transparency and good governance issue, you can marry the two, and it is well understood that we have to be inclusive.
Baledrokadroka’s review team has completed consultations in 9 provinces including district advisory councillors, the USP and FNU.
He says 40 consultations have been formally done while they are targeting 100 consultations including the Fijian diaspora overseas on a revamped GCC.
Baledroadroka says a lot of work is needed with such an important institution as the GCC, and there has been a lot of controversy in the past with the GCC meddling in politics.
He says in the past, there was a perception that the GCC was heavily politicised, and they have to get to the bottom of the issue on whether this was a group think of the former government.
Baledrokadroka says some are saying they want their chiefs to be customary chiefs and there are suggestions that the GCC should be apolitical but it is hard to achieve this.
Ratu Timoci Tavanavanua says the general crux of it all is to establish an institution that will form a pathway to bring socio-economic development and improvement to the lives of the iTaukei and it is also important that the institution is robust and will be able to withstand the test of time especially with climate change, the global economic downturn and things like COVID-19.
He says it should also produce improvements and lift the lives of not only the iTaukei but the general populace.
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