CHIEFS LOOK AT PROVINCIAL RATHER THAN POLITICAL PARTY VOTE FOR FIJIANS

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By Margaret Wise

SUVA, Fiji Islands (April 27, 2001 - The Fiji Times/PINA Nius Online)---Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs wants to abolish the political party system in the election of indigenous Fijian candidates to the national Parliament.

They want the system replaced by the provincial voting system in which candidates compete for a provincial seat to represent a province.

This approach is expected to be recommended to the Constitution Review Commission and formalized by the new government through parliamentary legislation.

This was the general sentiment at the Bose Levu Vakaturaga (Great Council of Chiefs) meeting, held in the military camp in Nabua. The views were aired during discussions on Fijian unity.

"Party politics also divides Fijians and at the same time creates ill-feelings between them and other communities," a Great Council of Chiefs source said.

It follows widespread indigenous Fijian unrest last year following the 1999 election of the first Fiji government to be led by an ethnic Indian instead of an indigenous Fijian. The unrest included the ousting of Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and the looting and burning of Indian-owned businesses in downtown Suva.

The chiefs' move is in line with a report on Fijian unity, which recommends that Fijians have their own systems of representation that will best serve their interests.

The report suggests that other communities would be free to implement a system of their own.

"To be voted in by your own province is a way of resolving Fijian unity and national unity. And at the same time, it will help Fijians in upholding, safeguarding, and protecting their traditional social structure. Democracy based on rights of individuals will always tend to undermine this," a GCC source said.

"Fijians must be left to decide on a system that is in their best interests. Rather than have representatives based on party candidates they would prefer their representatives to be based on provinces. This will be similar to the system we have at the council, which is made up of provincial representatives and they work very well together, where consensus is reached on every issue.

"We should just agree on the number of seats for each community and let each decide on the mode of electing."

The report, compiled by a group headed by Ratu Epeli Kanaimawi, said dissatisfaction with chiefly leadership was one of the reasons for the fragmentation of the Fijian community.

It said the split was caused by differences on a wide range of issues that included traditional, customary, religious and behavioral beliefs.

The report said people were not happy with political leaders, particularly their handling of indigenous concerns such as traditional lifestyles, beliefs, behavior, land, and customary fishing rights.

The report also gives a detailed commentary on why the Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei Party lost the 1999 elections and what caused Fijians to form so many new parties.

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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