FIJI COUNCIL OF CHIEFS SEEKS NEW LEADER

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By Maika Bolatiki

SUVA, Fiji (FijiSUN, June 20) - The chairmanship of the Great Council of Chiefs is now up for grabs.

Chairman Ratu Epeli Ganilau’s GCC membership expired July 11, the Fijian Affairs Board said yesterday.

According to the Fijian Affairs (Great Council of Chiefs) regulation, the chairman of the august body had to be elected from within the council membership.

Fijian Affairs chief executive officer Meli Banimarama, in a release yesterday, confirmed a new chairman would be elected tomorrow.

When contacted yesterday, GCC chairman Ratu Epeli Ganilau was on his way to Suva from his Somosomo Village in Taveuni.

Epeli had earlier said his four-year term would expire in the first GCC meeting in 2005. He said some had questioned his membership but he would reply to their queries at an opportune time.

Epeli said many had been calling him in regard to the chairmanship election, but he preferred to make a comment today.

GCC secretary Asesela Sadole, when asked to comment on the matter, said the decision for the election of a new chairman came from his boss at the Ministry of Fijian Affairs.

In a release from the Fijian Affairs CEO, he confirmed Ratu Epeli’s GCC membership had expired on July 11.

The Cakaudrove Provincial Council appointed Ratu Epeli to be one of its representatives in the August body in 2000.

He was later elected chairman to replace former prime minister and the GCC’s first full-time chairman, Sitiveni Rabuka.

Cakaudrove chief Ratu Ratavo Lalabalavu is to replace Epeli as the choice of the Cakaudrove Provincial Council.

Ratavo and Isikeli Nagagavoka were yesterday confirmed as new GCC members.

The two had filled the vacancies created by the death of the Turaga na Tui Nayau and former President, Ratu Sir Kamisese Kapaiwai Mara, and the completion of Ratu Epeli Ganilau’s term.

The Minister for Fijian Affairs appointed Epeli under the Fijian Affairs (Great Council of Chiefs) regulations.

The regulation clearly spells out that the chairmanship of the GCC had to be elected from within the council membership.

Bainimarama said they had to follow the regulation and because the Cakaudrove Provincial Council did not renew Ratu Epeli’s membership, a new chairman had to be elected tomorrow.

Ratu Epeli, who replaced Mr. Sitiveni Rabuka, had to resign his Cakaudrove parliamentary seat to take up the GCC post.

No names were given to the GCC secretariat.

The FijiSUN had also been informed that lobbying had already started for the new chairperson.

The council meets at the Tradewinds Convention Centre tomorrow.

The current GCC deputy chairman is the Turaga na Tui Tavua, Ovini Bokini.

Rabuka said the Tui Tavua had the capability to be chairman.

June 21, 2004

FijiSUN: http://www.sun.com.fj/

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