In proposing that the Fijian language should be the national language of Fiji, the SDL submission told the Constitution Commission as follows:
Chapter 1, Section 4 of the 1997 Constitution provides that the English, Fijian and
Hindustani languages have equal status in the State. They will continue to be the official languages of Fiji. Every citizen has the right to use any of the three languages to do business with a government department, an office in a state service or a local authority.
Language is central to the culture of an ethnic community and it is important that the language of that community is promoted as a means of communication and preservation of a culture. In Fiji two immigrant languages have equal status with one
host language, the Fijian language, thus giving the effect/impression that the host language, if not, the attendant Fijian way of life, is being marginalised.
The English language is a very strong international language and there is no reason to believe that this strong position is likely to weaken, even in the long term. India has become a strong force in the global economy, politics and international relations. With over one billion people of Indian origin around the world, the Hindustani language will surely become a strong international language as well.
The intense promotion of Indian language, culture through Indian films and Bollywood is concerning as are the others, TV films, sponsorship in the Media etc. How do we expect the development of our own Fiji Hindi to grow out of his morass? I understand that some of our public institutions are being involved and I would suggest they pay some attention with their public funds and their time to the development of our own Fiji Hindi and Fijian for that matter.
But there are only about 600,000 Fijians in Fiji and around the world. If the Fijian language is not promoted, the future of the language and Fijian culture would be at risk. There are basically several arguments in support of this proposal. First, a national language, particularly if it is the host language, would become a strong unifying factor for a multicultural Fiji.
If every Fiji citizen is able to converse and communicate in the Fijian language it is likely that its impact on inter–personal relations, multiracialism, and national cohesion would be far– reaching. This is crucial in our national endeavor to forge a cohesive multi-racial Fiji. Successive governments have recognized this and have at various times advocated the learning of the Fijian language in educational institutions and many political commentators have agreed that it has proven to be a strong unifying factor.
Second, the Fijian language as the national language should be the language of our national anthem. And third, the use of the Fijian language as our national language will ensure its promotion and the protection of Fijian culture from extinction. If this proposal is accepted then it would be important to make it compulsory for all primary and secondary school children to learn and be conversant with the Fijian language.
Special provisions should be made, however, for those adult citizens who cannot converse in the Fijian language or who because of age or circumstances cannot learn to speak the language.
The University of Fiji, the Fiji National University and the University of the South Pacific should have courses dedicated to the learning of the Fijian language. It should be a requirement that teacher intake have training in the Fijian language. These would attest to the recognition of the importance of strengthening the Fijian language and its role in nation building and the creation of a national identity.
All these provisions will assist to abate the latent and inherent insecurity amongst Fijians that their culture and way of life including their language is under threat. This would subsequently make them more willing to embrace other cultures and other ways of life, as contributing to a vibrant, multi-cultural Fiji.
It is a well known fact nationally that in parts of Fiji (parts of Nadroga, Ba, Vanua Levu etc) where ethnic Indians have learnt to speak the local dialect they have enjoyed a more vibrant, tolerant and multi-cultural relation with their indigenous Fijian neighbors.
They have been known to participate in elaborate presentations of the “sevusevu” and the “qaloqalovi” in fluent local dialect. These examples of engaging in the local ethnic language has not in any way diminished their strong and proud adherence to their own Indian heritage and culture, it has to the contrary, made them more appreciative and more dedicated to its own survival and development. These pockets of cultural appreciation and tolerance are already showing the Fiji that we are all striving for.
Fijian must remain exclusive preserve of indigenous identity
Gospel truth about importance of Christianity to Fiji
Trouble brewing for Chief Warwar of Malampma in Fiji as
Frank's diktat against BLV
The illegal leader Voreqe Bainimarama on seizing power had told the Fijian chiefs to go drink home-brew under the mango. tree. In March he abolished the Bose Levu Vakaturaga informing the nation:
"Good morning to you all.
The President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau has approved decrees that formally de-establish the Great Council of the Chiefs an institution created by the British during colonialism, and one that in modern times has become politicized to the detriment of Fiji’s pursuit of a common and equal citizenry.
The Great Council of the Chiefs is a product of our colonial past and Fiji must now focus on a future in which all Fijians are represented on the same basis.
If all Fijians are to have their say during the consultations for Fiji’s new constitution, we must ensure every voice is equally heard and equally represented.
In 1875, the British under colonialism created an elite body of iTaukei Chiefs known as the “Native Council” to directly and indirectly implement its rule over Fiji. The members of this body, which later came to be called the Great Council of Chiefs, held certain privileges.
Over the last 20 years the GCC, including its secretariat, became highly politicised, with its members having political affiliations and membership in political parties.
Unfortunately, this resulted in the GCC and its members unduly involving themselves in national politics and/or taking advantage of the GCC’s traditional role to assert personal or political agenda.
Fiji’s iTaukei heritage is a distinct and fundamental aspect of Fiji—this cannot be denied.
However, as an institution the Great Council of Chiefs perpetuated elitism and fed into the divisive politics which plagued our country. We must now look to our commonalities as citizens of the same nation, not to what separates us as individuals or groups.
In recent years, my government has done much to ensure that many of the challenges facing the iTaukei have been addressed—including equal distribution of land lease monies."
1: Fighting back BLV Decree: SDL gives Frank history lesson
But now chiefs, individuals and political parties are fighting back through their submissions to Constitution Review Commission. Let us take the SDL's submission, which began with a history lesson of Fiji's chiefly past and their institution, the Bose Levu Vakaturaga.
The party told the Commission;
"From time immemorial, Fijians selected their chiefs on the basis of their ability to look after them and protect them from the ravages of war and natural calamities to enable them to live in peace with other neighboring mataqali (sub-clan), in the Yavusa (Clan). The expansion of the Yavusa led to the creation of Vanua, the largest Social Unit below the level of Matanitu or Confederacy16 which was the highest political unit that survived at the time of contact with Europeans and the outsiders, during the 18th and 19th centuries.
The running of these Yavusa, Vanua and Matanitu required alliances, meetings and settlement of disputes including major social intercourses in which the chiefs and their leading traditional advisers took pre-eminent roles. One such historical meeting recorded by indigenous researchers was the meeting of all the eight Vanua in Fiji where people had settled shortly after their arrival, and the initial
settlement of the three waves of migration of our ancestors, some 3500 years ago.
This was a national meeting called by Chief Lutunasobasoba at Nakauvadra. At this meeting, he was installed as the paramount Chief of the country and given the title (yacabuli) of Ratu. Other categories of Chiefs and craftsmen, skilled artisans, warriors and tillers of the land were also recognised. At this meeting, the Bete Levu Ni Kalou (the High Priest/or Spiritual Chief) was named; and acknowledged. This title was given to Degei No.218.
This historical meeting affected the lives of indigenous Fijians in their new homeland as it provided the basis for their social organisation, protocol and way of life which has persisted to this day. That meeting stamped the importance of the role of chiefs in the lives of the Fijian people in their new land. The Fijians maintained their system of consultation with relevant chiefs and their people up to the present time.
Since early settlement to the time of ceding Fiji to Her Majesty, Queen Victoria of Great Britain, the chiefs have always had a voice in the governance of this nation. They are a national unifying factor and have contributed not only to the enhancement of Fijian aspirations but for the aspirations of all the people of this nation.
They have continued to do so and have had their role strengthened in the 1997 Constitution. Like all institutions, it is not perfect and has inherent weaknesses which required changes with time. The unilateral suspension of the BLV by the head of the Regime therefore was not an isolated incident; it was part and parcel of a bigger agenda to plunder Fijian resources by weakening the apex of Fijian institutions. It is not the first time, this is happening, but unfortunately, it is the first time after independence when we should be in control of our
country and our resources and it is being done presumably with the support of the Fijian military. The advice and the action taken represent the worst form of neo-colonialism in action in Fiji.
The BLV has been disestablished with effect from 2007, a period of some 6 years for no good reasons other than to weaken the Fijian control over their land to facilitate the exploitation of their land through the land decrees as pointed out above.
The earlier suspension of the BLV and the consequent land grab
The first time the BLV (then known as Native Council) was suspended was in 1905- 1912 by Governor Everard im Thurn following the approval of the Land Ordinance of 1905 which was drafted by Sir Arthur Gordon following the meeting of Native Council at Mualevu. This recognised the ownership of most lands by Chiefs and mataqali and left little room for the European settlers who were demanding more land for expansion of their plantations and businesses.
2: The SDL Party proposed that BVL be established under the Constitution
The Party also proposed that a BLV Act be passed by Parliament, setting out the role, functions, powers etc of the BLV.
The SDL submission told the Commission:
The BLV is established by Regulations under the Fijian Affairs Act. The BLV is the pinnacle of the Fijian social structure, and yet it does not have a stand-alone legislation for itself.
It became evident to the European settlers that it was difficult to conduct the necessary transactions because of the cumbersome procedures that had to be followed. The Planters’ Association lobbied government that the sale and leasing of land could be better managed if government had complete control. A petition was sent to the Secretary of State for the Colonies for his approval. The Fijian chiefs were alarmed at this development and wanted assurance from the Governor towards the protection of indigenous interests. In London, Sir Arthur Gordon, then Lord Stanmore was frequently consulted by the Secretary of State on policy matters, especially relating to the far flung colonies.
On 16 July 1907 he spoke strongly in the House of Lords against the sale of lands in Fiji and supported a motion to stop it. This he did, not only as former Governor but also in his capacity as a Fijian landowner, a Turaga i Taukei. In his speech in the House of Lords he said:
“I am a Fijian land-owner. Her late Majesty was graciously pleased, when I left Fiji, to allow me to accept a gift from the Fijian people of two small islands of no commercial value, but the possession of which was sufficient to give me the title of Turaga i Taukei, a land-owning chief in the country. It is therefore, as one of their representative, that I come before your lordships……Unless the protection of the state, which hitherto been afforded to them is continued, I see perfectly what the result will be. It will mean the end of the Fijian race”
In the course of the debate, the Secretary of State for the colonies, Earl Crewe, who was also a member of the House, outlined the evolving attitude of his office as being in line with that of Lord Stanmore, and the House approved the Bill. In July 1908 the sale of native land was stopped. In his communication with the Governor of Fiji, the Secretary of State for the colonies, Earl Crewe stated that “he was inclined to think that the course of events the last 30 years had rendered it impossible for the Government of Fiji to adopt any position other than that the waste lands of Fiji must continue to be regarded as the property of the natives as much as the occupied lands”.
With that experience, over 100 years ago, at the back of our minds, the recent disestablishment of the BLV can only be described as a major blunder which will take Fiji backwards some 30 years in our relationship in this country. And the way the BLV was summarily tossed out without courtesy of consulting the chiefs and their people, in Fijian protocol it represents the worse form of arrogance. All these concerns are to be taken in the context of the rapid pace of modern life, the pervasiveness of a global culture and economic growth and development based on the insatiable desire for more and more wealth at the expense of the powerless and disadvantaged with its subsequent deleterious effects on the environment and the rapid depletion of natural resources. Fijians are now required to sacrifice more and more of their land, their identity, their institutions, their “lotu” and sacred Christian beliefs, for the new global agenda.
All these have exacerbated Fijian insecurity and powerlessness. Such powerlessness has been exploited through manipulation by others as evidenced by the coups of 1987 and 2000. They need an anchor in the Constitution. Once their concerns are addressed in the supreme law of the land, with the consent of other communities through dialogue, we can dare to hope that we will indeed have a united and vibrant multi-ethnic Fiji.
In our endeavor to script a new Constitution and in consultation with other communities the fears and insecurities of Fijians must be addressed. Past leaders of various communities in Fiji have acknowledged these and have through several amendments to our Constitution have addressed the above concerns.
Despite criticisms leveled against it over the years the BLV has continued to provide good leadership for the Fijian people. Also, the BLV has provided wise advice to previous Governments on matters affecting the nation generally and the Fijian people in particular. The BLV has been a unifying factor and a stabilizing influence during periods of uncertainties in Fiji.
The BLV is established by Regulations under the Fijian Affairs Act. The BLV is the pinnacle of the Fijian social structure, and yet it does not have a stand-alone legislation for itself. Despite criticisms leveled against it over the years the BLV has continued to provide good leadership for the Fijian people. Also, the BLV has provided wise advice to previous Governments on matters affecting the nation generally and the Fijian people in particular. The BLV has been a unifying factor and a stabilizing influence during periods of uncertainties in Fiji.
The establishment of the BLV under the Constitution will elevate the position of the BLV to its rightful position. This recognition under the Constitution will also reflect broadly the views, attitudes and acceptance of the BLV by different ethnic communities in Fiji. In addition, a stand – alone BLV Act will set out more clearly the role, functions, funding etc of the BLV.
The Act will also create the proper legal framework to commit the BLV to more accountability of its work, and to its readiness to initiate and/or embrace changes when they become necessary.
The Act to also stipulate the progression of the BLV towards the following objectives:
i) To provide financial independence and autonomy in relation to the operation and administration of the Bose Levu Vakaturaga (BLV).
ii) To provide funding for the undertaking, promotion and sponsoring programmes on Fijian language, culture and the study of ethno-history, and ethno-geography and epistemology ( (Fijian) knowledge and way of knowing).
iii) To provide funding to help develop the management, leadership and entrepreneurial skill of the indigenous Fijians and Rotumans
iv)To sponsor research into languages, art and culture of indigenous Fijians and Rotumans and the better understanding and preservation of their heritage
• The SDL proposes that monies gathered from the leases delegated to extinct mataqali are not assigned to landowning units (Schedule A and B) be utilized for the establishment of the BLV and to fund all other worthwhile Fijian projects.
It is imperative that for the independence of the BLV, that its role is clearly defined and that it be apolitical. It should ensure that its resources are geared towards the protection of the cultures and traditions of Fijians. Of importance is to strengthen Fijian participation in business and commerce and to have oversight on indigenous resources and their sustainable use.
Editor: The most forceful warning was already given by the SDL patron Ro Teimumu Vuikaba Kepa in her letter dated 11 April 2012 to the illegal Prime Minister of Fiji:
"Voreqe, the Great Council of Chiefs and their role in society lives forever in the hearts of the people who have the interests of the welfare and good governance of our nation. You, together with those who made the decision to abolish the Great Council of Chiefs as well as your advisers have made a serious error of judgment in the governance of our beloved nation of Fiji."
“I accept that in this instance, the failure of the respondent (Cevalawa) to lodge her application for renewal was the result of negligence, carelessness, behaviour and was not a deliberate act to practise without a practising certificate,” Connors said. The Commission dismissed counts nine and 10 in its ruling made on December 5.
Justice William claims in his affidavit:
Some time ago in about February 2012 Commissioner Connors was fired by the Attorney General. His crime seems to have been not accepting what the Attorney General and the Chief Registrar wished to do in the case of an employed solicitor, Ms Siteri Cevalawa, who did not pay for her certificate on time. Her employers were at fault. She was properly being disciplined and Commissioner Connors did not think that her default should prevent her from practice and her livelihood. So he asked the Chief Registrar to regularize her status in the mean time. This was refused.
Foolishly, Commissioner Connors issued an order to the Chief Registrar. It was foolish because he did not have powers within the Legal Practitioners Act. I had to stay the order. But the Commissioner was trying to deliver fairness and justice to the practitioner before him.
So for acting fairly and justly, but contrary to what the Attorney General and the Chief Registrar desired of him, he was fired.
The fourth irrational event involves the Attorney General acting to achieve the conviction for rape of one of his oldest enemies, one Rajendra Chaudhary. Last year there was a report that an alleged drug smuggler Ms Muskan Balaggan had been raped by her lawyer, Rajendra Chaudhary. When an appeal against refusal of bail for Ms Balaggan came before the Court of Appeal on 15th September 2011 her allegations on the file were that the Attorney General had intervened and wished to assist her in convicting Rajendra Chaudhary.
The Court ignored this. But an Attorney General who does such things corruptly because he requires revenge and enjoys exercising personal power, is wholly unfit to hold office. I produce the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Muskan Balaggan dated 15th September 2011 as Document No. 84. Having discussed irrational use of power by the Attorney General there is a possibility that such conduct is related to a major decision in April 2009 to ensure that all judges would give judgments in favour of what the Attorney General wanted.
A permanent stay application will be filed on behalf of former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry.
Chaudhry faces three charges related to violation of tax laws.
In court (September 21), Chaudhry’s lawyer Rajendra Chaudhry said the application is based on a petition by former President of the Court of Appeal Justice Willliam Marshall.
He said the petition has been given to the military counsel and the Prime Minister two days ago. Chaudhry said the petition stated that the Attorney General was interfering in court processes and targeted political situations. He said QC Peter Williams instructed him to to apply for a permanent stay based on the petition.
Judge Justice Paul Madigan gave the defence 28 days to file an application for permanent stay. Chaudhry says he will seek further instruction from Williams who is in New Zealand. The matter has been adjourned to the 19th of October.