A clash between the SDL government and Great Council of Chiefs chairman Ratu Epeli Ganilau is inevitable as government names another to replace him on the chiefs’ council.
In a surprise move yesterday Government named northerner Ratu Ratavo Lalabalavu to replace Ratu Epeli as member of the GCC. It also named Ratu Isikeli Nagagavoka as replacement for the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara who passed away late April.
Ratu Epeli has, however, challenged the move claiming his membership does not expire until 2006 and his term as chairman expires next year.
He has threatened to take legal action if forced to move before expiry of his term.
Political pundits see the move as clearly an attempt to oust Ratu Epeli who has been openly critical of the SDL government’s performance in office and has differed with the government on important policy matters such as land.
Under his chairmanship the Great Council of Chiefs has shown a commitment to multiracialism and concern for other races that has been welcomed by many. He has said on a number of occasions that all those with complicity in the 2000 coup, including high chiefs, must bear the full brunt of the law.
The GCC has a membership of 55 – 42 appointed by the Provincial Councils, six by the Ministry of Fijian Affairs and the rest are ex-officio members such as the President, vice President and Prime Minister.
Ratu Epeli is the son in law of Ratu Mara and as the son of another former President Ratu Penaia Ganilau, he is a high chief from Cakaudrove in Vanua Levu, . His removal looks suspiciously like an attempt by government to stack the GCC with its own people.