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Brief History of Great Council of Chiefts

By Edited Mar 9, 2014 1 0

The GCC also known as Bose Levu Vakaturaga was created by the first colonial governor, Sir Arthur Gordon, following his consultations with an assembly of chiefs on how the Fijians should be governed. It became the major symbol of Fijian identity and strength in the colonial political structure and continued to have this significance after independence.

Under British rule, the GCC embodied the privileged relationship of trust and protection established between the Fijians and the British when the leading chiefs voluntarily ceded the islands to the Crown in 1874. The colonial governors chaired meetings of the GCC – held every year or two with rich ceremonial protocol in order to consult about policy and legislation for Fijian affairs and, until 1963, to select the Fijian representatives for the colonial parliament.

The importance that the GCC acquired in the national political arena was based on the depth of the ethnic divide and on the need to bridge it. Through the GCC, the colonial governor and Fijian political leaders periodically sought to persuade Fijians to agree to inter-ethnic compromises on both land and the political system as the Fijians viewed non-Fijian strengths in the modern economy as reflection of their own economic weakness.

Till independence in 1970 the GCC had no major political role. It was said to be toothless until the 1990 Constitution when it got the power to choose the President, the Vice President, their chairman as well as 24 out of 34 members of the senate. The 1997 constitution held the same powers for the GCC with the exception of reducing the numbers in the senate to14 out of 32.

The GCC is established under section 3 of the Fijian Affairs Act. Section 3 b(2) said that it shall be the duty of the council to recommend proposals it may deem to be fit for the benefit of the Fijian people.

The Reeves Commission Report recommended that the GCC should act independently and advise the government on any matter relating to the well being of the Fijian people as also matters affecting the nation as a whole whether referred to it or on its own initiative. These recommendations were not taken into account in the 1997 Constitution.

While the GCC has the powers to reject the recommendation for the President, Vice President and chairman, the government of the day through the ministry of Fijian affairs has a right to set right the GCC itself. This is what has happened. In April 2007, the interim government suspended the GCC after the council declined to appoint the interim government's choice as vice president.

On April 11, in an unprecedented move, the Interim Prime Minister Bainimarama, sacked the GCC, suspended all its meetings and scrapped its State funding. He accused the Chiefs of meddling into politics and made decisions that were not in the interest of the people of Fiji. The Government had also ordered a ‘clean up’ of the GCC by the Fijian Affairs Minister.

Not a popular move with The Fiji Sun reporting that The chiefs have been treated with contempt. They have been reviled as never before by being told [by Bainimarama] to go and drink homebrew under a mango tree as they could be of no further use.


The suspension of GCC does not mean that Fiji will be a chiefless Fijian Society. The interim government’s order just means that the forum is not available to the chiefs to meet but the provinces will continue to have their own chiefs. The Chiefs could continue to have an important role in their own constituencies as the repositories of cultural wisdom and social leadership. To this day the GCC are dormant however it has been reported that the re-convening of the GCC was among the issues discussed by the PM.

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