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Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs abolished

Fiji's military dictator Voreqe Bainimarama has sudden abolished one of the South Pacific's oldest political institutions, the Great Council of Chiefs.

The GCC, or Bose Levu Vakaturaga, has existed since 1876 but in a national broadcast this morning Bainimarama says it has perpetuated elitism and created divisive politics.

Bainimarama, who seized power in a coup in 2006, says it is part of the country's colonial past.

He has also decreed that the term Fijian applies to all 837,000 people in the archipelago, including the 37 per cent Indian, while the indigenous people are now to be known as i-Taukei.

Since his coup Bainimarama has refused to allow the GCC to meet but the abolition came as a surprise, particularly as he last week released a programme for creating a new constitution, Fiji's fourth since independence in 1970.

"Over the last 20 years the GCC, including its secretariat, became highly politicised, with its members having political affiliations and membership in political parties," Bainimarama told state controlled broadcasting.

"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."

Bainimarama has demanded that Fijians of all races must have their voices equally heard and equally represented.