Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Fijian land - how we got (some of) our land back

From Peceli

People talk passionately about land in Fiji and the subject is complex. When it is said that Fijians own 80% of the land, remember that the 10% freehold is often the best and other 10 % are Crown Land and was obtained largely by funny dealing over 100 years ago, e.g. an island for guns.

Many Fijians do not own land at all or it is mountainous and difficult to access. Fijian are registered in the Native Land Commission in their respective mataqali (clan) and yavusa (tribe). But there are many mataqali or yavusa who have landless because there land have been taken by the European people as freehold land eg Mago Island in the Lau group. The real owner of the Island are still in Vakano Lakeba. This also happened in Labasa, Lautoka and Suva and other places.

The NLTB (Native Land Trust Board) has managed Fijian land for over sixty years. ALTA (Agriculture, Landlord and Tenants Act) ties up tribal land mainly in thirty year leases, a whole generation. The government authorities did not listen to the worries of the indigenous people and the legislation was passed with little alteration. There was a march through the streets of Rakiraki against ALTA in 1969.

In 1971 our family wanted some land back as some leases were expiring. I went to the Land Tribunal Court and won four pieces of land - about 150 acres out of 2000. We obtained sugar-cane leases for members of the family and started development projects. Not many Fijians at that time got their leased land back. It was only in the last ten years that the landowners have realised the importance of getting land back for their growing families.

Lease money from about a hundred Indian tenants comes into our mataqali annually. and this money is used to pay for housing, development and education for the children. NLTB used to take a 25% commission but now it is 15%.

The relationship between landowner and the neighbouring Indian farmers has been very good over the years despite the on-going anxieties about lease renewals so very few Indian families have had to leave the Vatuadova area to resettle elsewhere.


laminar_flow said...

Bula Peceli,

I guess NLTB will still be in existence in Fiji for another 60 years.
How longs does NLTB think it will take, for the average Fijian to be mature enough to administer their own land?

How long does Fijian Affairs Board think it take, for the average Fijian to rule upon their own affairs.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Bula si'a Laminar
You posed very good questions. The time has come for landowning Fijians to think seriously about the use of our land and the paternalistic system that has been used. It served a purpose for many years, but like an old ship, it's done its job.
Regarding the Fijian Affairs Board, what do they actually do these days? It's an elite group and a colonial left-over. Some of the modern chiefs are getting in touch with new ideas, even Tui Macuata.
'Io, saka' was okay twenty years ago, but not now. Respect has to be earned.

Wainise said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Malo a bula Tovata,
Nice to hear from you. The process of trying to revert back the freehold land which was sold over the years for a bottle of whisky or gun or by what happened in Mago is still a live issue and very painful. Our friend Jone Buadromo in Melbourne has told me the story and he is one of the chiefs in Vakano and we watch any move with interest. Mel Gibson has the island now.
Have a good day.

Wainise said...

Isa....bula vinaka Tovata.Vinaka vakalevu na reply mai vei au. O au na goneyalewa ni Vakano mai Lakeba,Lau(originally from Mago)Jone Buadromo beka qori noqu Momo maybe he had already told you how we the Lavaki family get to Vakano coz of what happend in Mago years ago. And yes i know Gibsons has the island now and its really painful to hear that and do you think the real owners still can do anything about it?

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

I think it would be difficult these days to back-track about land that was formerly owned by the local people. Go to the Lands Department people in Suva and ask them about Mago. Otherwise negotiate with Mel Gibson and tell him the story of the past and how a cave full of people were murdered, etc. Ask him for some of the land back.