Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fiji Day and some thoughts about land

From Peceli,

Fiji Day comes every year and is in two weeks time. I want to make this as a special time to me and my people back at home and to make a commitment to Fiji the place of our birth, especially the Labasa or babasiga area. I am thinking about land in Fiji.

To our own people and net work I am trying to look at the freehold lands in Fiji because I have reading about the offer for sale of freehold land, especially small, beautiful in Lau and Vanua Levu. I am not happy at all about this because an island could be owned by only one person for their selfish pleasure.

Freehold land is best if it is used appropriately for a larger number of people For example, the Vunivacea and Nukutatava freehold land next to our mataqali land is used for the benefit of the people of Fiji. This freehold land has been used by a hundred or more cane farmers and a Christian youth training centre. This is sharing.

My mataqali owns about 2000 acres of talasiga land (grassland) and it is all leased for 30 years to our Indian friends except 200 or more to our mataqali members in five lots. We have six cane contracts and have been doing this for since the 1970s. We think this is appropriate for the time being. Undoubtedly I can say thank goodness for the Native Land Trust Board that has protected most of our land in Fiji and kept the documentation.

We know what happened in the past about land in Fiji. My brother’s name is Dakai which means ‘gun’. He is named after a great-uncle Dakai because in the earlier days, when a foreigner wanted land he gave a musket or two and was given the use of a large tract of land. The expectation was to use the land for a time being, not for ever. Then we all know what happened then. The Fijians could not access their land again.

This is how islands like Mago in Lau changed hands – at one time someone gave a thousand coconuts, but there’s also a story about the murder of the indigenous people and their bones are in a cave. And in Rabi Island, the real Rabi descendents live in Taveuni. Adi Da and his followers on an island, Kanacea, and the real owners are in Qamea. The stories go on and on.

So when I see on the internet, islands for sale for millions of dollars, I remember those stories told to us. I hope that some of the buyers know these stories and will think further than just having a paradise hideaway for themselves.


nzm said...

Peceli - that's exactly how I think about all of this.

I think that anyone thinking that buying land in Fiji is a simple thing could be in for a nasty surprise - especially when the real owners turn up to claim it back, and then the real real owners after that!

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Nzm, thank you for your comment. Buying and selling happens all over the world and I'm sure that it is often a sad story. The politics in Fiji allow for the original owners to be offered their land back - at current market prices - but not the original trade price of a gun, blanket, or a hundred coconuts!

Pandabonium said...

Fiji was ceded to the British Crown in 1874. The original "owners" were not individuals, but chiefs. There were no individual rights then. You can call it "collective" rights, but in fact local rulers controlled everything.

There will be no turning back the clock on freehold lands to the 19th century. Nor would Fiji want to, as all foreign investment would leave for good. The people who could make such a decision know better.

The most egregious injustice happening in Fiji today, is that NLTB controls vast lands supposedly for the benefit of "the people", but the people are largely left out. In other words, the land use injustice in Fiji is from within, not without.

It is useful for policitians to blame outside people such as myself who may own a freehold plot, but I and people like me are not the ones robbing Fijians of their rent year in and year out and making decisions on land use without their consent.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Thank you for your thoughts about land. Yes, you can't turn the clock back.
Lots of people are blaming the NLTB including newspaper journalists. Criticism should make the NLTB examine where they are going.
But I personally feel that this institution has mainly kept a good documentation on Fiji land on behalf of the landowners. It has reduced the fee from 25% to 15% and has largely done a good job. I do not believe that the NLTB staff have not consulted with landowners over the lease arrangements. It is mainly paper talk and the views of disgruntled people.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

I do not begrudge foreign people from buying freehold land in Fiji - up to a point. In moderation. And they need to respect the local people, know the local history of the place, and I'm sure that there are people like you Panda who do this. But there are others - who are just users.

laminar_flow said...

Peceli said: "I do not believe that the NLTB staff have not consulted with landowners over the lease arrangements. It is mainly paper talk and the views of disgruntled people".

The words of Lord Anton, " Abosolute Power, Corrupts Absolutely".

As for Peceli's views on NLTB: He chooses not to be critical or ask probing questions because the situation is not affecting him.

Evil florishes when good people remain silent!

Regarding 15% of admin fees. That figure can be reduced to zero with creative thinking.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

From Peceli
Thank you for using the saying "Evil flourishes when good people remain silent.'
I had my go with the NLTB a long time ago - in the 70s when I was young and energetic and told them we could run our own lease arrangements. I took leave from my work and spent three years going to a Land Tribunal Court fighting to get our mataqali land back and I succeeded and that is why our mataqali families now have land to use.

I had my turn, now it's your turn to speak.

laminar_flow said...


Good for you. Why can't you go into detail of what transpired.
Could you share your experiences with the Land Tribunal Court and what was the deliberations like.

There are many landowners going through the same thing. I doubt if NLTB will tell the legal avenues thay can pursue.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

The story is his book - written about ten years ago.

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