Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Is Fijian land safe?
Some scary stories have been published in the Fiji media today about proposals to muck about with Fiji land,(such as this one ) even a suggestion about de-reserving Fijian-owned land - based on a paper from a consultant from India, intent upon finding ways to improve the ailing sugar industry.(Reserve land is that set aside for the use of the mataqali owners for current or future use and ought not be leased out at all. For example our family has reserve land at Vatuadova where the village has been developed, including a church and cane farm.)
A response from the Native Land Trust Board is published in today's Fiji Times, this afternoon.
Native land is safe: Beniuci
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Update: 3:13PM NATIVE land is safe and protected under the law, Native Land Trust Board's Acting General Manager Meli Beniuci says.
Mr Benuci was reacting to news reports and enquiries of concern from landowners that all native reserve land was bound to be de-reserved by the government. Mr Benuci said the law is quite clear on control and protection of all native land. Under Section 4(1) of the Native Land Trust Act NLTA, the control of all native land shall be vested in the Board and all such land shall be administered by the Board for the benefit of the Fijian owners, said Mr Benuci.
He added that under Section 15(1) of the NLTA, it is lawful for the Board to set aside any portion of native land as a native reserve. In other words, de-reservation of native land cannot be done without the express approval of a majority of landowners concerned.
"This guideline is enshrined in the Native Land Trust Act itself, and therefore if the Interim Government is now wishing to de-reserve all native land we would need the express approval of a majority of all native landowners in question.
Notwithstanding the above, such an exercise is not one which the NLTB should even consider given our fiduciary duty to landowners to ensure that they always have sufficient land for their maintenance, subsistence & survival, Mr Benuci said.
Any action to de-reserve all native land is in itself contrary to this duty, as landowners will no longer have any native reserve to use as they please. It is more than just economics, said Mr Benuci. Land represents life and sustenance, identity and culture.
Mindful of its role in providing maximum benefits for the landowner, the NLTB also has other important roles to play in providing for lands for national development and giving access to land for others. "The system is provided for flexibility in that it can de-reserve customary lands for the need of others.
"This however, must recognize the special connection the Fijian has to the land. It is the one tangible asset possessed by Fijians in an insecure, changing world in which material progress seemed to pass them by.
Added later: Several articles and responses have been written in today's Fiji papers and websites and in Comments in the Fiji Times. The term 'reserve' I had taken only to mean in the technical sense - that set aside for the landowners' use, but now I realize that Mr Krishnamurgi is really talking about ALL Fijian mataqali land! Now that really stirs up people and is a much different issue than just the wish to make the sugar industry viable.
By the way in Australia there has been a recent revamp of the sugar industry with millions invested into the mills and the changeover from burning cane to using the trash to make electricity is an interesting move.)Story on ABC TV Landline last Sunday)The cane in NSW is of course harvested by machine and not by hand.