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Chiefs vs Commoners

Chiefs vs Commoners
Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management Inia Seruiratu and Oppositon MP Aseri Radrodro at Parliament on September 14, 2017.Photo:Vilimoni Vaganalau.
September 15
10:57 2017

Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum yesterday questioned the disparity which existed between chiefs and commoners and why no one from the Opposition was talking about addressing that.

His comments came during his right of reply, which he delivered on behalf of Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, who is away overseas on COP23 related work.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said he was personally aware of how children of chiefs studied under the Fijian Affairs Board scholarship, and despite failing units several times, they continued to be funded.

He pointed out that children of some chiefs took ten years to do their degrees while children of commoners, other iTaukeis who may have been toppers could not come anywhere close to receiving a scholarship. He said such disparity existed and was put to an end by the Bainimarama and later the FijiFirst Government.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also pointed out that Opposition members like Ro Teimumu Kepa were in favour of unequal lease money distribution – where chiefs got more money while other iTaukei landowners were left to share the leftover lease money.

Ro Teimumu has repeatedly said inside and outside of Parliament the need for lease money to be distributed unequally – meaning chiefs to receive money and others to receive less. She is a landowner in Rewa.

While talking about how policies such as the then Regulation of Surfing Areas Decree opened up opportunities for common iTaukeis – like a punt owner to ferry tourists to Tavarua at any given day, and earn money from it – Mr Sayed-Khaiyum pointed out the many opportunities which opened up.

Previously, tourists were allowed to the surfing area one Saturday per month.

He called out SODELPA parliamentarian Viliame Gavoka on his comments about economic opportunities along the Coral Coast.

Mr Gavoka said resource owners earned about $700,000 previously but when Mr Sayed-Khaiyum retorted that only one or two chiefs got a huge chunk of that money, Mr Gavoka let the matter rest and did not have a comeback.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum pushed on that if resource and landowners were receiving an equal share of the lease money, their economic standing would have been much better.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

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