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#Vote2018: Equal Proportion Supported by People to Empower Every iTaukei Person

#Vote2018: Equal Proportion Supported by People to Empower Every iTaukei Person
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama greeted by farmers and residents of Lautoka and nearby communities at the Girmit Centre, Lautoka, on March 29, 2018. Photo: Peni Komaisavai
March 31
11:26 2018

ANALYSIS:  Equal distribution of lease money did not go well with those who are higher in the hierarchy in landowning units, but many people have been sup­portive of the idea.

SODELPA had already voiced their concerns about this and early indications from the Party are they intend to do away with this initia­tive.

National Federation Party is yet to release any policies in this regard.

Why equal distribution?

SODELPA’s argument had been that chiefs have more obligations hence it is important that they get a bigger chunk of the lease money.

The FijiFirst and Bainimarama-Government before had argued that all mataqali leaseholders are equal and they need to be paid equally of the lease money.

This also meant that there are people within the landowning units who will have a substantial amount of money in their bank accounts when they turn 18.

Equal lease money distribution meant that more money comes to­wards the landowning unit mem­bers.

The Government amended the iTaukei Land Trust (Leases and Licences) Regulations on January 1, 2011, to introduce its Equal Rent Distribution Policy.

The relevant section now says:

“After deduction of any sums in accordance with Section 14 of the Act, the balance of any monies re­ceived by the Board through rents and premiums in respect of native land, including any monies re­ceived by the Board but not yet dis­tributed at date of commencement of the Native Land Trust (Leases and Licences) (Amendment) Regu­lations 2010, shall be distributed by the Board to all the living members of the proprietary unit, in equal proportion”.

The meaning of that is self-evi­dent.

All lease monies are to be distrib­uted equally to all living members of a landowning unit.

The regulation does not differenti­ate a chief from other members of the unit.

The share of each individual is the same, irrespective of the status or age of the mataqali member.

As long as the members are reg­istered in the Register of landown­ers or the Vola Ni Kawa Bula, they will get equal shares from rent pro­ceeds.

The government repealed the old Regulation 11(1) that allowed for larger payments to the Turaga-ni-Mataqali, Turaga-ni-Yavusa and Turaga-i-Taukei.

Why did they do it?

To empower every iTaukei person.

To give them an equal stake in the proceeds of their land and the pow­er to decide how that share is spent.

However, there is nothing stop­ping any iTaukei person from de­ciding to give that money to these Turaga’.

That is an individual’s choice.

But it needs to be voluntary.

The money needs to be given free­ly.

As the Prime Minister and the Leader of FijiFirst Voreqe Baini­marama said in Parliament in 2015, they know the Turaga occasionally have traditional duties to perform.

But let ordinary people contribute what they can afford and do so as an act of free choice.

This issue has not gone away.

There are people who still think those on the upper rung of the vil­lage hierarchy should get more money from the land which is com­munally owned.

This issue will once again come to the fore as we near the General Election.

Edited by Mohammed Zulfikar


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