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Analysis: FNPF Is Out Of The Picture

Analysis: FNPF Is Out Of The Picture
July 25
12:19 2018

The recent court case against the iTaukei Land Trust Board (TLTB) has nothing to do with the acquisition of Sheraton and Westin properties by the Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF).

It does, however, have everything to do with the role TLTB is playing as custodians of iTaukei landowners’ assets.

According to information available on the TLTB website, “the Native Land Trust Ordinance of 1940 established a new base for the administration of iTaukei land. The main purpose was the creation of the iTaukei Land Trust Board.

“This is an independent body outside the control of Government. It administers all iTaukei land ‘for the benefit of iTaukei landowners’.

“It makes general policy relating to administration of iTaukei land, approve new leases and renewal of leases, collect and distribute land rent, improve the pattern of land subdivision and help improve landlord and tenant relations.

“A large part of its work in leasing land involves the assessment, fixing, collection and distribution of rents on native land.

“In simple terms, the TLTB is the landlord in official dealings over all native land.”

The TLTB establishment has its head office in Suva. Also in Suva is the regional office responsible for the Central and Eastern Division. The other regional offices are in Lautoka, Nadi and Labasa.

Each of the regional office is responsible for an area of Fiji; the Lautoka office is responsible for western Viti Levu with the Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands groups, the Labasa office for Vanua Levu and Taveuni.

The Suva office for central and eastern Viti Levu, Kadavu, Lomaiviti and the Lau group.

The case before the courts, which will be heard next month on August 15 and 16 before Justice Kamal Kumar will also deal with whether TLTB had the authority to make changes to leases. It will deal with the role private lawyers have allegedly played in the institution and also whether TLTB has had the best interests of its clients.

After the first article on the court case was published, a 75-year-old landowner Peceli Rovucago also reached out to the Fiji Sun about his grievances with TLTB management.

He is another landowner who is aggrieved and he is another voice, another client who is unhappy with TLTB management.

This does not go to say that all TLTB clients are unhappy. No. But, this does not mean that all is hunky dory with the institution.

There are problems and it needs to be attended to. Distracting the issue by getting sale to FNPF into the picture will not solve the problems, it will only murky waters further.

The case listed for hearing before Justice Kumar will deal specifically with landowners’ constitutional right of access to documents which implicate the TLTB in compromising alleged breaches of leases by Sheraton/Westin Hotel owners without landowners’ and the court’s knowledge and prior approval.

As trustee of iTaukei land, can TLTB conclude bargains to excuse and condone its own breach of trust? This has nothing to do with FNPF. We need to be clear about this. Edited by Percy Kean



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