NEWS

Niko’s Rant In New York

Niko Nawaikula’s presentation on indigenous Fijian issues was riddled with inaccuracies and distortions. He made the presentation at the 14th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous issues.
24 Apr 2015 12:03
Niko’s Rant  In New York

Niko Nawaikula’s presentation on indigenous Fijian issues was riddled with inaccuracies and distortions.

He made the presentation at the 14th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous issues.

He is the general secretary of the Fiji Native Tribal Congress.

The congress was set up in 2011 after the abolition of the Great Council of Chiefs to promote what its members call indigenous interests.

Two of its pioneers, Ro Teimumu Kepa, paramount chief of Burebasaga and Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, Tui Cakau and paramount chief of Cakaudrove, are key leaders of Opposition party SODELPA.

Ro Teimumu is SODELPA leader and Opposition leader.

This is a sampling of some of the untruths in the group’s presentation in New York.

 

FICTION

Mr Nawaikula says the Constitution has removed the entrenched constitutional protection of land rights as it related to the indigenous Fijian peoples, which was a feature of all three of Fiji constitutions from 1970 to 1997.

“Today the land of the indigenous Fijian peoples is at the mercy of the Bainimarama administration.

“Many landowners have publicly complained that they have had their lands taken away from them without their knowledge,” he claims.

FACT

Section 28 (1) of the Constitution says: “The ownership of all iTaukei land shall remain with the customary owners of that land and iTaukei land shall not be permanently alienated, whether by sale, grant, transfer or exchange, except to the State in accordance with section 27.

(2) Any iTaukei land acquired by the State for a public purpose

after the commencement of this Constitution under section 27 or under any written law shall revert to the customary owners if the land is no longer required by the State.”

Under mechanisms in place the iTaukei Land Trust Board requires landowners’ consent before any native land can be leased. It is not true that native land is at the mercy of the Bainimarama government. It cannot happen under the existing law. There is also no truth in a suggestion by Mr Nawaikula that there is some sort of a land grab. Again it is not possible under the law. This is a serious allegation that can cause unnecessary alarm. It’s lot harder now to change land laws. It requires 75 per cent of voters in a public referendum after Parliament has passed it. Whereas previously, it was rubber stamped by a few Senators whose masters sit in the lower house, the House of Representatives

 

FICTION

Mr Nawaikula claims the Bainimarama government had acted in breach and defiance of ILO Convention 169 and has emasculated the very foundations of the indigenous Fijian peoples – the institutions that was to safeguard native land (NLTB), the Fijian Affairs Board and removed the protection of group rights.

 

FACT

Article 3 of ILO Convention 169 states that indigenous peoples have the right to enjoy the full measure of human rights and fundamental freedoms without hindrance or discrimination. In Article 4, the Convention also guarantees enjoyment of the general rights of citizenship without discrimination. That is guaranteed under the Constitution. The preamble says the Constitution recognizes the indigenous people or the iTaukei, their ownership of iTaukei lands, their unique culture, customs, traditions and language.

 

FICTION

Mr Nawaikula claims amendments to the Native Land Trust Act regarding the appointments to the Board of the Native Land Trust Board politicises the native land issue. This has had the effect of alienating the control of communally-owned Fijian native land from the landowning units (and their representatives as per the NLTA and the FAB) to a political official in the Minister and his appointed board members.

 

FACT

The current Board is stacked with landowner representatives. Two major decisions, the equal sharing of lease money among mataqali members and direct deposit of shares to personal bank accounts are popular with landowners. The equal sharing may not have been popular with the chiefs because previously they had the lion’s share.

 

FICTION

Mr Nawaikula says removing the GCC (Great Council of Chiefs) from the moral fabric of Fiji’s political, social and traditional landscape, in March of 2012 completed the alienation process of iTaukei control of their land.

 

FACT

Because of the safeguards provided by the new Constitution this supposed role of GCC became irrelevant anyway. It was common knowledge that the GCC was used by a small privileged group of politicians to promote their political interests.

 

FICTION

Mr Nawaikula claims the Land Use Decree 2010 (LUD), is of great concern to the indigenous peoples in Fiji. It led to the formation of the Land Bank.

He alleges it would, in essence, lead to the disenfranchisement of the Fijian landowning unit, which is the cohesive factor in the unity of the iTaukei.

FACT

The Land Bank was set up to give landowners a choice. They could stick with the TLTB or deposit their land in Land Bank to be used. Returns from the Land Bank are higher because there is no poundage which TLTB charges.

 

 

FICTION

Mr Nawaikula claims the removal of Fijian from the terminology regarding iTaukei affairs is part of the continuing effort to disenfranchise the indigenous Fijians.

 

FACT

Fijian is the common name for all races who are citizens. iTaukei represents indigenous Fijians.

FICTION

Mr Nawaikula says it is concerned by reports of insufficient consultation with and participation of indigenous people as regards issues affecting them, such as equitable rent for the use of its land.

 

FACT

iTaukei institutions under the Ministry of iTaukei are currently holding public consultations to gauge the views of iTaukei. So far they have received many submissions.

Feedback: nemani.delaibaitki@fijisun.com.fj

 




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