NEWS

FOCUS: iTaukei Land, Rights, Interest In Good Hands

Continued from Friday. Nemani Delaibatiki’s two-part series helps demystify misplaced claims by the Opposition on iTaukei land, rights and interests. Ministry of iTaukei Affairs institutions are intact. Contrary to reports
02 May 2015 09:49
FOCUS: iTaukei Land, Rights, Interest In Good Hands
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has helped lead important reforms of iTaukei institutions to deliver better services to their clientele.

Continued from Friday.

Nemani Delaibatiki’s two-part series helps demystify misplaced claims by the Opposition on iTaukei land, rights and interests.

Ministry of iTaukei Affairs institutions are intact.

Contrary to reports that they are being systematically dismantled, they are operating as they have done before.

The only difference now is that the bar has been lifted  and they are required to be more responsive to the needs of the iTaukei.

Let’s look at  the facts.

The Ministry of iTaukei Affairs, the iTaukei Fund Board, iTaukei Affairs Board, the iTaukei Lands and Fisheries Commission and the iTaukei Land Trust Board are still the same.

Apart from the change of name native to iTaukei its business as usual in the institutions.

The changes that have invited criticisms are the abolition of the Great Council of Chiefs, the scrapping of the iTaukei Scholarship Scheme and the appointment of the Prime Minister as chairperson of the TLTB board.

The GCC is missed by those who used it for their own political advantage. It was a forum where only a few dominated proceedings.

There is no basis for fear that the PM is chairperson of the TLTB. The equal sharing of lease money among landowners is welcomed by a majority of landowners. Before, the chiefs got the biggest share.

Education

The iTaukei Scholarship Scheme was part of the Affirmative Action under the previous governments. But under the constitutional provision of equal citizenry, it became null and void. Critics have used this to highlight the low iTaukei intake in the Toppers scholarship scheme.

While several iTaukei have benefitted from the old scheme, questions still hang over the overall success of it. What was the success/failure rate and how many of the beneficiaries have repaid their bond and are back working in Fiji? An audit would make interesting reading. At one time there were questions about the criteria of allocation of scholarship.

Whatever happened, it’s obvious that while the scheme may have short -term benefits, it failed to significantly improve the level of high education compared to other races.

There needs to be a change in mindset, in the emphasis iTaukei place on education. The old scheme encouraged mediocrity whereas Toppers promoted excellence.

Some iTaukei did not get the iTaukei scholarship but have gained higher education through the sacrifice of their families. It’s this “can do” attitude that will produce tomorrow’s leaders with strong character.

It’s time that there is some serious soul-searching to see if enough is being done to help iTaukei students go for Toppers.

The same question was asked by an education officer in the recent Naitasiri Provincial Council meeting.  It was also asked by some delegates. So the issue is already in the minds of iTaukei leaders in the community. A suggestion by one delegate that the qualifying marks be lowered for iTaukei students was quickly shot down. It showed that more and more iTaukei want to raise the bar.

It may take time but in the long term, it will yield a positive outcome.

With all the incentives and initiatives rolled out by the Government, including free education, free bus fare, free textbooks and free milk, there should be no excuse.

The notion that iTaukei cannot achieve Toppers is nonsense. What it requires is commitment and sacrifice from the parents and students from primary to tertiary level.

iTaukei must prioritise education starting from the family if they are to succeed.  That is their big challenge.

Business

iTaukei landowners, particularly in the Western Division, have no reason  not to be successful in business.

According to records, landowners were paid over $60 million in lease royalties. Most of that money came from lucrative deals along the Coral Coast where major hotels chains are based. Where did all that money go? Some land-owning units (mataqali) have been savvy enough to create their own investment companies and are reaping the positive benefits. The reality is, a large part of that money is spent on alcohol, catering, daily shopping trips, overseas trips and vehicles. And one wonders why we have a general disparity in economic fortunes between iTaukei and Indo-Fijians.

Villages like Lutu, Naitasiri that run successful co-operatives are the best template for rural-based businesses.

Along these lines, the Government is convinced that even an ordinary villager has the potential to become a millionaire through hard work and successful marketing of their agro-products whether it is ginger, dalo, papaya and other crops.

The level playing field that now exists will help the iTaukei build confidence in contributing to the Fijian economy. There are no short-cuts to success. You don’t pass exams by just  praying, without revising. You have to put in the hard yards. In the same token, you cannot build a business on hand-outs. You have to be diligent in drawing up and implementing a cost-effective business plan.

My people perish for the lack of vision, the biblical adage goes.

That’s the vision of this Bainimarama Government for the iTaukei.

That they flourish, prosper, because they have been given the dignity of equality to all opportunities in this country.

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 




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