ANALYSIS: The Truth On iTaukei Land

Have the iTaukei lost some of their indigenous rights or any of their land under the 2013 Constitution? The answer is NO. That is the truth of the matter. If
17 Feb 2018 11:28
ANALYSIS: The Truth On iTaukei Land
From left: Voreqe Bainimarama and Lasenia Qarase

Have the iTaukei lost some of their indigenous rights or any of their land under the 2013 Constitution?

The answer is NO. That is the truth of the matter.

If we go into iTaukei villages throughout the country it’s business as usual. No landowning unit in iTaukei villages has lost one centimeter of land through land grab or dubious land deals. If it had happened, we would have heard and seen mass protests from the iTaukei in the last four years.

The only noise we hear is coming from politicians who travel around with their warped views and baseless perceptions that the iTaukei are losing their rights and their land.

It is designed to create doubts and fear in the minds of the iTaukei because land and their rights are inextricably linked to their identity and  future survival as a race.

This is the old style politics that we saw in the run-up to the 2014 General Election.

The resurfacing of the Laisenia Qarase video, shot in 2014, which was highly critical  of the Constitution and FijiFirst party policies relating to iTaukei rights and land, is indicative of the desperate bid by some Opposition politicians to discredit Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and his Government.

If people have forgotten, the 2013 Constitution Preamble says “we the people of Fiji recognise the indigenous people or the iTaukei, their ownership of iTaukei lands, their unqiue culture, customs, traditions and language. The Constitution protects iTaukei land saying “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.

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.”

Some argue that it does not contain the entrenchment provisions present in the old Constitution to protect the sale of iTaukei land.

The Senate in the old Constitution was required to pass any land law change voted by the House of Representatives before it can be enacted.

It required a percentage vote of the then Great Council of Chiefs nominees in the Senate.

Even with that provision, under the Government of SDL Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, the Senate was bypassed and parcels of iTaukei land in Momi and Denarau were converted to freehold land and permanently alienated from the landowning units, it was revealed during a parliamentary debate last year by the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

It showed there was no constitutional provision in the 1970, 1990 and 1997 Constitutions that iTaukei land can never be permanently alienated.

But in the 2013 Constitution this safeguard against alienation is there. When the issue was raised  in Parliament SODELPA president and MP Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu stood up on a point of order saying the Cabinet decision on the conversion of the land was confidential.

  Yet some Opposition politicians are resorting to the old style politics of misinformation and fake news to appeal to the base instincts of the iTaukei.

Some are deliberately spreading lies that the iTaukei will lose their land, their rights and eventually their identity.

The scrapping of the Great Council of Chiefs is again being used as an example that iTaukei institutions were being targeted.

It is common knowledge that the GCC was the creation of the British colonialists to suppress iTaukei dissent. The forum was used to enable the chiefs to keep the ordinary iTaukei from rising up against the British. While it became a permanent institution for the iTaukei, it was a political hotbed for politics in post-Independence Fiji. The ordinary iTaukei do not miss it much. Only the politicians do and we know why.


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