NEWS

Opposition gets Land Bank Lesson

Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum schooled Opposition members about the merits about the Land Bank. The one-sided lecture began after National Federation Party leader Biman Prasad commended the
18 Apr 2018 10:00
Opposition gets Land Bank Lesson
SODELPA MP Viliame Gavoka, left, with NFP Leader Biman Prasad outside Parliament yesterday. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum schooled Opposition members about the merits about the Land Bank.

The one-sided lecture began after National Federation Party leader Biman Prasad commended the parliamentary Standing Committee on Natural Resources report on the petition by landowners of Nawailevu, Bua, for the payment of full and fair share of royalty for the mining of bauxite.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said it was great to see Mr Prasad quote extensively from the 2013 Constitution.

“Because this is the first time and he rightly points out that we have a Constitutional provision that actually allows any requirement for any fair share of royalty to landowners and in such detail.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum explained that the Land Use Act needed 60 per cent approval of the landowning unit.

“Once the ministry obtains the consent, then they make the recommendation to the Prime Minister who then designates that an iTaukei land can be leased to the Land Bank.

“When iTaukei land is leased to the Land Bank, the Ministry of Lands does not take out any percentage from the lease money for any administrative cost.”

As the chairperson for the Standing Committee on Natural Resources Joeli Cawaki said the petition was presented to Parliament by former Opposition MP Mosese Bulitavu on February 2016.

Mr Cawaki said this was a bipartisan report. There had been a lot of teething problems which could only be addressed through experienced, proper consultation and research in development.

“This is the first lease to be issued by the Director of Lands on behalf of the trustees of the landowning unit under the Land Use Decree of 2010.”

Mr Cawaki said this was a special lease for mining excavation site for a term of 20 years with effect from February 1, 2011.

He revealed that one of the issues was the fair share payments to the landowning units which was necessary to ensure that other landowning units in the future could be processed.

Mr Cawaki said the petition was based on the lack and poor financial management and grievances raised by only one mataqali, which was the mataqali Nawaicobo.

He said the other three mataqali (Nalutu, Noro and Naita) received their lease money, adhered to Government and other advice provided to them and invested their money in projects.

The bauxite mining licence was awarded to Aurum Exploration Fiji Limited, better known as Xinfa.

He said the awaiting payments that landowners were claiming were the payment of future generation fund created for the landowners and the payment of fair share royalties under the 2013 Fijian Constitution.

“The future generation fund of $600,000 was already paid by the exploration company and was awaiting the process of disbursement from the Commissioner Northerns Office.”

He said the fair share of royalties formula is yet to be finalised by the Ministry for Lands and Mineral Resources.

Opposition NFP MP Parmod Chand in his contribution said the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) should be constantly reviewed during the mining operations.

However, SODELPA MP Niko Nawaikula while commending the report for being bipartisan said whatever happened in Nawailevu was sad.

“It’s an example how this Government had tried to annihilate the rights of a particular ethnic group, in this case the indigenous Fijians,” he claimed.

However, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum raised a point of order calling for Mr Nawaikula to withdraw the word “annihilate” which was false and Government’s action was never targeted towards any one ethnic group.

Speaker of the House Dr Jiko Luveni ordered Mr Nawaikula to withdraw the word.

Mr Nawaikula, while withdrawing the word used, said the landowners have land rights to be consulted and to own and manage their native land.

The motion was passed without anyone   voting against it.

Edited by Epineri Vula

Feedback:  losirene.lacanivalu@fijisun.com.fj



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