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Opposition Gets History Lesson on Land

Opposition Gets History Lesson on Land
SODELPA Opposition Member of Parliament Viliame Gavoka outside Parliament on May 15, 2018. Photo: Ronald Kumar
May 16
12:46 2018

Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum yesterday gave the Opposition a history lesson in Parliament when he reminded them that not all was rosy under the coloniser’s rule in Fiji.

His comments came after the Chair of Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights Ashneel Sudhakar tabled their report on a petition by the Yavusa Navauvau in Tavua.

The Yavusa is disputing the ownership of parcels of land near the gold mine area, a portion of which is Crown Land now.

The Yavusa Navauvau, in its petition, claimed to be the traditional owners of the said land.

Mr Sudhakar said with the various other claimants, it raised uncertainties and the committee recommended that the petition be dismissed.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum, while responding to comments made by SODELPA MP Viliame Gavoka, said the Colonial Government arbitrarily did whatever it pleased.

He informed the Opposition that State House was built on land where people from Suvavou lived and they were removed because the then Governor decided that was where he wanted his house.

He said when the Governor wanted the land, he said, “I want this land to build my house” and they moved the people to Suvavou.

“It’s a fact we have to accept that,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

“Stop trying to hoodwink the people of Fiji and say that the Colonial Government did everything right.

“They did not. When they wanted land for cane, when they wanted the railway line to cut through land they got it and that continued.”

Comparing the 1970 Constitution, 1990 Constitution and 1997 Constitution, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the 2013 Fijian Constitution recognised the Rotuman traditional land ownership and Rabi.

He said the other differences were that the Constitution stated that should there be in future any iTaukei land acquired for public purposes, if that land was no longer required for that particular public purpose it must revert to the iTaukei landowners.

He said a lot of land was acquired by the Colonial Government and other governments subsequently for public purposes, but they did not revert them to the landowners because there were no provisions for that.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said Mr Gavoka had highlighted New Zealand and Australia, but their experiences were very different.

He said that in Australia, Aborigines were not counted as human beings, but as flora and fauna, and it was only in 1968 when they were recognised as human beings and counted in the Australian census.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said in New Zealand less than 10 per cent of the land were Maori land.

He said today Fiji was in a situation where 91 per cent of all the land were iTaukei and there were provisions and protections in place, more than ever before. 

Edited by Epineri Vula


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