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Analysis: Good Reasons For iTaukei To Celebrate Indigenous Day

Analysis: Good Reasons For iTaukei To Celebrate Indigenous Day
Permanent Secretary for iTaukei Affairs Naipote Katonitabua (third from left) with other staff members celebrate International Day of the World's Indigenous People. Photo: Ministry of iTaukei Affairs
August 10
10:19 2018

The iTaukei have good reasons to celebrate  International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

They are in a much better position compared to many of their counterparts overseas.

Yesterday,  the iTaukei Affairs Board with other iTaukei Institutions celebrated the day focusing on the topic “Tawavanua”. The topic can have a number of interpretations. One definition is commoners.

The day is observed on August 9 every year.

Many of the estimated 370 million indigenous people in 90 countries, less than five per cent of the world’s population, are disadvantaged and account  for 15 per cent of the poorest.

They are minorities and have lost land, resources and rights.

iTaukei, therefore, are in an unique and enviable position for the following reasons:

  • They are the largest ethnic group in Fiji
  • They have their own ministry, the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs. No other ethnic group enjoys the same privilege
  • An iTaukei Lands and Fisheries Commission is set up under the ministry. It maintains a births and deaths registry for all iTaukei who are registered in the Vola ni Kawa Bula (VKB). It uses the VKB to adjucate on land and title disputes.
  • Each of the 14 provinces has a governing body, the provincial council, which determines the developments in its province. The council office’s operational cost is paid by the Government through the ministry’s budget.
  • The iTaukei culture, customs and traditions are intact.
  • There is also no threat to their land and rights because they are guaranteed by the 2013 Constitution.
  • None of their communally-owned land can be permanently alienated, which means it cannot be sold as freehold. The iTaukei Land Trust Board administers native land and protects it.
  • Land acquired by the State for development purposes will be returned to the landowners when it is no longer in use.
  • This programme has led to an increase in native land from 87 per cent of the country’s total land mass to 91 per cent at least.
  • The 2013 Constitution ensures that the iTaukei have equal rights and opportunities to other races.
  • More iTaukei now have access to higher education than ever before.
  • More iTaukei are now engaged in various forms of business and commercial activities than ever before.
  • iTaukei cannot be regarded as victims in their own land. They have equal opportunities like everyone else to do well and prosper.
  • The Government has a fund set up to help with capital to develop their land for commercial purposes. A number of Fijians have benefitted.

Anyone who suggests that the iTaukei are marginalised must be dreaming.



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