Fiji Prime Minister Hands Over Land To Original Landowners

Voreqe Bainimarama, who was there to hand over the titles, said: “It is a good thing that we’re writing the historic wrongs of the past with this handover.
15 Mar 2019 10:25
Fiji Prime Minister Hands Over Land To Original Landowners
The Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama holds the document on the Transfer of Freehold Buyback Land to Yavusa Navusa under the Government Freehold Buy-Back Scheme LAND TITLE with the land stakeholders at Welagi, Taveuni, on March 14, 2019. Photo: DEPTFO News

Yesterday was a historic day for Yavusa Nasuva of Taveuni when they received the original titles of the lease for 623 hectares of arable land in a buy- back deal.

The Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, who was there to hand over the titles, said: “It is a good thing that we’re writing the historic wrongs of the past with this handover.

But, I know we all agree, that this celebration would be hollow if any landowner in Fiji still remained vulnerable to exploitation and land loss.

“But we can all rest easy knowing that is not the case, because –at long last –we have a government that is supportive of all efforts to protect iTaukei land and empower iTaukei people.

“At long last, we have our Fijian Constitution, which protects iTaukei land in Fiji for all time. No exceptions. No excuses. No loopholes to be exploited.

“No other Government has been able to make that guarantee.

Because, today, our Constitution establishes, for the first time ever, permanent and unwavering protections of iTaukei land ownership.

Now that we finally have those protections in place, no longer will we hear stories like that of the Yavusa Nasuva.”

He said no longer was iTaukei land under threat. Importantly, he said, no longer was the fate of entire communities dictated by the whims of a privileged few.

“Today in Fiji, community members are responsible for the decisions that impact the community at large.

Today, no one can tell a landowning community, ‘we’re taking your land away, no matter what you have to say’.

Today, no member of an elite class can use legal loopholes to alienate or take away any of your land from you.

“Today, we have the equal distribution of lease monies in our communities. No one can tell a land- owner, ‘We know better than you how you can spend your money. So give it to us, we will take what we want, and decide how much you get’.

Today, your land and your lease monies rightfully belong to you and only you –the people. Your entitlement. Your inheritance. Your birthright. Money and assets that you can and should be allowed to keep and decide how to use yourselves.”

He said it took our nation a very long time to take such basic steps to empower ordinary people.

He said it was shocking that we did not have the constitutional protections we enjoyed today until the Fijian Constitution was established in 2013; 140 years from when this land was lost to your community in 1870.

But, he said what was more shocking, and most disgraceful, was that past, post-independent governments had every opportunity to put those protections in place, and they failed to do it.

Instead, they sat on their hands. “And now, we have many of those same politicians jumping up and down about supposed threats to iTaukei land; after sleeping at the wheel during their time in Government. Re- member, when they were in power, iTaukei land in Momi and Dena- rau was lost forever.

Communities had their ancestral homeland sold-off, with no hope of seeing it again,” he said.

“Let me tell you, if those politicians in the Opposition were ever to run Fiji again, iTaukei land would be under serious threat.

That’s what the Opposition’s record tells us. But still, they show up in your communities selling lies about threats to your land, even distributing DVDs that give you false information and fake news.

“Don’t buy those lies. Instead, use your own eyes: See the sweeping protections we’ve put in place to level the playing field in iTaukei society.

See my government’s record, where not one millimetre of iTaukei land has been permanently lost. See the assistance we’re giving to empower iTaukei people by helping them develop their land and gain financial success.”

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

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