NEWS

Speaker Rejects Land Ownership Petition

Ratu Epeli made the ruling after Mr Bulanauca’s petition sought to revert the ownership of pine and mahogany plantations to the landowners, saying it was out of order.
04 Apr 2019 10:00
Speaker Rejects Land Ownership Petition
Opposition Members of Parliament Lynda Tabuya (left) and Adi Litia Qionibaravi outside Parliament on April 3, 2019. Photo: Ronald Kumar.

Speaker of Parliament Ratu Epeli Nailatikau yesterday reminded MPs that there were some areas in which Parliament had no jurisdiction, before rejecting a petition by Opposition parliamentarian Mitieli Bulanauca.

Ratu Epeli made the ruling after Mr Bulanauca’s petition sought to revert the ownership of pine and mahogany plantations to the landowners, saying it was out of order.

“The petition is clearly an attempt to get Parliament to take action that is not within the power of Parliament to take,” he said.

“As such this petition cannot be allowed under the Standing Order.”

The Speaker reiterated that the Parliament must always uphold and respect the constitutional separation of powers between the three arms of the State; the judiciary, legislation and the executive.

“Parliament must not usurp the authority of the executive and the procedures and the authority that is provided under written law,” he said.

“The use of petitions for such a purpose is fundamentally and legally incorrect and is a clear abuse of parliamentary process.

“The constitutional separation of powers between the respective arms of the state must always be upheld and never jeopardised.”

With regards to Mr Bulanauca’s petition, the Speaker said: “Parliament does not have the authority to revert the ownership of lands which are held under a leasehold by any person or entity, including government companies.”

He emphasised that there were existing written laws that catered for forests, including pine and mahogany forests and industries in Fiji such as the Fiji Pine Act of 1980 and the Mahogany Industry Development Act of 2010.

He added that numerous iTaukei and State lands were leased for various purposes including forestry, pine and mahogany under the iTaukei Lands Trust Act of 1940 and the State Lands Act of 1945.

“Any matter of enforcement or negotiation of such leases must be addressed in accordance with the established law by the lessor and the lessee, who are legal parties to these leases,” Ratu Epeli said.

This is the latest in a series of rulings Ratu Epeli made this week during which he warned members on the breach of privilege in Parliament and reminded the Opposition to undertake further research when dealing with laws that were referenced in questions.

Edited by Epineri Vula

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