NATION

Your Land Is Safe: PM

“These politicians tried to embed their racist beliefs amongst Fijians by distorting my Government’s honest attempt to amend our land laws for your benefit – to make you prosper, to secure a better future for you, for your children, for your future generation."
26 Jul 2021 13:31
Your Land Is Safe: PM

ITaukei landowners will never permanently lose their land under my watch, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has stressed.

Speaking on Bill 17 yesterday, Mr Bainimarama said despite his honest desire to help Fijians, Opposition Members of Parliament have campaigned that the proposed changes will be the end for the iTaukei landowners.

He said the Fijian government was all about improving the well-being of all citizens and modernising out-of-date legislations that prevent the full potential of all Fijians.

“They claim that the amendment will remove our protection and we will lose our land,” Mr Bainimarama said.

“These individuals have previously used the law to make iTaukei landowners permanently lose their land.

“It happened in Denarau under Rabuka. It happened in Momi under Qarase.

“But make no mistake. It has never, and it will never happen under my watch. The Constitution guarantees it. And our actions also guarantee it.”

If anything, he said opposition MPs had propagated the selfish views of elite Fijians to keep Fijians oppressed.

“They do not want us to prosper. They want to return us to the dark. They want to subject us to the control of only a few distorted, fallacious, and malicious Fijians,” he said.

“So do not fear. Do not be dismayed. Under my watch, you are all safe.”

Speaking on the 2021-2022 National Budget, Mr Bainimarama said the benefits would equip Fijians and enhance their capability to fight COVID-19.

“These politicians tried to embed their racist beliefs amongst Fijians by distorting my Government’s honest attempt to amend our land laws for your benefit – to make you prosper, to secure a better future for you, for your children, for your future generation.

“Yet, these politicians think that because I have a multiracial Cabinet, any attempt to touch our land laws will alienate our lands. Nothing can be further from the truth.

“Let me preface my explanation this morning by saying that attempts to modernise our land administration started in the early 1900s. Our colonial rulers then saw that our well-being and economic position could be improved if more control of our land were placed in our hands.

“However, there was one impediment – the then Council of Chiefs. They blocked attempts to improve our economic position through improved land administration.

“They felt it was their God-given right to retain the lion’s share of the return on our resources.

“Let it be very clear to us that the Council of Chiefs was a Colonial construction. It was suitable for a particular time, but when I saw that they would continue to stand in the way of our progress, I decided to make them irrelevant.

“Chiefs are still with, but where they should rightfully sit – in the vanua. That is where they will be more influential as they lead our people.

“That decision has affected you in a lot of good ways. Removing them has enabled us to progress better as a nation, as a race.”

According to Mr Bainimarama, all legal safeguards are in place to ensure that all attempts by unscrupulous politicians do not succeed.

“When I started making changes in 2006 to improve your well-being and to move our country forward, I went through so many challenges. Some told me not to touch the land because it has eyes. Some used God’s word against me to support their personal view. I was criticised for removing the Great Council of Chiefs and I and subsequent generations after me would suffer.

“The only problem is that I am immune to these threats because of only one thing – my faith and my belief in God. I will continue to say this: God is my leader, He is leading me, He is leading us. And because of this, no weapon that is formed against me will prosper. I am firm in my belief that God will refute every tongue that accuses me. This is my heritage as a servant of God. And may it be your heritage as well.”

Police on the amended Bill

Meanwhile, the Fiji Police Force yesterday reminded Fijians not to allow their emotions cloud their judgement when making comments on the proposed iTaukei Land Trust (Budget Amendment) Bill 2021.

“We are concerned about the increasing number of hate speech and threats of unrest being made on social media,” Police said.

“We acknowledge that land is a sensitive subject for many Fijians, however we reiterate that freedom of speech and expression comes with responsibilities and people need to be cautious about comments that are aimed at inciting civil unrest as it will be investigated. We plead with Fijians to allow the process of the tabling of the Bill to be carried out.

“We are already facing a difficult and challenging period in battling COVID-19 and any move to gather in numbers will aggravate current efforts.”

Parliament will debate the Bill this week.

Edited by Selita Rabuku

Feedback: fonua.talei@fijisun.com.fj



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