Posts tagged Itaukei

EQUAL BENEFIT FOR FIJI LANDOWNERS

Fiji Governmentis committed to ensuring that individual members of landowning units receive an equal and fair share of all income generated from iTaukei land.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama who is also the chairman of the ITaukei Land Trust Board (TLTB) today made this comment during the opening of a Strategic Panning workshop 2014 – 2016 at the Warwick Resort and Spa.

PM Bainimarama said owners of customary land and customary fishing grounds are entitled to receive a fair share of the royalty with respect to any minerals extracted from their customary land and fishing ground.

“All Mataqali members must have equal access and benefit to the proceeds from the Mataqali land leases,” PM Bainimarama said.

“Protection for landowners through protection of ownership and now a requirement to have fair and equitable rent paid to land owners compliments the constitutional protection for the rights and interests of land lessees and tenants. No law must diminish or adversely affect those rights and interests. Lessees and tenants also have the right not to have their leases and tenancies arbitrarily and illegally terminated.”

TLTB general manager, Alipate Qetaki said reforms within TLTB structures would continue to ensure government’s role as guardians of iTaukei land.

“The reforms that began a few years ago will continue and as PM Bainimarama stated, we will continue to ensure our role as guardians of iTaukei land,” he said.

“The Government and landowners expectations are high and this workshop will assist us on how the TLTB can focus better on its core role as the “Trustee” for all iTaukei landowners in Fiji.”

Mr Qetaki said that under the 2013 Constitution, TLTB clearly needs to make a paradigm shift to truly create and enhance opportunities for the landowners and by natural extension to all other Fijians.

He added that the TLTB expects to fully commence the equal distribution of lease money from the beginning of next year.

Currently, 91 per cent of the land in the country is owned by the ITaukei.

Blueprint for a Better Fiji – The 2013 Constitution is Unveiled

The final version of the 2013 Constitution that will underpin the first genuine democracy in Fijian history has been released to the public. His Excellency the President will give his assent to the document on September 6th. It will be the supreme law of the country and pave the way for elections by September 30th 2014 conducted, for the first time, on the basis of equal votes of equal value. It is in line with the constitutions of some of the world’s most liberal democracies and provides a framework for the development of a modern, progressive state.

As previously flagged by the Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, the final version differs from the Draft Constitution by containing specific provisions that guarantee and strengthen the protection of communally-owned i’Taukei, Rotuman and Banaban lands. During the consultation process that followed the release of the Draft in March, a large number of submissions were received calling for explicit protection clauses. These have been accepted and incorporated into the final document. They provide greater protection and security for I’Taukei, Rotuman and Banaban land than ever before.
In addition, for the first time, an extra provision gives any landowner the right to a fair share of royalties derived from the exploitation of resources beneath the surface.

The 98-page constitutional document in English has also, for the first time, been translated into the two main vernacular languages – i’Taukei and contemporary Hindi. In the 15 days before His Excellency the President gives his assent on September 6th, members of the public are invited to read the vernacular versions and provide feedback on their accuracy. Some of the legal terms and phraseology in the English language do not have equivalent words in the vernacular and therefore may be open to interpretation.

The Constitution provides for a single chamber 50-member Parliament – up from 45 in the Draft document- which will be the country’s supreme authority and be elected on the basis of one person, one vote, one value. Elections are to be held every four years and every Fijian over the age of 18 is entitled to vote.

In another alteration to the Draft document, individual regional constituencies are abolished. There will be one national constituency covering the whole of Fiji, as in The Netherlands and Israel. And every voter will get one vote, choosing the candidate who they believe best serves their interests under a proportional representation system.

A Prime Minister who commands the party with the most seats in Parliament will head the elected Government and, in line with current practice, a President will be the Head of State and perform the ceremonial function of Commander in Chief of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces.

Among the Constitution’s major provisions are:

· A common and equal citizenry.
· A voting system of equal votes of equal value.
· A secular state and religious liberty.
· An independent and impartial judiciary and equal access to the law.
· The right to legal aid assistance.
· Specific protection of the ownership of I’Taukei and Rotuman lands and recognition of their unique culture, customs, traditions and language.
· The protection of the rights of leaseholders.
· Specific recognition of the culture and language of Indo-Fijians, other Pacific islanders and other immigrants and settlers.
· A Bill of Rights containing specific provisions guaranteeing a range of civil and political rights and, for the first time, social and economic rights. These include the right to education, economic participation, a just minimum wage, transport, housing, food and water, health and social security.
· A free media and freedom of speech, expression, movement and association.
· The safeguarding of the environment.
· The compulsory teaching of the i’Taukei and Fiji Hindi languages at primary school level, along with English as the common language.
· The right to multiple citizenship but a provision that only Fijian citizens be entitled to stand for Parliament.
· The right to fair employment practices.
· The right to join, form or campaign for a political party.
· The right to privacy.
· An Accountability and Transparency Commission which, for the first time, will hold all public office holders accountable.
· A Code of Conduct for public office holders.
· A provision requiring public office holders such as civil servants, members of the disciplined forces and trade unionists to resign before contesting a seat in Parliament.

The release of the Constitution follows a community consultation process during which the Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, and his team conducted 19 public meetings in urban, rural and maritime areas throughout Fiji, including Vanua Levu, Taveuni, Kadavu, the Mamanucas and the Yasawas.

Submissions were also sought and 1,093 written submissions were received.

The Government urges all Fijians to read the full Constitution document, which is available from the following sources:

· In hard copy from the Office of the Solicitor General, Level 7, Suvavou House, Victoria Parade, Suva.
· On the Internet at http://www.fiji.gov.fj/Govt–Publications/Constitution.aspx
· In Friday’s Fiji Sun.

These are some of its highlights in detail:

PREAMBLE:

WE, THE PEOPLE OF FIJI,
RECOGNISING the indigenous people or the iTaukei, their ownership of iTaukei lands, their unique culture, customs, traditions and language;
RECOGNISING the indigenous people or the Rotuman from the island of Rotuma, their ownership of Rotuman lands, their unique culture, customs, traditions and language;
RECOGNISING the descendants of the indentured labourers from British India and the Pacific Islands, their culture, customs, traditions and language; and
RECOGNISING the descendants of the immigrants and settlers to Fiji, their culture, customs, traditions and language,
DECLARE that we are all Fijians united by common and equal citizenry;
RECOGNISE the Constitution as the supreme law of our country that provides the framework for the conduct of Government and all Fijians;
COMMIT ourselves to the recognition and protection of human rights, and respect for human dignity;
DECLARE our commitment to justice, national sovereignty and security, social and economic wellbeing, and safeguarding our environment;
HEREBY ESTABLISH THIS CONSTITUTION FOR THE REPUBLIC OF FIJI.
PROTECTION OF i‘TAUKEI, ROTUMAN AND BANABAN LANDS AND OTHER LAND:

28.—(1) The ownership of all iTaukei land shall remain with the customary owners of that land and iTaukei land shall not be permanently alienated, whether by sale, grant, transfer or exchange, except to the State in accordance with section 27.
(2) Any iTaukei land acquired by the State for a public purpose after the commencement of this Constitution under section 27 or under any written law shall revert to the customary owners if the land is no longer required by the State.
(3) The ownership of all Rotuman land shall remain with the customary owners of that land and Rotuman land shall not be permanently alienated, whether by sale, grant, transfer or exchange, except to the State in accordance with section 27.
(4) Any Rotuman land acquired by the State for a public purpose after the commencement of this Constitution under section 27 or under any written law shall revert to the customary owners if the land is no longer required by the State.
(5) The ownership of all Banaban land shall remain with the customary owners of that land and Banaban land shall not be permanently alienated, whether by sale, grant, transfer or exchange, except to the State in accordance with section 27.
(6) Any Banaban land acquired by the State for a public purpose after the commencement of this Constitution under section 27 or under any written law shall revert to the customary owners if the land is no longer required by the State.
29.—(1) All ownership of land, and all rights and interests in land, including land tenancies and leases, that existed immediately before the commencement of this Constitution, shall continue to exist under this Constitution.

Protection of rights and interests in land

(2) All land lessees and tenants have the right to not have their lease or tenancy agreements terminated other than in accordance with their lease or tenancy agreements, and any amendment to any law governing lease or tenancy agreements shall not adversely affect any existing lease or tenancy agreements.
(3) All land that existed as freehold land immediately before the commencement of this Constitution shall remain as freehold land, unless it is sold or is acquired by the State for a public purpose under section 27.

RIGHT OF LANDOWNERS TO FAIR SHARE OF ROYALTIES FOR EXTRACTION OF MINERALS:

30.—(1) All minerals in or under any land or water, are owned by the State, provided however, that the owners of any particular land (whether customary or freehold), or of any particular registered customary fishing rights shall be entitled to receive a fair share of royalties or other money paid to the State in respect of the grant by the State of rights to extract minerals from that land or the seabed in the area of those fishing rights.
(2) A written law may determine the framework for calculating fair shares under subsection (1), taking into account all relevant factors, including the following—
(a) any benefits that the owners received or may receive as a result of mineral exploration or exploitation;
(b) the risk of environmental damage;
(c) any legal obligation of the State to contribute to a fund to meet the cost of preventing, repairing or compensating for any environmental damage;
(d) the cost to the State of administering exploration or exploitation rights;

THE SECULAR STATE:

4.—(1) Religious liberty, as recognised in the Bill of Rights, is a founding principle of the State.
(2) Religious belief is personal.
(3) Religion and the State are separate, which means— (a) the State and all persons holding public office must treat all religions equally; (b) the State and all persons holding public office must not dictate any religious belief;
(c) the State and all persons holding public office must not prefer or advance, by any means, any particular religion, religious denomination, religious belief, or religious practice over another, or over any non- religious belief; and
(d) no person shall assert any religious belief as a legal reason to disregard this Constitution or any other law.

SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC RIGHTS:

Right to education

31.—(1) Every person has the right to— (a) early childhood education; (b) primary and secondary education; and (c) further education.
(2) The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realisation of the right—
(a) to free early childhood, primary, secondary and further education; and (b) to education for persons who were unable to complete their primary and secondary education.
(3) Conversational and contemporary iTaukei and Fiji Hindi languages shall be taught as compulsory subjects in all primary schools.
(4) The State may direct any educational institution to teach subjects pertaining to health, civic education and issues of national interest, and any educational institution must comply with any such directions made by the State.
(5) In applying any right under this section, if the State claims that it does not have the resources to implement the right, it is the responsibility of the State to show that the resources are not available.

Right to economic participation

32.—(1) Every person has the right to full and free participation in the economic life of the nation, which includes the right to choose their own work, trade, occupation, profession or other means of livelihood.
(2) The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realisation of the rights recognised in subsection (1).
(3) To the extent that it is necessary, a law may limit, or may authorise the limitation of, the rights set out in subsection (1).

Right to work and a just minimum wage

33.—(1) The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realisation of the right of every person to work and to a just minimum wage.
(2) In applying any right under this section, if the State claims that it does not have the resources to implement the right, it is the responsibility of the State to show that the resources are not available.

Right to health

38.—(1) The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realisation of the right of every person to health, and to the conditions and facilities necessary to good health, and to health care services, including reproductive health care.
(2) A person must not be denied emergency medical treatment.
(3) In applying any right under this section, if the State claims that it does not have the resources to implement the right, it is the responsibility of the State to show that the resources are not available.

Right to reasonable access to transportation

34.—(1) The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realisation of the right of every person to have reasonable access to transportation.
(2) In applying any right under this section, if the State claims that it does not have the resources to implement the right, it is the responsibility of the State to show that the resources are not available.

Right to housing and sanitation

35.—(1) The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realisation of the right of every person to accessible and adequate housing and sanitation.
(2) In applying any right under this section, if the State claims that it does not have the resources to implement the right, it is the responsibility of the State to show that the resources are not available.

Right to adequate food and water

36.—(1) The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realisation of the right of every person to be free from hunger, to have adequate food of acceptable quality and to clean and safe water in adequate quantities.
(2) In applying any right under this section, if the State claims that it does not have the resources to implement the right, it is the responsibility of the State to show that the resources are not available.

Right to social security schemes

37.—(1) The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realisation of the right of every person to social security schemes, whether private or public, for their support in times of need, including the right to such support from public resources if they are unable to support themselves and their dependants.
(2) In applying any right under this section, if the State claims that it does not have the resources to implement the right, it is the responsibility of the State to show that the resources are not available.

Fijian PM Voreqe Bainimarama Opens 2nd National Climate Change Summit (Itaukei Language)

Qarase Government Alienated iTaukei Land at Momi in 2006

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has expressed great concern at the conduct of the previous Government in orchestrating the alienation of iTaukei land from iTaukei land owners at Momi and its subsequent conversion into freehold land.

This has been revealed after investigations into the Momi land exchange, including the publication of the Cabinet paper and the Cabinet decision made in July 2006 to facilitate this alienation of iTaukei land.

The Prime Minister said that – in the case of Momi – despite the so-called entrenchment in the 1997 Constitution of the iTaukei Land Trust Act (“Act”), it did not in any way prevent the previous Government from permanently alienating iTaukei land.

The Prime Minister said “that the supposed rationale for the entrenched provision in the 1997 constitution and the related laws was to stop the permanent alienation of it taukei land. Yet despite this the former minister for the then Fijian Affairs Ratu Naiqama Lalabalvu – who was also the Minister for Lands – presented a cabinet paper that did completely the opposite”.

“I ask where was Ro Temumu, where was the then Prime Minister, where was the then Attorney General? All of these people hold themselves out as champions of land rights and leaders of the iTaukei, in particular the former prime minister, Ro Temumu  and Ratu Naiqama. Yet they approved a cabinet paper that not only was contrary to the 1997 constitution and the laws, but abhorrent to the customary and legal ownership of i taukei land.”

The Prime Minister said that Section 5 of the Act expressly states that iTaukei land shall not be alienated, whether by sale, grant, transfer or exchange except to the Crown. iTaukei land cannot be alienated even if individual members of the landowning unit enter into agreements with private companies to alienate iTaukei land.

Despite this prohibition, the former Minister for Lands Ratu Naiqama Lalabalvu and the Qarase Cabinet allowed section 6 of the State Lands Act to be abused. Section 6 empowers the State to swap or exchange portions of State land with iTaukei land. It also permits the State to swap or exchange portions of State land with freehold land.

In the case of Momi, the Qarase Cabinet abused section 6 by converting freehold land owned by Matapo Limited into State land, and then exchanging this land with iTaukei land. Immediately after the conversion, the iTaukei land was then converted into freehold land.

In this case, the iTaukei land was not exchanged for the use of the State or for any public purpose, as required by the State Lands Act.  iTaukei land was exchanged solely for the purpose of converting it into freehold for the benefit of a private company.

The Prime Minister said that this was the sort of practice that led him to propose an amendment to the State Lands Act – which was gazetted in February of this year – in order to close the loophole that permitted this behaviour and to further strengthen the protection of iTaukei land.

The Prime Minister said, “now, any iTaukei land that is converted into State land, can no longer be converted into freehold land. If the State no longer requires iTaukei land that has been converted into State land, then it must return that land to the iTaukei landowners.”

The Prime Minister said that his Government is committed to ensuring that iTaukei lands remain protected by law and that no alienation of iTaukei lands takes place.

He said that “iTaukei lands will continue to be protected for the benefit of the future generations and will not, through any means, be converted into freehold land, as was conspired and connived by the previous Government in 2006.”

He added that “the draft constitution provides the protection for the iTaukei land owners and that the landowners should not be misled by those saying otherwise. The actions of the past government and leaders on the one hand and the actions of my government on the other speaks for themselves.”

PM Bainimarama Strengthens Protection of ITaukei Land

The Bainimarama Government has strengthened the protection of iTaukei land by closing a loophole that allowed some of it to be converted into freehold land.

Before leaving for France, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama proposed an amendment to the State Lands Act to end this practice – which was approved by Cabinet – and has now been gazetted.

This previous practice was not transparent and had been used by previous Governments to profit at the expense of the iTaukei landowners.

Speaking today about the new amendment, Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said that despite having provisions in previous Constitutions that entrenched iTaukei land laws, this practice was still allowed to happen.

“This demonstrates that having entrenched provisions did not safeguard iTaukei land ownership,” the Attorney-General said. “The law must always be practical and effective in ensuring the protection rights – including property rights.”

The Attorney-General said that the Bainimarama Government’s policy is the absolute protection of the rights of the iTaukei not to have their land permanently alienated from them.

“The new Decree ends this unfair practice once and for all”, he said. “Under this Decree, any iTaukei land which is exchanged for portions of State land can no longer be exchanged for private freehold land.”

The Attorney-General said the Bainimarama Government was committed to ending past practices that denied iTaukei landowners clear and transparent processes.

Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s Speech at Annual TLTB Strategic Corporate Planning Workshop

Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you.

As Chairman of the Board and Minister for iTaukei Affairs, I’m pleased to have the opportunity to address this most important of our nation’s institutions and its staff.

Since 1940, the TLTB has been entrusted with the task of administering and managing iTaukei lands- to lease them, to collect and distribute rent, and above all to maintain the integrity of those holdings to benefit the landowners.

As landlord of at least 90% of the land in Fiji, the TLTB is also responsible for ensuring that iTaukei lands are accessible for development purposes: that they are used as productively as possible. It is no exaggeration to say that the success of the Fijian economy is dependent on the success and modernisation of the TLTB.

The TLTB provides leases for agriculture, housing, tourism, education, health services and industry. This plays a major role in growing our economy. And that development benefits not only the iTaukei, but every Fijian.

When I announced the Government’s Strategic Framework for Change in 2009, I said what I will repeat today; that the landownership system will remain as it is and native title of lands will not be converted to any other form of ownership.

I also say now what I said back then – that more land needs to be made available for productive use. More potential needs to be developed for agriculture, industry, commerce, infrastructure development, and social projects.

 

I pledged that my Government would work with iTaukei landowners to ensure that they get a fair return on their land when they lease it; that the distribution of the lease monies was carried out on an equitable basis so that all iTaukei benefit, not just a select few.

And our reforms in the sugar industry have been and continue to be especially important. Thousands of farmers rely on sugar cane farming for their survival. Thousands of landowners and their families rely on the rents they receive from those farmers. A viable sugar industry is essential for them and for the nation as a whole. It is a major source of export revenue and one of the main planks of our economy. There are no if, buts or maybes when it comes to sugar. We have no choice but to get the arrangements right, especially as relates to land leases.

Today, some three years down the track, I am happy to state that the Government has kept its word. Our reforms are delivering better outcomes for the nation and for those we serve.

And we will continue to reform. Today, I can announce that the administrative fees charged by TLTB will be reduced 2.5%, effective January 1, 2013. It is expected that these will be reduced a further 2.5% later in the year, equalling an effective 5% drop in 2013. This will mean more lease money in the hands of all landowners.

But we must not forget that there is a responsibility on everyone – landowners and lessees – to make sure that the system works. Landowners must make land available, and those who lease the land must make sure that they pay their rent on time.

We cannot allow a vicious cycle to continue in which- landowners are reluctant to renew leases because they cannot extract their rents. And tenants are reluctant to pay rent because there is uncertainty.

But we are also plagued by in-house problems that we must rectify as soon as possible.

The database of landowners is woefully out of date and has not yet been fully computerised.

In some areas there is a continuing lack of understanding of the mission of the TLTB and a lack of willingness to work to further the development of land usage in Fiji.

The TLTB itself must improve its services and standards.

As we turn our attention to developing a strategic plan for 2013 through to 2015, I would urge a more responsible attitude on the part of the employees of TLTB.

We all know that in some areas we’ve fallen short of our obligation to our people to discharge our duties with the highest level of honesty and integrity.

Some individuals have let the team down.

We hear cases of abuse of office by TLTB staff out in the field. Cases of extortion; Of making promises to lessees that the TLTB staff know they cannot or will not fulfil; Of giving encouragement to landowners that they know is false; Of depriving the very people they serve, the landowners, of their just dues.

In fact, staff members have recently been fired because they breached their fiduciary duty to the landowners.

On Friday night, I told our civil servants what I’ll repeat here. That we expect the highest standards of performance and probity.

We will not tolerate laziness or incompetence and anyone who is corrupt will be found out and dealt with.

But it is not only corruption that we must keep a watchful eye on. The TLTB must also fight against the plague of an unresponsive and uncaring bureaucracy. The TLTB must adhere to good corporate governance. And the TLTB must modernise.

As your Prime Minister and Chairman of the Board, I urge each of you to reflect on how you can do your jobs better, not just for yourselves, but for the people you serve.

In order to encourage this, the TLTB will be reviewing the Terms and Conditions of all employees’ contracts and employee rules.

Now, promotion will be given on merit, initiative will be rewarded, and additional benefits will be reserved for those whose performance has set them apart.

You will be judged by current market and industry standards, not by who you know or how long you have been with the TLTB.

This is one the very basic reforms we are looking to implement across Government bodies. We want to put our best foot forward. We need to put ordinary people first. We don’t want to tie them up in red tape, delay services to them because of incompetence, or place unnecessary hurdles in their way.

We must always look for ways to make the system more simple and accessible, to enable and facilitate, not confuse and obstruct.

You need to be more responsive to the people’s needs, especially for the poorer and less educated.

As the largest landlord in Fiji, the TLTB has a huge amount of responsibility: responsibility to the land owners, who rely on honest and competent delivery of service and payment; responsibility to the tenants, who rely on advocacy to ensure security and sustainability; and finally, responsibility to the Fijian people, who rely on the thoughtful and progressive allocation of land and an understanding of the economic and financial imperatives to support social projects and private sector investment that will grow our economy.

That is the big picture. But I want to stress today that it is the little person we stand for – and stand by – most of all.

Empathy, compassion and kindness are as important as lists, graphs and charts.

Yes, we must always observe proper procedure and strive for maximum efficiency.

But we must never forget that we are servants with a mission to serve the people of Fiji.

Good luck with your deliberations. After this workshop, I look forward to improved service delivery by a modern, efficient, and competent TLTB.

Thank you. Vinaka vakalevu.

Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama Announces Major Deal for I-Taukei Landowners