Fiji Candidate: Indigenous Land Ownership No Longer Safe

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Former Lands Trust Board official says constitutional protections gone

By Vuniwaqa Bola-Bari

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, June 3, 2014) – Indigenous land ownership by iTaukei yavusa and mataqali can no longer be considered intact or safe, says former TLTB general manager legal and SODELPA candidate applicant Niko Nawaikula.

Nawaikula made this comment while responding to a media report where a chief said that land ownership in Fiji was intact and safe and the truth was that the government has strengthen iTaukei rights not eroded them.

"The decrees that terminated the Great Council of Chiefs simultaneously took away control of native land, remove iTaukei representatives from the iTaukei Lands Trust Board, removed their names and took away management of mahogany and many tracts of native land under the land use decree," he said.

"The 1997 Constitution in comparison to the 2013 Constitution finds the Great Council of Chiefs has been removed with all its powers and the entrenched provisions that guarantee government cannot interfere with land without the prior consent of the iTaukei." Section 28 (1) of the 2013 constitution says that the ownership of all iTaukei land shall remain with the customary owners f 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.

Section 27 (2a) says that a written law may authorise compulsory acquisition of property when necessary for public purpose and (b) on the basis that the owner will be promptly paid the agreed compensation for the property or failing agreement, just and equitable compensation as determined by a court or tribunal after considering all relevant factors .

Section 28(2) says that any iTaukei land acquired by the State for 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.

Nawaikula said what the chief (Vunivalu of Nakorovatu) said was the opposite of the truth in the 2013 constitution and the various land decrees issued by the government.

He said the media should stop taking advantage of the lack of knowledge and exposure of the iTaukei regarding their land.

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