Fiji Crown Lands Not Being Returned To Landowners

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Despite legal authority, PM tells TLTB not to process claims

By Losalini Bolatagici

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Feb. 3, 2016) – The iTaukei Land Trust Board (TLTB) is not processing any claims on Crown Land to be returned to the landowners, as directed by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

This was revealed by Reserves Commissioner Mosese Ratubalavu during a presentation to the Parliament Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights yesterday.

"There is a section of the law whereby TLTB can work on claims of the iTaukei landowners to reserve a certain portion of State-owned land and that is under Section 18 of the TLTA Cap 134. Section 18 gives power to the minister to proclaim a portion of the State land as iTaukei reserve when it has been proved that a certain mataqali is in need of land," Mr Ratubalavu said.

"Up until today, the board is not processing any cases under this section of the law because we have received a directive from the PM's Office not to process reservation of land or return of land which are currently on State land."

Mr Ratubalavu was presenting to the Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights based on a petition tabled in Parliament by SODELPA parliamentarian Viliame Gavoka to review the request by the yavusa Nauvauvau of Tavua on the piece of land known as Tovatova and Yaladro.

"The Reserve Commission has received a number of claims under these two parcels of land, but we have not done anything because of the directive from the PM's Office not to work on Crown land that are being claimed to be returned to the iTaukei."

Under Section 18 of the iTaukei Land Trust Act, the landowners will have to send in a claim form endorsed by the provincial council or Roko Tui and the reserve commission of TLTB will look at the background of these claimants before preparing for a reserve committee sitting.

At the sittings, the claimants are required to make small statements under oath and these are recorded and will be used by the Reserve Commission to make recommendations to the board. The claimant should at least prove that they have a little land and they make these recommendation based on these statistic, information from iTaukei Lands Commission and the ones already in their record.

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