Fiji PM: Empowering Young Indigenous Landowners By Having Lease Monies Put In Trust

Opposition: why was move made without stakeholder consultation?

By Losalini Bolatagici

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, August 01, 2016) – Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama says his Government is empowering indigenous Fijian landowners by channelling funds from their leases for investment that will be made available when they are 18 years old.

This comes in response to the Opposition's statement condemning Government's decision of withholding more than 30,000 iTaukei minors lease monies owed to them by the iTaukei Land Trust Board (TLTB) for investment.

The Opposition questioned on what mandate the TLTB funds were invested and why there was no prior consultation with landowning units.

TLTB announced last week that $12.5 million would be deposited in a trust for 30,634 young landowners registered in the Vola ni Kawa Bula (the register of all indigenous landowners).

"This is the difference between my Government and previous governments. In the past, someone else decided how lease monies would be distributed," Mr Bainimarama said.

"But we have empowered individual iTaukei and given them options and choices. Given them their fair shares of the proceeds from the lease of their lands.

"My political opponents want that power to be taken away again.

"But I believe the vast majority of the iTaukei want to be able to choose for themselves.

"I am determined to give them that choice, going one step further now to protect the interests of iTaukei children and ensure that they too obtain their fair share when they come of age.

"We want to provide them with a springboard for the future."

Speaking on behalf of the Opposition, Niko Nawaikula said the policy was against customary practice and was, therefore, in breach of the landowners' group rights to look after their resources and affairs independently, especially to be consulted and to give their prior and informed consent.

And for that reason, Mr Bainimarama yesterday called on indigenous landowners not to let his political opponents tell them they were worse off under his government.

"Because the truth is that our prospects have never been better," he said.

"We have our ownership of the land guaranteed in our Constitution for all time."

Mr Bainimarama said the iTaukei were not only secure, but they had more opportunity than at any other time in Fijian history.

"Now we are ensuring that our children and those still to be born benefit from our ownership of the land by having their share invested so they can use it when they become adults," he said.

Mr Bainimarama revealed the amounts held in trust differed for each young landowner and ranged up to $99,000.

He said the interest earned over time would boost these savings.

"And when the beneficiaries turn 18, the Government will provide them with proper advice to manage the funds most effectively," Mr Bainimarama said.

Fiji Times Online.
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CAN A FARMER PAY HALF DEPOSIT AND PAY LATER THE OTHER HALF.SINCE FARMERS ARE STRUGGLING AFTER CYCLONE WINSTON.THE NLTB CAN WORK WITH POOR FARMERS TO ORGANISE THIS .PLS ADVISE.

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