Condemnation of the Native Land Trust Board Amendment Decree
The Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement strongly condemn the recently announced illegal amendments to the Native Land Trust Act.
The world must be constantly reminded that the illegal Interim Government of Commodore Bainimarama in Fiji does not have any legal power or mandate to be fiddling with land issues and the private real estate property of the indigenous people of Fiji.
Bainimarama and his sidekick attorney general Aiyaz Khaiyum can do whatever they want to do but must read very carefully what we say below.
As long as they are in power this Movement will constantly be reminding them that they are an illegal self appointed military dictatorship and no amount of dressing over, decree, announcement or statement is going to change that fact.
The decision of the Fiji High Court on the 15th of November 2001 and the 9th of April 2002 will never go away and at the right time, the Constitution of the Republic of Fiji which they have purported to have abrogated on the 10th of April 2009 will come back to legitimise their sentence to rot in a Fiji Prison. Never to be released.
Once again, as Citizens of Fiji, we the members of this Movement appeal to their sense of dignity and morality, just in case they may have any left. Bainimarama, Khaiyum and President Nailatikau please stop acting as an elected government, leave the land issue alone, start dialogue and set a clear road map to elections within six months.
The repealing and replacing of section 3(1) of the Native Land Trust Act (NLTA) indefinitely removes a major reason for the continued existence of the Great Council of Chiefs and that is the power of appointing the majority of board members (five) of the Native Land Trust Board. This section was contained in the Act to ensure that the Native Land Trust Boards control was left in the hands of indigenous Fijians via the Great Council of Chiefs.
Under NLTA the board consisted of the President of Fiji as President, the Minister for Fijians Affairs as Chair, five members appointed by the Great Council of Chiefs, three members appointed by the (line) Minister from a list of nominees submitted by the provincial council and two members of any race appointed by the President of Fiji.
The NLTA Amendment Decree 2010 shifts the power from the Great Council of Chiefs to the government via the Minster. The Native Land Trust Board is now a highly politicised trustee of communally owned indigenous land.
It removes the President of Fiji from the Board and also his power to elect two board members and gives that power to the Minister.
This submission was made by Bainimarama and approved by his illegal cabinet without any consultations what so ever with the indigenous people of Fiji. The announced amendment creates a new situation of control where one of the illegally appointed ministers, in this case the dictator himself, will have the legal authority to appoint all the ten board members, including the three from a list by the Provincial Councils.
The term coined by a high chief many years ago is now brought to reality and the Native Land Trust Board is now literally the ‘Native Land No Trust Board’
The Bainimarama dictatorship has effectively disenfranchised the indigenous Fijians from their own land and their ownership is now in name only.
This manipulation of NLTA is detrimental to the rights of the indigenous landowners as beneficiaries and will adversely affect the ability of the Trustee to perform both its statutory and fiduciary obligation to act in their best interests as the composition of the Trustee has now swayed favourably towards a third party, the illegal government
The illegal decree also removes the power of the President of Fiji under section 18 of NLTA to set aside State (formerly known as Crown) land as native reserves for a mataqali (native family unit) if the President is of the view that the said mataqali does not communally own enough land for the use, maintenance or support of its members. This power is now vested with the Minister and therefore the government.
The illegal amendment also removes any mention of the word President and replaces it with the word Minister therefore removing the power of an apolitical office and vesting it in the power of a politically motivated and influenced Minister.
Indigenous Fijians have always looked up to the office of the President of Fiji as their final custodian and protector. The holder of that office, under the Constitution, is appointed by their August Body the Great Council of Chiefs and is vested powers to protect their land and fishing rights. Past practices have always been for a very high chief with a record of distinguished public service to hold the office for five years.
The illegal Bainimarama has now crudely removed this vested power of the President over indigenous owned land without any consultation with the affected party.
Such arrogant actions provide the perfect ammunition for rightwing indigenous nationalist politicians who had in the past made claims that the 2006 coup and this dictatorship is hell bent on disenfranchising the indigenous people of their native land titles and fisheries rights.
These claims are further proven by another announcement that the government via the Minister of Tourism under another decree now controls all controls of surfing grounds around the coastal areas of Fiji.
The Movement raises its strongest concerns that such blatant, ill-conceived decisions and actions made arrogantly by this illegal regime create the right atmosphere for future race relations’ instability. It adds more spark to the current powder keg situation where the suffering population are looking for the group to finger point as the reason for the drop in living standard, rising cost of living and lack of employment opportunities in Fiji.
Bainimarama’s military will not be able to control the majority indigenous population when they awake from their present slumber to realise that the control of their ancestral land and fishing grounds has been removed from them.
Such actions by Bainimarama also beg the question as to where this illegal government is taking Fiji. Their actions are so twentieth century when one considers current global trend towards the granting of native title recognitions and rights to land and fishing grounds.
The most recent being John Key’s Government move to restore Maori Rights to fishing grounds in New Zealand.
Australia had set the trend for the last three years with the Blue Mud Bay Decisions for Aboriginal Fishing Rights in the Northern Territory and Friday’s Federal Court Decision in Cairns making more than 40,000sq km of sea, shipping lanes and fisheries to Torres Strait native title, giving indigenous locals various rights of access and use of the teeming maritime resources.
The Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement campaigns and fights for the peaceful restoration of self-determination and freedom to the people of Fiji. It strives to achieve this via dialogue and passive resistance.
The Movement does not condone bloodshed and violence and will not stand idly by while the illegal administration of Commodore Bainimarama arrogantly creates the kind of atmosphere that will instigate interracial conflict and a violent uprising in our much love homeland.
Therefore the Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement objects very strongly to the latest illegal actions of Bainimara’s regime decreeing the legislative erosion of indigenous Fijian control over what legally and rightfully is their real estate property.
Usaia P. Waqatairewa.