5th August 2010
The Leaders of the
Democratic Nation of
The South Pacific Islands.
Re: Laws and policies implemented by the Military regime of Fiji
since 2006 to target Fiji’s Native Indigenous Community
and its Group Rights.
As you will know it is now going on to the 5th year since the takeover and removal of the Democratic Government of Fiji. But as expected by all, including the International Community, the takeover was declared by the Court of Appeal of Fijiin April of 2009 as unlawful. The Regimes response to that, affected less than 3days after the ruling, was to abrogate Fijis Constitution.
The military takeover of 2006 with the abrogation of the Constitution in 2009 wasaccompanied and followed by blatant abuses and total disregard of HumanRights, Freedom and Group Rights. This as the Military regime worked its way toput its officers and sympathizers on key Government positions and Institution toquell opposition and criticism. Lawful procedures, accountability, goodgovernance and transparency, as expected in any dictatorship no matter what, isbeing replaced by forced and unlawful termination, accumulation of personalwealth by those in control and corruption whilst targeted individual and groupsare being marginalized or stripped of rights, freedom and opportunities.
The examples are too many and varied. Many individuals have died at the handsof the Military and Police without charges being laid. Individuals and groupscontinue to be taken up for questioning at the Military camps and Police stationsto coerce and threaten into submission. Military and Police officers who havecommitted crimes are not charged and roam the community freely without fear.Laws have been passed and continue to be passed to terminate proceedingagainst the state and restrain further proceedings against it and its institutions.The Criminal Law has been amended to enlarge and bring in new criminal acts to take to task individuals who oppose and criticize and to allow the regime todetain without charge for up to 14 days. There is total censorship of the press andrestriction on its activity under the Media Decree. There is total restriction onfreedom of assembly under the Emergency Decree which has been extendedwithout limit. The Methodist Church which is the biggest Christian Denominationin Fiji continues to be restrained from holding religious meetings andConferences. Fiji’s middle class are being removed from careers and opportunitiesand marginalized and forced to restrict exercise of their skills. The list is endless and continues.
This letter aims to update and brief you on one such example. Namely, the targeting of the rights and livelyhood of Fijis indigenous native communities through laws and policies passed and implemented since the Military takeover in 2006.
Native Fijians were at the forefront of the 1987 and 2000 Coupes in their Campaign for the recognition of their Group Rights. These rights are consistent with those recognized under the 1991 Draft UN Declaration of Indigenous Rightsthat has been recently endorsed and ratified by the UN under the UN Declarationof Indigenous Rights. It recognizes for indigenous peoples and Native peoples around the world their Right to Self Determination, Land Rights, Rights to Language, Culture and Identity and Traditional Heritage amongst others. Since theCoup of 2006 the Military regime has passed Laws and Policies aimed at Fiji’s native population. The aim appears to be as payback for raising issues that concern them since 1987. The targeted areas are their Right to Self Determination and Land Rights which has been the source of their strength and continuity as a group. Other legislation and policies have also targeted their Rights to Language, Identity and other aspects of their culture.
The comment by the Regimes leader that “the members of the Great Council of Chiefs are only worth sitting around a mango tree with a bucket of home brew” best sums up the Regimes attitude.
Indigenous Native Fijians Right to Self Determination, consistent with those recognized under the UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights, is recognized and entrenched under the Fijian Affairs Act. This Act establishes a Board comprising ofindependent and representative advisors, Government is there as fiduciary only,to regulate the good governance of native communities, according to custom,according to their choice and according to Law. The Fijian Affairs Board overseesthe 14 Native Regions or Provinces which are corporate entities in their own rightadministered by Provincial Council with representative members and there againGovernment is represented there as fiduciary only.
The Provincial Council and the Fijian Affairs Board other important roles is to takeissue with Government on the rights and interest of the native Fijian communities. It has been the representatives and a very vocal voice againstGovernment. The Regime realized this threat much earlier on. Because the native administration connects down to the grass roots the Regime also realized thepotential of using that institution for propaganda and to bring the native community into submission. The first measure it imposed was by way of the 2007,Fijian Affairs (Fijian Affairs Board) Regulation that changed the composition ofthe Board by requiring that 4 members are to be appointed by the Minister.
This was followed by the 2008, Fijian Affairs (Fijian Affairs Board) (AmendedRegulation) aimed at bringing the board under total control of the Regime by itsfurther requirement that the members are to constitute the Minister, 4 Cabinet members and 4 others appointed by the Minister.Further changes were made to compel control by amendments to the ProvincialCouncils Regulation by the removal of the representative members and replacement with members appointed by the Minister. The Regime supplemented and reinforced its intention by removing position holders of keypost and the substitution with Military Officers or sympathizers.
The other important institution that guarantees the right of self determination of native Fijians is the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC) which is an independent council of heredity Chiefs and representatives to advise Government directly. The GCChas been main stay of Fijian power and authority. To quell that and bring it intosubmission the Regime passed the 2007, Fijian Affairs GCC Regulation whichcompletely suspended the Council and terminated its appointments. This was followed by another Regulation of the same year, 2007, GCC Regulation that re-established the council with 52 members appointed by the Regime.
With the Fijian Affairs board, Provincial Council and GCC under the control of theRegime submission of the native population was complete and the Regime has since been using this institution to propagate its policy, propaganda and impose its will on native communities. At the same time it continues to sponsor resolution by these councils to support its policies to make the appearance that they are representative support of the native communities.
The other important right of the native community to be affected andmanipulated by the Regime is their land rights. Native Fijian Land Rights is entrenched by Legislation under the Native lands Act and Native Lands Trust Act.Since 2006 the Regime has manipulated this Legislation and the organizationsthat administer them to impose its policies to control, regulate and water downor totally remove incidental rights to property. There is now no such thing as Human right to property that equates with the right to choose and the freedomto decide what to do with their land. The Regime has established a committee it calls the Committee for the Better Utilization of Land (CBUL) which ironically is manned and administered by employees of the Native Land Trust Board (NLTB) tocoerce native communities into giving away their land for 99 year leases. They recently passed Land Use Decree now entitles Government to take unused nativeland and give it out for 99 year leases. The Mahogany Decree has taken away the right of native people as to rent and has legally restrained them from taking any legal action.
The composition of the NLTB, initially to be a representative of the nativecommunities to look after the interest, has been changed with a minister as itschairman and members appointed. The result has been total control by the regime with the NLTB actively working and participating with it in removing therights of those it was meant to protect.
Please understand that the intent and purpose of this letter has been to explainto you in very brief detail the suffering of Fiji’s native Fijian communities inrelation to their right of self determination and land rights. If you do not hear oftheir complaints or of any revolt it does not mean they agree or acquiesce withthe Regime continuing attempt to suppress and remove those rights. Rather itsimply means the regimes control over them into submission is complete whilethey suffer quietly and silently. We hope and pray this brief will encourage you tointervene and restore Democracy, which is the only guarantee we know that cansafeguard and guarantee their right.
Fiji Democratic Freedom Movement