New Land Legislation, Old Students and PINA, PM and the Forum, Tonga and MSG Plus, Consumers, Rotuma
NEW LAND LEGISLATION JUST AND POLITICALLY ASTUTE. Land lease money will be distributed equally among mataqali (landowner unit) members, when new legislation is passed. The PM said present distribution methods are a major cause of village disputes and leadership tussles. Government will be distributing lease money directly to the landowners without charging fees or interests. The new legislation, which cuts out the Native Land Trust Board 15% deduction and allocations to the chiefly hierarchy, will, according to the PM, empower people to take on responsibilities in their respective villages.
Meanwhile, the Land Use Decree will provide the legal framework for leasing of i-taukei and State-owned land at market rates. The PM said, “The law allows for the establishment of a land bank from which potential investors and farmers can sub-lease or lease land from the State for up to 99 years. This will provide certainty of tenure, improved rental return to the i-taukei landowners and to the State, and be a much needed boost to the economy. The role of the NLTB will be to provide the necessary information to the land bank.
Both moves are socially just and politically astute. The former means that the landowning unit will receive all the rent to be distributed equally among mataqali families, a move that will undermine the influence of chiefs and "middlemen" at grassroots level. The latter move should see more mataqali willing to lease land; the withholding of leases will be no longer capable of political manipulation, and, the 99-year leases should see more people, individuals and companies, renewing or taking up leases. More land in production can only be good news for Fiji.
P.S. A statement by the Australia-based Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement which sees sinister implications in these decrees has received wide publicity overseas. I shall comment on their statement later in the week.
OLD STUDENTS AND PINA. I'm sorry to see two of my old students, 'Eakalafi Moala and Lisa Williams-Lahari, break from PINA and join others to form the new Pacific Media Association that has the questionable advantage of including Australia and New Zealand. I understand and respect their reasons, but doubt it will help Fiji in any way. Could they not stay in PINA and join the new organization? I trust they will read -- and use -- my blog from time to time to get another slant. My weekend post reassessing the Media Decree would be a good place to start.
CONGRATULATIONS TO RADIO NZ INTERNATIONAL for printing some "good" news about Fiji. They report the Consumer Council's approval of incentives in the 2010 Review budget, and commend the Bainimarama Government for "being socially responsible by providing the means to spur economic activity and growth that will benefit all sectors of society."
TWO SRI LANKAN JUDGES have been appointed to appointed Acting Chief Registrar and Acting Chief Magistrate. The Chief Registrar’s positions was recently held by Ms Ana Rokomokoti. Mrs Irani Wakishta-Arachichi is now Acting Chief Registrar and Mr Pamila Ratanayake is Acting Chief Magistrate.
THE PI FORUM AND SELECTIVE VISION. The PM has again expressed a wish to be readmitted to the Pacific Islands Forum but seems to think this unlikely as long as Australia and New Zealand turn blind eyes to current reforms. While not reissuing his earlier invitation to the Forum Ministerial Action Group to visit Fiji after Smith's and McCully's statements that the situation in Fiji had worsened, the PM said, “My government is always open to dialogue. It is most unfortunate that some of the foreign countries are turning a blind eye in terms of development and the reforms that this government is carrying out. In terms of the situation on the ground Fiji is not worsening as many would have thought, stats indicate otherwise given the various measures implemented. However, Fiji is one of the founding members of the Forum so we would like to see ourselves back in.”
TONGA STILL NOT SAID YES. Fiji is still waiting to hear from Tonga about participation in the forthcoming MSG-Plus meeting. My guess is they won't accept and this was one of the reasons why Tongan PM Feleti Sevele paid a friendly visit to Fiji last week. Tonga, and the other small Pacific nations, need to sit on, or very close to, the top of the fence or they could offend their major aid donors. I hope I'm wrong.
THE CONSUMER COUNCIL REPORTS it has helped consumers save about $300,000 in the first quarter of the year by mediating and resolving their complaints. Some 654 complaints were received, the highest number concerning landlord and tenancy cases.
ROTUMA-TUVALU TRADE. Rotuma's exports to Tuvau, mainly in root crops, was due to start in August but the Agriculture Department in Rotuma wants it to start in November to fit farming schedules. Write 'Rotuma' into the search facility in the left sidebar to learn more about this new trade initiative that is part of Government's Roadmap to develop Fiji's outer islands.
CAN FIJI CUT UNEMPLOYMENT to 4.2% by 2012? Some 57% of Fiji Live pollsters said No. It's nice to see "political" polls on Fiji Live again.