News and Comments Friday 3 May 2013

Note the large section on land issues in this posting, and check out the Weekend Readings over the weekend. 


TEACHERS NEED SUPPORT, NOT ATTACKS. The PM hit out at teachers last week for wanting a pay increase when rural children lack basic school needs. The accusation may seem sound at first glance, and it's certainly in step with his claim that many of his opponents are greedy and self-seeking.  But there is no direct causal link between teacher salaries and poor rural school facilities — unless, of course, the PM was saying that it they halved their salaries he would double rural education expenditure. It's also a bit rich for someone on the PM's salary to question the motives of professional people on much lower salaries.

What Fiji needs is better teachers, and it needs to make up for the longstanding and ongoing exodus of many highly qualified teachers overseas. Static, depressed wages  and attacks on teachers certainly will not help.   Higher salaries and better working conditions may persuade more highly qualified young people to join the teaching profession and more to stay in Fiji.  The quality of an education system is determined far more by the quality of its teachers than the physical infrastructure of schools, important as this may also be.

Flashback.  Lack of interest by teachers is an identified reason why 47 schools failed to get a 50% pass rate in the 2011 Fiji School Leaving Certificate examination  according to the Ministry of Education.

PM ON INLAND NAITASIRI  EDUCATION.  Speaking at remote Wainimala in inland Naitasiri, almost in the hilly centre of Viti Levu, the PM  said government  was continuing with initiatives such as the free bus fare and free textbooks schemes to assist all Fijians in accessing education. “A cornerstone of my government is that education should be accessible to all Fijians. An educated younger generation with knowledge and access to resources is a key to Fiji’s future success and prosperity.”

He told parents and guardians of Wainimala Secondary School and Ratu Alipate Primary School government was commitment to building new classrooms for Classes 1 – 3. “Government is concerned with these children – at such a young age, leaving home and staying away from their parents to go to boarding school,”   The work includes the construction of additional teachers quarters, building of more classroom blocks and renovating and upgrading the laboratories, student hostels and ablution blocks. Wainimala Secondary School has a roll of 165 students and caters for villagers from Udu, Laselevu, Nasalia, Nawaisomo and Lutu.

OLD PARTIES REGISTERED.
The Registrar for Political Parties, Mohammed Saneem, announced today that the National Federation Party (NFP), the Fiji Labour Party (FLP) and the Social  Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) have been registered under the Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures) Decree, and  will now be able to operate, function, represent and hold themselves out to be political parties. He was satisfied that all applications contained over 5,000 valid signatures. The anomalous names would be referred to the relevant authorities for investigation and further action.These parties now have thirty days to submit to the Registrar a written declaration giving details of all assets and expenditure including, all contributions, donations or pledges of contributions or donations, whether in cash or in kind, made or to be made to the initial assets of the political party.Party officials and – in the future – party candidates will also have to disclose personal incomes, assets, business connections, directorships, gifts, and liabilities.

Land

ITAUKEI LAND OWNERSHIP SECURE. Much has been made of the fact that the government draft constitution does not specifically entrench iTaukai ownership of land the 91% of Fiji's land areas that is held in native title. The PM  says this is unnecessary because " no one has the power to come and take the land from the i-taukei people." Constitutional lawyer Anthony Regan, however,  says there is no guidance to the Parliament on what the land legislation should say and there is no protection
of existing land legislation from getting amended.  The PM thinks the issue "has been brought up by former politicians who will try and create racial differences ... land ownership is well protected." 

He also noted that the equal distribution of land lease payments has started for all the members of the landowning units compared to the previous system where the  chiefs would get the majority of the lease payment, and that the administrative cost of managing leases by the i-taukei Land Trust Board, or the poundage fees has been reduced to 15 percent from 25 percent. and it is expected to be further reduced to 10 percent later this year. Previously, the 25% was deducted from rental moneys paid.

Earlier, the PM said many iTaukei chiefs were misleading their people by saying that their land ownership was insecure. “Some are interpreting that now we’re all ‘Fijians’, this will later be transferred to land ownership. I have said it and I will repeat it today; that the land ownership system will remain as it is and native title of lands will not be converted to any other form of ownership.” He said he was sad that some chiefs had again tried to politicise the land. Past politicians and chiefs had politicised the land for their own gain and this was a major cause of the political upheavals the nation had experienced. “We should learn from these upheavals as chiefs used the people for their own agendas.

He said more land needs to be made available for productive use. More potential needs to be developed for agriculture, industry, commerce, infrastructure development, and social projects. The PM assured iTaukei landowners that it would ensure they get a fair return on their land when they lease it, and that that the distribution of the lease monies was carried out on an equitable basis so that all iTaukei benefit, not just a select few.

He PM also said  that many chiefs and politicians are saying that the abolition of the Great Council of Chiefs is the end of the chiefly system.  "This was a totally wrong interpretation.The GCC was an unelected body but had a lot of authority in making decisions about the iTaukei people. He said the chiefly system was intact and  abolishing the GCC would never ever affect the chiefly system. 

LEADERSHIP VACUUM IN LANDOWNING UNIT. If land is so important, why, one must ask, are so many mataqali and yavusa positions vacant? There are 2,279 heads of mataqali (landowning unit) positions that are still vacant, according to latest report from the Native Land Commission. Commission chairman Ratu Vananalagi Vesikula said the government was concerned with the high number of those vacant traditional positions.

And he said there were 569 vacant positions for the head of yavusa that were yet to be filled in villages in the 14 provinces. He said this was a worrying trend because the people were being left alone with no leadership and guidance while continuing with their daily lives in the village.
"Ni sega ni vakatawani na i tutu oqo, era sa na qai liutaki vakacava," Ratu Vananalagi said.
(When these positions are vacant, then who will lead these people?). "Ni sega ni vakatawani na i tutu ni liuliu ni mataqali se yavusa, ena tubu cake na vakau nona, era na vakayaco lomadra tu ga ni sega ni tiko e dua na i liuliu". (When  positions of head of mataqali or yavusa are not filled, there will be a rise in cases of people doing whatever they want to do because there is no leader).

He urged respective landowning units to appoint leaders because this would create stability and prosperity for the 14 provinces.

A-G SPOT ON.  I hear that a clause protecting iTaukei land  will be included in the Government draft constition. This is a wise move because it removes one of the opposition's claim that govenrment wants to take iTaukei land. But, of course, it will not be enough. The "they are stealing your land" hoax has been used successfully to keep grassroots iTaukei in check for many years, and it will not stop with its protection in the constitution.  It was constitutionally protected before but  that did not stop the Rabuka and Speight coups.  The A-G, in signalling the change to the draft, also pointed out that that there is no way iTaukei land could be taken without their permission. The draft Bill of Rights protects the land by protecting each of Fiji's cultures, and this right cannot be removed withour amending the constitution, a daunting task that would require approval by 75% of MPs and a referendum with 75% approval.  The main issue in Fiji is not the ownership of iTaukeki land but its under use and the low returns obtained by owners when their land is leased. The A-G is right in saying previous lease arrangements to hotels and resorts have focused only on money —the rents paid— when landowners should also have been negotiating for shares in the companies and membership on company boards.

QARESE TACKLES 'LIAR KHAIYUM'.
Former PM Laisenia Qarase has challenged the A-G's claim that the draft constitution provides better protection than the 1997 constitution, and he may well be correct. But it offers no less protection, and that is the substantial point.

"This is simply not true and it is a blatant lie", he says, citing entrenched provisions, support in Parliament and particularly the control of Senate by the Great Council of Chiefs. He said, "If any amendment is passed it would mean that the amendment has the support of the great majority of the people of Fiji." Which is also not quite the truth.  It would be impolite to call it a blatant lie but the chiefs in Senate are not the people of Fiji.

NEW GUIDELINES FOR TENANTS AND LANDLORDS will be released soon by the Commerce Commission  Chairperson Dr Mahendra Reddy says the decision to write up the guideline was prompted by the increase in complaints received by both tenants and landlords. "There are examples of bonds being not refunded, there are examples of property damage by the tenants, there are examples of receipts not issued for rent paid, there are examples of non existence of any kind of tenancy agreement.

Comments

we need more limos said…
Croz
Bainimarama is a dictator (do you know what that is?). He can do what he likes. What about mentioning the new limos China just gave to the dictator for his VIPs? Surely you acknowledge that will help the teachers, rural schools and the increasing poor in Fiji under the unelected regime? Africa repeats itself eh croz? Ego aid for idiot dictators.
john said…
Thank you Croz for your positive comments. We all know that we can trust our PM on anything he says. He is not a devious liar as the old politicians were. He has never broken a promise and he is taking the country forward. I am sick and tired to hear the old politicians undermine our PMs rule. They should be rounded up and send to prison until the elections are over. This would not only teach them a lesson, it would also allow us folks to focus on we want: Our PM's rule legitimised and appreciated by the international community.
Mickey Mouse or the mad Mullahs said…
Actually I doubt the pm gives a damn about the international community. That is obvious from his stance. Who can blame him? The international community is so silent on the bigger picture.According to the sad UN we have to choose between Mickey Mouse and the Mad Mullahs? Them or us. No thanks, Fiji must make its own choices. We like neither.

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