Playing the Race Card: Sodelpa's Lie on Land

Reclaiming Fiji, the SODELPA Way
                                                        Opinion by Crosbie Walsh


Among its  claims that the Bainimarama government has undermined indigenous rights, including land rights (hence the SODELPA slogan 'Reclaim Fiji') is the assumption that the existing official Taukei institutions, such as the provincial councils and the TLTB, are inadequate to the task unless they have the protective umbrella of the Great Council of Chiefs.   This was evident in a recent listing by Ro Teimumu of 17 decrees SODELPA would change if it becomes government. Almost all of them mentioned the GCC.  Their "modest" message was clear: without the GCC all will be lost. 

Yet, Taukei land is protected in the Constitution, in a number of laws, and the TLTB Board is not exactly toothless.

The Taukei Land Trust Board

The Board comprises ten members, all Taukei, headed by the PM as Minister of iTaukei Affairs.  Seven members are chiefs, two of whom were former members of Senate and the GCC. Another was Ambassador to Japan and South Korea. One member was the Permanent Secretary for Land and Regional Development, another a long-standing member of the Native Affairs Board, and four have been or still are  chairmen or members of Provincial Councils. Hardly pushovers, even with the PM in the chair.

The TLTB website  leaves no doubt about the protection of Taukei land; it is quite explicit on this score:
iTaukei land comprises 87 percent of all the land in Fiji and was permanently deeded by the British Crown in the 1880’s. To put it simply, this land cannot be sold. It will forever remain as property of the landowning unit unless sold back to the State and then  used solely for public purpose. iTaukei land is available for public use by lease agreement. Leases can vary from 30 years for agricultural purposes up to 99 years for most other uses including residential, commercial and industrial leases.
 Reclaiming Fiji for who?

In an earlier article I observed:

On land she (Ro Teimumu) was quite specific on what SODELPA would do if in government: the old multiple constitutional and legislative protections on land, Senate and the Great Council of Chiefs would be restored, the NLTB would be given its old powers, and the direct payment of all lease money to the land-owning mataqali would be “reviewed”. The Bainimarama government’s Land Use Decree and the Land Bank would be abolished.
While a return to the past would no doubt protect the interests of some chiefs and some Taukei elite in the bureaucracy  —and in this respect SODELPA would be living up to its slogan "Reclaim Fiji"— it is hard to see how this would offer greater safeguards against land alienation, give ordinary Taukei landowners more benefits from their land, or stimulate greater use of the land, for the benefit of its owners and the nation.

All that seems likely to happen is that the chiefs would get bigger slices of land rents and the TLTB would be back to claiming 25% of the rental money as administration costs. This, of course, will mean reducing the rental money now paid to landowners.

But as I said, the real issue, was not mentioned:
She did not, however, address the really burning issue on land which is its use, not its ownership. A thriving Fijian economy needs much greater use of land by iTaukei villagers, the restoration of non-renewed leases (that contributed to the massive exodus of dispossessed Indo-Fijians tenants, an increase in peri-urban shanty town dwellings and a drop in sugar and other agricultural production), and fair agricultural and non-agricultural leases for lessor and lessee.
TLTB Priorities

In this regard, it is pleasing to read the latest announcement  by the TLTB. 
The Board has come up with prioritised strategies in a bid to empower landowners and provide them with greater opportunities 
As part of such efforts, the board has implemented the leasing of vacant or idle land, creating awareness at provincial, district and village levels for the purpose of providing advisory service through the landowner's affairs officer.

TLTB general manager Alipate Qetaki said they supported and facilitated the government's Look North Policy through the leasing of idle land for productive use and extension of agricultural leases under the Committee for Better Utilisation of Land (CBUL).

"The board also meets the requirements of the major sectors and facilitates the government's capital and infrastructure projects," he said. Mr Qetaki said TLTB continued to facilitate the extension of agriculture leases under CBUL.
It is not the job of the TLTB to stimulate greater land use.  They are concerned with leases, but the work of other government departments over the past few years has seen improvements in roads and wharves, giving people in remote and rural areas better access to markets; equipping rural women with skills to use and market local produce; initiatives to use coconuts for fuel and virgin oil, and a number of efforts to make Fiji less dependent on food imports.

The future

There's along way to go,  but the Bainimarama government's actions are empowering because they put the ball at the feet of grassroots Taukei.   Bainimarama is saying: We'll help but the hard yakka is over to you. Use  the land.

SODELPA's approach, on the other hand, is disempowering. It says: Take a back seat. We, the chiefs and SODELPA will keep this land for you, and makes no statement whatsoever on its use. The initiative is taken away  from ordinary people and given back to the leaders. That, apparently, is how they intend  to "reclaim Fiji."      

Comments

Anonymous said…
It is about time for the other opposition parties to clearly and unambiguously dissociate themselves from SOLDELPA. This party is entirely reactionary, backwards looking and destructive in its platform. Its policies will take Fiji back into the dark days of the past.
I do see merit in the other opposition parties' criticism of the government, and it is important to have a strong opposition in parliament to point out shortcomings of government policy. When watching the recent debate between Prasad and Sayed-Khaiyum, I saw a useful political debate on various issues, but every time I watch or read a statement by Ro Teimumu or Qarase I just want to throw up.
So I really hope any intelligent voter who has a legitimate grievance against the current government will vote NFP, or maybe PDP or even FLP, all of which have the potential to become a decent opposition, instead of wasting their votes for the reactionary desperados of SODELPA.
Anonymous said…
Forget about the facts. Just manipulate i'taukei emotions by instilling fear. Thats the strategy of the 'So Help Me God Party'. Its a strategy based on lies.
Anonymous said…
99 years are three generations. The sole decision over land in the land bank is in the PM's hand. These decisions cannot be challenged in court. These are facts. Why on earth would anyone make a law that gives one single person the right to make decisions that affect three generations without any recourse for the affected people? To put it mildly, there is good reason for concern here.
Anonymous said…
Trust our PM he has the best intentions and will only make good decisions. After all he has shown that he is not interested in personally benefitting form his position. He only had his salary processed by aunty Nur in order to avoid the inefficiencies of the Qarase style civil service.
Anonymous said…
Spot on Croz even as a I'Taukei I couldn't put it any better. Sodelpa is all about putting power back to the chiefs and elite and to continue plundering the poor Fijians. And within that chiefly system there is ongoing
Anonymous said…
Croz,

You are conveniently missing the point SODELPA are making. That is this government has removed all checks and balances to the land issues. You talk about the iTLB board not being toothless. But they are allappointed by the PM. He controls the board. There are no entrenched land provisions in the Constitution so things can be changed by a simple majority in parliament. The constitution deals with individual rights and not communal rights and so is ambiguous ver all the native land which is communally owned. And lastly the PM has the final decision on land with the land bank and his decisions cannot be challenged in the court.

SODELPA has a very strong case and the indigenous Fijians are listening. Land may well see the fall of Khaiyum and Bainimarama
Anonymous said…
Under khaiyum and his puppy Bhaini I-Taukei land will be managed as transparently and accountably as their illegal paychecks are managed by his Aunt Nur. As for the comments on Walsh - leave the old devil and loser racist alone.
Crosbie Walsh said…
Anon Sat 10:18 (Oh, why don't people use their name or pseudonym as requested?) ..You talk about only one part of the land situation, leases and specifically leases arranged under the Land Bank legislation.

Note that the length of leases is dependent on use (as the NLTB item I quoted states) from 30 years (one generation by your calculation) to 90 years (your three generations). The longer leases are for investments such as hotels and mining. Two-thirds of the mataqali members must agree to Land Bank leases. And the PM is not the sole decider as you claim. He makes the final decision after a series of recommendations made by those under him. Note also that a lease is a legally binding document which is not normally challenged and most certainly should not be challengable once investment money has been spent on site development, unless the leasee has broken a condition of the lease.

Note also that the preamble of the 2013 Constitution recognizes Taukei and their land ownership (it is the first thing mentioned) and that subsequent clauses guarantee undisturbed Taukei land ownership, specifically 28 (1) that states: "The ownership of all iTaukei land shall remain with the customary owners of that land and iTaukei land shall not be permanently alienated, whether by sale, grant, transfer or exchange, except to the State in accordance with section 27" that notes community purposes, compemnsation and the ultimate return of the land. Identical laws exist in most countries. Further on, for the first time, it assures Taukei of a share in mining royalities.

As for simple majorities in the House, a constitutional change would be required to alienate Taukei land, not a simple majority as you claim. And the overwhelming number of MPs will be Taukei, whichever party wins this or any future election. I doubt many of them would vote to change the Constitution that guarantees Taukei land ownership. The only legislation which allows land alienation (which was also noted in the TLTB quote) is when land is needed for civil purposes, such as roads, airport extensions, etc., and even then the land must be returned to its owners when it is no longer needed for these purposes

Anonymous said…
Geez mate. you sound like broken record! Go get a life
Anonymous said…
Taukei land is expropriated for, say, a runway extension at Nausori. A few years from now AFL is privatised. At what point must the land be returned to its owners, since it is still needed for the purpose for which it was expropriated.

The reality is that land which is 'under utilised' will always be subject to avaricious people trying to make a profit from it. The definition of 'under utilised' no longer rests with the landowners, but with government. Therefore in years to come there will be a problem regarding land ownership - the only variables are how many years and how intractable the problem.
Anonymous said…
The bottom line is you could have the best legislation ever but when people want to muck up land issues they would, just ask qarase n his govt in momi
Anonymous said…
i think all the kaivalagis, kaindias, and any other race, should refrain from discussing the land issue. this should be left to the people who own them, the ITAUKEI OF FIJI. Bainimarama and Khaiyum have stirred up a wasps' nest and if the majority of Indians turn out to support the FF Party who came to power via a coup, then when the next coup arises, there will surely be a "pay-back" time.
Anonymous said…
Anon @3.14 am

For your info moron SODELPA has tried to stir up a wasps nest just like they did in 2000, but the I Taukei are more educated now and can look through the BS dished out by high class con man Qarase and crooked lawyer Nawaikula.
Anonymous said…
Who gave khaiyum and his clan the mandate to rape the nation of Fiji? Oh, that's right - it was Tikoitoga and the useless thug military - who threw up there hands in surrender to the islamists (unlike the courageous Filipinos who refused to surrender).
Anonymous said…
The key in any organisation isn't the laws of the of the organisation but how the CEO and /board interprets those laws and which laws are they are willing to risk not following. Just look at the major Finanicial institution around the world to so see how this works i.e JP Morgan. TLTB is no different

Any government organisation usually follows the lead of the government in power and especially now where the CEO of an organisation can get sacked without proper redress in the courts. NLTB was different because its board had a significant number of its members from the GCC which was independent from Government. This has now changed where board members are really up to Banimarama. That;s why the empathis has now changed from looking after landowners to National interest which means that tenants have more say in the decision making process because in the end its not laws that make decisions its people who follow what their management says or they have to find a new job.

To me laws have never been the main issue, the main issue has always been having Board Members and Management that represent the interest of Landowners. Actions speak louder then words and it will be interesting which party landowners will vote for, I am guessing it wont be FijiFirst
Crosbie Walsh said…
Everywhere in the world private property can be taken for public purposes, usually after consultation and compensation. The Nausori airport extension is a case in point. It will never be returned to its present owners so long as the land is being used for an airport. The same is true of Nadi Airport and, for that matter, Queens Road and all the other roads in the country. Your point about under utilized land is valid, there are always avaricious people, but the definition has always been with government and other than the"extinct mataqali" cases, I cannot think of a time when any government has taken private land without due cause.
Joe said…
If the morons cant correctly interpret the simple English word "FIJIAN", what else is expected of them ??????? Why is this Marama claiming Captain Cook's "FIJI" for the iTaukei? Why cant she advocate for "VITI" ? and do it in style to show the whole world how bloody stupid you are.
Anonymous said…
Wondering who them is. Majority of Australians/New Zealanders that I speak to think that Fijians are the ones that are indigenous to Fiji usually the ones with curly hair.

We have a policy at home that if you start slandering the messenger instead of attacking the message then you automatically lose the argument. .
Joe said…
Not true, I speak to a lot of people around the globe. A Fijian is a citizen of Fiji, end of story. "them" is clearly those who have a problem with the common name "Fijian", especially Sodelpa.
Anonymous said…
Ok we have different experiences as I live in Australia and majority of people here's main understanding of Fiji is their holidays in Fiji. So in their time in Fiji there go use to the name Fijian referring to the people who are indigenous to Fiji. This perception wont change until they have another holiday in Fiji and the term Fijian is being used for other races in Fiji.

Defining what a word mean doesn't mean that's what people believe the word means as we all have different understandings based on our experiences. I agree going forward that word Fijian if used differently in Fiji will change people perceptions going forward but thinking that its only Sodelpa people that think that word Fijian refers to Indigenous people of Fiji is an over exaggeration

Anonymous said…
My poorly made point was - if the government appropriates land for the use of a government entity and later privatises that entity then the assets, including land, will belong to the new shareholders.

Those shareholders are then at liberty to dispose of the assets as they see fit, or to use them as collateral for loans. In the event of default the lender would become the asset owner. Either way, the indigenous owners would not, as of right, be entitled to repurchase as they are presently given the opportunity to when alienated native land comes up for sale.
Joe said…
Australians dont even refer to fellow Australians as Greek, Italian, British, Irish, etc, why would they differentiate Fijians? It is Teimumu who is playing the race card. Well, she is not playing it hard enough to have any effect. Perhaps she should further categorise Fijians by referring to them as:

1) Fijians of cannibalism origin
2) Fijians of indentured labour origin
3) Bastardised Fijians, ie Lauans and micky mouse, etc, etc
Anonymous said…
Okay I must have been dreaming when in conversations with Australians they differentiate between Fijians and Indians in the conversations about their experience with Fiji.

Arguing over semantics anyway the elections will decide what the term Fijians will refer to in Fiji and that that is good thing about democracies. We can define new laws and call us whatever we want if the majority agrees. My understanding of definition of Fijian was people registered in the VKB.

So if SODELPA and Fiji Labour Party get the majority of vote and revert back what the term Fijian meant a few years ago will you accept it?
Anonymous said…
The race card is played in politics throughout the world why is Fiji any different its all about identity and who people identify with. That is the reason I believe that the majority of Fijians and Hindu Indians will not vote for Fiji First is that they don't identify with someone who does not have same religion, language and culture.

Look at American politics more then 90% of African americans vote democrat and more then 70% Latinos excluding the Cubans vote democrat.

Its natural for people to look to leaders that look, talk and act like you its part our DNA that has come from natural selection. So really to think that using the term race card in politics as a derogatory term is archaic and does not match the reality on the ground in a lot of countries democratic elections.

The people that seem to have the biggest issue with race politics are the people that are not sure of their own identity or need to argue this point to get more votes for their side.

I see what Sodelpa is trying to argue for is the protection of the identity of indigenous Fijians. We will see based on the elections if their message has found a base
Anonymous said…
How come these so called champion of protecting I'Taukei rights, only bring the issue of IDENTITY and LAND ISSUE during election time and then never talk about it when they are even in Parliament?
Joe said…
You are absolutely right in what you are saying, like qarase, scare people about land issues and when in power, steal from them. The good news is that all that has changed now as more and more educated young men and women are coming out of schools and universities.

Responsible and sensible world leaders like Frank Bainimarama and Narendra Modi have changed the whole ball game for the better. Indians have made a strong statement to the Gandhis of India in the April/May general election, and Fijians will do likewise on 17th Sept.
Baleta said…
I also agree in my experience SVT, VLV and SDL talked a lot about Identity and Land Issues but once elected took their time implementing stuff relating to what they campaigned on. I thought they kept issues alive for the next election.

Classic case of using wedge issues to get elected and but not addressing them when Parliament (Good examples overseas are abortion and gay marriage)

That is why to me its important for TLTB to be represented by landowners so that they can argue landowners case instead of the governments.

I have known Niko for over 20 years and he as been arguing Identify and Land Issues throughout that time and would rather him fight for rights in terms of identity but mainly land issues.

I don't trust Biman Prasad and not sure if he is the best person to represent Indian's issues that's why I think Indians will vote for is Fiji Labour Party as its not logical for me for Indians to vote on mass a leader that does not speak their language or practice their traditions.
Joe said…
Indos will not vote for NFP(Not For Parliament) ever again, and FLP is in the same boat as NFP now as far as Indos are concerned. More than 90% Indo votes will go to Fiji First. At this stage I predict a landslide victory for FFP. Sodelpa and PDP will get a few seats, but not enough to be a threat to FFP. NFP as usual will be decimated and so will FLP. In the past I correctly predicted the abrogation of the 1997 constitution 18 months before it actually happened. I hope I am right again.
Anonymous said…
Somehow, people so much faith in one person having a say in a very important issue , Land. The PM?? What SODELPA is saying, bring back GCC, y? It is a fair representation of the indigenous people of Fiji, not one person deciding who gets to sit in NLTB, FAB etc etc. Might as well build a shrine for him and make him God. You downplay the importance of the 17 decrees, well, if seethe view point from the other side, ie. educated indigenous people, then you will see that this is viewed as a threat, I mean 17 decrees, all for one purpose? As for land use, once lease expires, the land does not automatically go back to onwners, they will have to buy it ( market value) of from the very people they leased it to. With all this knowledge, why do you think we are insecure. The land bank. Case in point, bauxite mining in Bua. They had one payment only, now all landowners are back to cutiing sugarcane for a living, while the chinese company makes millions out bua. And when the final product is out, guess what, MADE IN CHINA!! So B and K decided to get paid by Aunty because they wanted to bypass the cooruption of the Qarase system, ( face palm)?? What an absurd , and might I say, utterly stupid reasoning. SODELPA is trying to safe indigenous customary rights and laws ( don't agree with me, then you also disagreeing with UN declaration of indigenous rights) while at the same time ensure that people of all races live in peace and prosperity. Now tell me what is racists about that.
Anonymous said…
On Another note, why are there always reference to NZ and Australia, both these countries have demonstrated what the indigenous people are always afraid. The Maoris have benn relegated to back seat, almost an insignificant part of society, and the Abos, relegated to the desert, deemed not fit to part of the white men society ( and these coming from descendants of ex-convicts- How ironic). We will reclaim, and all races of this nation will share in this glory.
KAVURU POWER said…
Butt off the Land leave it alone with the Fijians people
KAVURU POWER said…
Try getting a piece of land in Australia and New Zealand see how far you go to own one. Don't you dare say manipulate itaukei emotions, our land, culture and indigenous right is our religion.
Jim Anthony said…
May the lord Jesus help us all.
Fijians, Indo Fijians, kai Viti, Vitians, Taukei, non taukei, ... and on and on and on. Endles nonsense, "Tui" Johnson, long time racist, now safely dead had it right: Kittens born in a banana box are not bananas. Therefore, Indian born in Fiji cannot possibly be Fijians." QED. End of story.
Anonymous said…
Sory Jim the word Fiji was coined by the white fallow because he cound'nt correctly pronounce the word "Fisi" which was the word used by Tongans to call the people of Viti. If you travel up to the hinterlands they always call themselves iTaukei still differentiating themselves from the word Fijian.
Anonymous said…
The raping began with Rabuka & continued with Qarase! Thats why his boy Baakani is now "butu da" even conned some of his EX-QVS mates with regards to Fijian Holdings shares-Check out Manu Korovulavula speech in the Senate.
Anonymous said…
Kuruva its easy to buy land in Australia than Fiji -cause the iTaukei there hardly own anything or haven't you travelled the country.
Anonymous said…
Love the "So Help ME God Party" Must think we dopes this SODELPA its still (SDL) Soqosoqo dua vata ni Lawaki ca!
Anonymous said…
The only one that will change anything to do with iTaukei land is an iTaukei! Momi is a good example. I can't think of any other group or Community in Fiji that is willing to do that simply because it will cause massive problems for the nation! Everyone who lives in Fiji knows that the problem we have is land is used as political football especially by the iTaukei in the past to bring forth the emotional and irrational discussion leading to fear which has always ended in threats & violence. The iTaukei have now woken up to the fact that the land is their resource for their wealth & wellbeing not something left out there in the sun & rain to be claimed but never used. Its the reason why the iTaukei has always said- these people have come and prospered and we still live without anything, yet the other races have prospered from their small pice of land (leased) & struggled to be successful. Cut a long story short no one will steal the iTaukei land, no one is "game" enough only a iTAUKEI!
tuisese said…
Kavuru Power you dont need to go to australia to know about land issue just use the internet ulu kau! I love the So Help Me God Party- Qarase used the land to put fear into the Fijians and while the Fijinas were busy blaming the Indo-Fijians he and his crew were ripping off the Kai Viti
Tuisese said…
Anonymous tell me when there were check & balances? Even those who represented the Council of Thieves & the Council which was required to have Chiefs had kaisis in it eg Rabuka! Tell me something i don't know! Just as the Council of Thieves got changed so has time moved on and things changed, just as we had a coup to make sure the iTaukei lost "nothing" (Rabuka)not that we had anything to loss but the ELECTIONs! What bad looses! We now have Frank! No one can steal the iTaukei land but the iTaukei themselves eg Qarase & Momi! The Chiefs sold Islands for rum & "coke" eg Avea, Katafaga,Munia, Mago, Naitauba etc etc need i go on. In Vatukoula they removed a whole Mataqali to Kadavu and took over their land to become what was known as the "The Emperor Gpld Mine! Land ownership is not challenged its land usage- the iTaukei now have the means to make money from their paragrass overgrown land instead of complaining their don't have any money! The sunday lesoni in Church should be "by the sweat of your brow" instead of the 30 years lease which the old kai Idia is working with his bullocks! Well and good going to Theology class but one of the subjects should be vucesa (laziness)-as Tukai use to say No medicine for laziness! Frank has cut the rhetoric blull-shit used over the years to control the iTaukei- who have now seen the "coming of the light" instead of the tabucagi(kerosene) lantern we were guided by!
Tuisese said…
Not your land its Gods!
Tuisese said…
Anonymous thought Bainimarama was an iTaukei? Payback is normal thats why we go to church to make of fool of God every Sunday- after Church we start our plans for payback! Good job. No wonder we still standing in DA!
Tuisese said…
What a dumb question! Rabuka!
Tuisese said…
Joe when you refer to Bastardised Fijians ie Launs- shows how much you know of Fijian history! There are bastards every where in every society from DAY 1! Unless you know something we don't! But then always takes 1 bastard to know another!
Tuisese said…
I am asking for a lot here but when we can see past our "identities' as kai dia, kai viti , kai loma etc then we can begin this journey and in my thinking that is what Frank is attempting! Someone has to start the ball rolling we are not the first country to attempt this but we can try why because all we have is our faith and belief that it can be done! It took a person like Gandhi to get the British kicked out of India! 1 Person! What do we need to do to kick out of our present beliefs systems the things that binds us to a thinking that has never ever resolved issues we are all staring at in the face -at human kind- race, land, religion! Our soldiers travel over the whole world to keep peace? At Home? iTaukei, Fijians etc etc all just words but they can be deadly.
Tusese said…
Anonymous its simple the GCC was the personal bank account for the Chiefs. The Commoners had no say in what the Chiefs wanted to do or say. The Chiefs decided what was good for everyone! Money was divided according to rank! Did you ever know a CEO "earning" less than a toilet cleaner! Not according to my job description? So Ratu got drunk most days of the week when the GCC was sitting in Suva & eating curry & roti at Suva Lodge in Cumming Street on stainless steel plates with cold water-most of the time he left 1 penny as a tip but the Guji guy always gave it back to him with a bit of bullshit haggling form both of them. Now here is the important part- Frank realises that worst enemy of the kai Viti is the kai Viti! His mind only he knows - most of the time he doesn't even know- even God gets confused about the Kai Viti mind! Here is what routinely happened in the past during the kanatamata days(1 course meal-free) We go to Ratu (High Chief) and apologise to him at Valelevu (Big House-high set roof-few fallows holding up the posts ie all underground). Whilst we doing this matanigasau business (we will call it-baby bamboo) like we taking it to make ourselves look like weak & small our other clan members from sonalevu(ie Spy 13) are also dishing out tabua's out side the Chiefs House at Valelevu to willing participants ( ratu Lawaki ca-notice small r) looking for someone who is ulukau (loose screw) enough to wack Ratu on the soft side of his skull when he emergers from the house! That scenario hasn't changed much. If the plan fails we all in for what Tukai use to say 'dua na binibini da levu"(involuntary movement of stool without a medical cause) from the stool softners (war club). So the new lesson Franks driving the bus we all pushing the bus for a ride, once it starts we need to jump on but you decide you want to keep pushing or maybe sit in the bus before it started moving.

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