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Fiji Time: 8:02 PM on Friday 18 April

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Land decree amendment

Nanise Loanakadavu
Monday, February 18, 2013

ITAUKEI land will now be prohibited to be converted into freehold land.

This is after a government decision to amend the State Lands Act, which was approved by Cabinet and now has been gazetted.

At a press conference yesterday, the Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the move by government was merely to protect the rights of the iTaukei.

"The Bainimarama government's policy is the absolute protection of the rights of the iTaukei not to have their land permanently alienated from them," he said.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the government had strengthened the protection of iTaukei land by closing a loophole that allowed some of it to be converted into freehold land. He also confirmed that the government was carrying out investigations on some allegations relating to this issue.

He said before the Prime Minister left for France, he had proposed an amendment to the State Lands Act to end this practice.

"This previous practice was not transparent and had been used by previous governments to profit at the expense of the iTaukei landowners," he said.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said that despite having provisions in previous Constitutions that entrenched iTaukei land laws, this practice was still allowed to happen.

"This demonstrates that having entrenched provisions did not safeguard iTaukei land ownership."

"The law must always be practical and effective in ensuring the protection rights - including property rights."

"The new Decree ends this unfair practice once and for all.

"Under this Decree, any iTaukei land which is exchanged for portions of State land can no longer be exchanged for private freehold land."

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said 90 per cent of land in Fiji belonged to the iTaukei and the government was committed to end past practices that denied iTaukei landowners clear and transparent process.