Nawaikula refutes PM’s land claim

OPPOSITION parliamentarian Niko Nawaikula says protection of iTaukei land is not guaranteed under the Constitution despite Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s assurances.

Mr Nawaikula said this in response to comments made by the Prime Minister on the politicisation of iTaukei land ownership when he mentioned that the Opposition was going through “the same tired charade of spreading fear and spinning lies”.

While speaking to landowners in Sigatoka and Lautoka two weeks ago, Mr Bainimarama claimed iTaukei rights had never been strongly protected by any other administration.

“We don’t make the distinction between chief and commoner. All iTaukei people are entitled to the rights my Government has always fought to uphold for all Fijians,” he had said.

“We didn’t only want to protect the ownership of iTaukei land and the rights of the iTaukei, we wanted to do one better by providing a solid foundation for growth that would empower iTaukei people and that is what this project is all about.”

However, Mr Nawaikula claimed it was the Government that was spinning lies and deceiving the indigenous Fijians of their land rights.

“If Section 28 of the Constitution guarantees ownership, something we all accept, then how is it that the Government can direct ITLTB to issue 99-year agricultural leases and without the consent of native landowners or their representatives,” he said in a statement.

“How is it that the PM, who is not a representative of native owners, is sitting as chairman of the iTaukei Lands Trust Board to oversee the control and management of their native land?

“How is it that the PM and his iTLTB Board can decide every policy, program and dealings over native land.

“And why is it that Section 28 doesn’t stop all that if as the section says their ownership is guaranteed. It is a blatant lie therefore to be preaching that Section 28 protects ownership and guarantees because Section 28 does not give them full land right.

“It is a breach of their indigenous human rights to deny native Fijians the right to manage and control their native land and all natural resources as the FijiFirst Government is doing, taking over iTLTB.

“That’s exactly why despite native Fijians owning their land, despite Section 28 guaranteeing ownership, the Government has now decided to issue 99-year leases to replace 30 years and pass a regulation to deny chiefly shares of income.

“The problem of native land rights in Fiji will not go away unless and until native owners own, control and manage their native land and are allowed to negotiate with Government and the other communities, on their needs and interest, in an inclusive manner as equal partners at the negotiating table,” said Mr Nawaikula.

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