Qoliqoli and Lands Tribunal bills – racist or not?

Akuila Yabaki’s labeling SDL’s policy of returning the Qoliqoli back to the traditional owners and Lands Tribunal, as racist needs to be properly scrutinized and tested.

 

Yabaki relies on the United Nations Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination recommendation that indigenous rights declaration should not harm the enjoyment of human rights of other ethnic groups.

 

Qarase has said that should the SDL return to power, it will consider reintroducing the Qoliqoli and Land Tribunal Bills.

 

It is these Bills, which Yabaki, Bainimarama, Shaista and others have labeled as ‘racist.’

 

The UN Committee of Elimination of Racial Discrimination does not condemn declaration of indigenous rights per say, but only recommends against those declarations, which harms the enjoyment of human rights of others.

 

What harming of enjoyment of human rights of non-indigenous will the Qoliqoli & Lands Tribunal Bills affect?

 

Reading the Hansard Transcripts of then Fijian Affairs Minister, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu on 09/08/06 when tabling the Qoliqoli Bill, he clearly outlines the history and purpose of the Bill. (I thoroughly recommend all to read.)

 

He exposes the lies being spread by the Hoteliers in their quest to defeat the Bill, as they claim it will affect their unlimited use of the foreshores around their project sites.

 

Ratu Naiqama challenged what right did the hoteliers claim in having unlimited use of the foreshores around their projects at the exclusion of all others?

 

As the law of Fiji stands, indigenous Fijians only have customary rights over their Qoliqoli’s and the Bill was to confer proprietary over their Qoliqoli’s as well.

 

Yabaki claims that indigenous rights are already entrenched in the Constitution, so no further rights should be imposed, which is nonsensical.

 

Having entrenched rights in the Constitution should not bar further protection of fundamental right, when brought to light, such as proprietary rights over the Qoliqoli’s, as natural justice and convention dictates it should be protected as well.

 

The enactment of the Qoliqoli and Lands Tribunal Bill is consistent with the recommendation of the UN Committee of Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

 

Yabaki and several NGO’s in their Submission to the Committee dated August 2007 in its Executive Summary erroneously states:

 

‘Additionally the State party (Qarase led Government) was embarking on new land bills that would have had a devastating effect on Indo-Fijians and other ethnic minority in Fiji, such as descendants of Solomon Islanders, Rabi, Kioa, Chinese, Europeans and Part Europeans and others. These were the so-called Qoliqoli and Indigenous Lands Tribunal bills. These bills would have placed greater restrictions on non-indigenous over the ownership and the usage of the lands and sea in Fiji…’

 

The Lands Claim Tribunal was set up to address and resolve long standing grievances of native owners through successive governments. (I thoroughly recommend all to read.)

 

This concept according to Qoriniyasi Bale is nothing novel since it was modeled after the Waitagi Tribunal from New Zealand, established under the New Zealand Waitagi Treaty Act.

 

Qoriniyasi Bale said this initiative is also found in Australian and Canadian legislation.

 

He further stated that the bill will not disturb the indefeasible title of the current proprietor and if there is no other remedy, then compensation may be applicable to address the grievances of the native owners by the party at fault.

 

So what ‘greater restrictions’ or ‘great devastating effect’ does Yabaki and his cronies rely upon to substantiate their  ‘racist’ claim?

 

The only difference now with respect to the Qoliqoli bill is that the Qoliqoli owners will directly benefit from what has always been theirs prior to the Cession and users will pay, which is normal business practice (user-par system).

 

With the Lands Tribunal bill, there is no difference, as current indefeasible titleholders remain intact, although if they wish to sell it voluntarily, then the native owners have first refusal.

 

The native owners if no other remedy is available, maybe entitled to compensation from the faulting party, in which most circumstances will be the Government.

 

So, after viewing these 2 bills, why are they labeled ‘racist’?

 

It seems to me that unscrupulous politicians using the race card heighten certain groups and ethnic communities fears, each time Fijian rights are espoused; because they maliciously interpret they would be further marginalised.

 

However, when you consider the Qoliqoli & Lands Tribunal bills objectively, they are only conferring back to the native owners or recognizing what had always been theirs since time immemorial and not placing ‘greater restrictions’ of will have ‘greater devastating effects’ upon them.

 

It seems quite obvious to me that Yabaki and his supporters are guilty of scare mongering and inadvertently further widening the racial divide.

 

 

Tui Savu.

Lawyer.

Townsville. QLD.

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22 Responses to “Qoliqoli and Lands Tribunal bills – racist or not?”

  1. gryphon Says:

    It began on November 2, 2000. Frank Bainimarama was sitting in the Officers Mess having tea with his officers when a group of mutinous soldiers made an attempt to assassinate him in their effort to stop a case of treason against them. The Commander of the Fiji Military Forces had to flee his barracks through a maze of forests and finally found solace far away from the camp which had become a battleground and in the hands of Counter Revolutionary Warfare elitists – Fiji’s version of the US Marines.

    While the rest of the story played out on Fiji’s national television and the populace sat in shock and awe, sources close to the man who nearly lost his life say that he vowed to take revenge for the death of loyalist soldiers – killed in the massive gunfire which took place during which the camp was recaptured by the loyalists. Years later, Bainimarama is still haunted by the events of that day and has taken steps to bring those to justice and in the process, overthrown the government he had initially helped to form during the dark days of May 2000.

    So what drives someone on in the face of a collapsing nation, racial tensions and a steadily increasing inflation rate? Those who know and understand the current regime say the Bainimarama is driven by the foresight that allowing the previous government to return to power would mean the three controversial bills to be re-instated and the individuals who carried out the coup of 2000 be set free and their crimes pardoned by an ailing president. Even more close to him say that Bainimarama will not release his iron clad grip until he is in a position where he can ensure the next president is one who he can trust and one who will not have him charged for treason. Another possible reason for his reluctance to release power is the possibility of him being sacked from the military and disgraced as a soldier should the previous government return.

    With the prospect of elections taking place next year in doubt, the International Community waits with baited breath to see whether Bainimarama will allow the previous government ministers to participate when the election does eventually take place. What further compounds the situation is the initial announcement by Bainimarama that all current interim ministers will not be allowed to contest in the interest of fairness and accountability. To an observer, this raises serious questions about the future of the current ministers. There are a number of hardboiled ministers such as Chaudary who have lived their entire life in the spotlight and would find it immensely difficult living a life of a retired gentlemen. The lives of the remaining green politicians will forever be marked down in history. People such as the Attorney General, Aiyaz Saiyad Khaiyum still have a long way to go in their professional lives – will they be able to find jobs in private law firms when they finally leave their current positions? To simply take up positions, albeit constitutionally illegal, is a reckless move akin to what Carl Sagan did many a time during his colorful life.

    Granted that the current regime has time and time again stated publicly that the constitution is still intact, the question of the legitimacy of the previous (SDL) government now poses a major question in the coming days. The technicality of the matter is glaringly obvious: The purpose of a coup de etat is to remove a democratically elected government and replace it with another one, preferably the choice of the military as they are generally the ones who initiate such actions. The second step in any coup is the abrogation of the constitution in order to legitimize the action and the new government. The abrogation of a constitution is usually followed by a set of decrees which legalize the actions and ensure prosecution cannot be carried out against the actions of the perpetrators and the action itself.

    The Fiji Military has not abrogated the constitutionally abrogated the constitution and has in its stead, merely assumed powers and taken over the offices of the legally appointed ministers. In this case, taking into account the constitution is still not abrogated and decrees have not been made to give the actions any legitimacy, the logic which follows is this: The previous government is still in power and can exercise their powers over the state at any point should they wish to do so. The office of the Prime Minister is still legally entitled to Laisenia Qarase.

    The question that should really be asked at this stage is : Who do the people of Fiji look to?

  2. Mark Manning Says:

    Only in Fiji !

  3. Jese Waqalekaleka Says:

    @ gryphon,

    What relevance has your post go to do with the subject?

    Please post responsibly, as there are some of us who want to contribute constructively and if you continue with your flimsy ‘cut and paste’, then I ask the moderator to block it out in the future.

    Going back to the subject, Yabaki has certainly lost his way and his stance is becoming more and more embarrassing like Shaista of the FHRC.

    I find it amusing that at one time, they used to pontificate consistently against the Qarase regime with some moral authority, but now with an illegal government in place, they have sold their soul to the devil and no longer have an credibility.

    Sadly, they are the last to realise this fact!

  4. Sky Pilot Says:

    Excellent essay as usual from Tui Savu. At a time when most indigenous people world wide are striving to win back long lost rights, Fiji is now attempting to go the other way and give it all up?

    Kind of crazy and well said Tui…

  5. EnufDictatorship Says:

    I guess in order to have some context into this issue, a refresher course on how these concepts of race and racist are defined, are in order, as defined in various online dictionaries. Here they go:

    race (n) a human population considered distinct based on physical characteristics.

    It is important to note that race is predominantly a social construct – in other words, scientists have discovered that only 2 percent of our genes are ultimately responsible for the visible differences such as skin color.

    Despite the ongoing challenges with racial classification, race nonetheless continues to hold significant social implications across the globe.

    Noun 1. racist – a person with a prejudiced belief that one race is superior to others

    We are ALL different, whether we accept that or not. And to label these bills as racists, is inconceivable and irrational because, as the word is defined, these bills are for the preservation of the indigenous race of Fiji, that is, the Fijians. It is by NO MEANS saying that we are superior to the other races in Fiji.

    I guess, it is disconcerting for the VULAGIS what their label should be, as they are neither here nor there away from their HOMELAND. Although they may have been born here. I wonder how Fijians who are born in other countries feel? Guess, I will never know as I was born in Fiji as a Fijian, and even if I live somewhere else, I still see myself as a Fijian and that my rights and racial issues will be preserved for me back in my homeland.

    This I guess is where the differences lie between the BUTUKA TUs and the well..neither here nor there.

    And the only way one can accept their neither here nor there stance is to ACCEPT IT AND GO WITH THE FLOW. Cos all you\’re doing in bringing up these issues of RACE, will just make one and all, all huffed up for nothing.

    As stated in the definition above:

    \”Despite the ongoing challenges with racial classification, race nonetheless continues to hold significant social implications across the globe.\”

    And for Mr. Yabaki or Mr. Bainimarama or anyone else for that matter, to try and remodel or change or reinvent Fiji\’s racial issues, will just be an exercise in futility.

    These bills are for the further maintenance and preservation of the Fijian people, our culture, our resources, our traditions for our generations to come. It is by no means a way of oppressing the other races. Rather it is to secure the sharing of these resources, so the native owners get what they truthfully deserve in terms of compensation or payment, so they too can be prosperous, and at the same time allowing others to enjoy or benefit from them.

    At the end of the day, we DO NOT want BIG CONCRETE FENCES around properties that will disallow everyone the opportunity to enjoy what nature has to offer. I am talking here about those CONCRETE FENCES along the Coral coast that hinders one from appreciating the God-given blessed view, we would enjoy while driving frm the West to Suva. Now did Fijian landowners do that? I don\’t think so. It\’s the foreign investors who claim ownership over the view because they PAID MONEY for it, which in comparison to what the view and its benefits for others is in the long term, is MINUTE and INSIGNIFICANT.

    So, let\’s bring back the bills, and continue its democratic journey until it sees its end,i.e, whether it will be accepted or not. Not hijacking them halfway like a terrorist!!

  6. Linus Says:

    @EnufDictatorship. WRT your reflections on race issues and vulagi. I appreciate your points and offer the following reflection. I left Uk to work in the Islands; initially Tuvalu then later Fiji; in 1980. When I visited UK with my new Island wife in 82; imagine my surprise to be barred from a part of my home town where the Indian community had “Ghettoed”: barring all non-indians from the bars and restaurants in that area.

    So yes, I do appreciate your points!!

  7. Tracker Says:

    Right on the mark Tui. Great article. Indigenous Rights is a gold mine, if you have the right people to provide the right arguments and allow for more debates. Not those who shoot it down before you even start the discourse.

  8. FijiGirl Says:

    Vinaka Tui, tale ga.

    Yabaki’s knee-jerk response is typical of someone acting in ignorance. He is completely unwilling to review the finer detail of either Bill, and in this frame of miind is therefore unqualified to discuss it.

    His repeated labelling of the Bills as ‘racist’ shows a) he doesn’t know what REAL racism is, b) he continues to deliberately confuse ‘racism’ with indigenous self-determination, c) he is Chodo’s puppy, and d) he is operating with a hidden agenda.

    Scare-mongering? He’s definitely trying to.

    God bless Fiji

  9. natewaprince Says:

    I think it’s time overseas donors stopped funding both the FHRC and Yabaki’s CCF.

  10. Keep The Faith Says:

    I think they’ve done that already NP 😉

  11. Shri Baladeva-Balarama-Vasudeva-Subhadra-Nanda Baba Says:

    racist!

  12. Adi Kaila Says:

    How can land and seas in and around Fiji which belong to the Fijians that the Fijians want to take full ownership of be regarded as racist?

    Is it ‘racist’ when the Indonesians, New Zealanders, Australians, or Norwegians for example – claim the same?

    We Fijians have to take ownership of what is RIGHTFULLY OURS and protect it. We know what belongs to us – why shouldn’t we keep it?

    We have to ensure all the lands belonging to the right Mataqalis or individuals are given back to them if it has been usurped by others. We all know that some have been hoodwinked by some self serving Chiefs or vocal bullies but that can all be rectified.

    If you know of a family or anyone who has been unjustly ‘turfed’ off their land – let us know so we can expose the wrongs here.

    QOLIQOLI – BRING IT ON!

  13. Jose Says:

    Shri Baladeva-Balarama-Vasudeva-Subhadra-Nanda Baba Says: Racist

    Yes, I am racist. Racist for the ownership of my country. My right as an Indigenous and a Native. Aliens are welcome to leave in peace among Natives in my country but they will have no take in our government. I will do the same when I am an alien in their country. If they are not happy with that, they are free to move on. Yes, indeed I am racist and proud

  14. natewaprince Says:

    Dina sara ga Jose.These kulinas’ bring out the nationalist streak in us Taukeis’.This streak lies just under the surface and is becoming more evident as these aliens try to usurp what is our God given right.

    Ke ra nanuma ni sa yali na Taukei Nationalist Movement,ia me ra kila ni sa bula vinaka sara tu ga nikua.It lives within us all.

  15. aubatinuku-N Says:

    I would rather be called “RACIST” because I fight alongside my brothers and sisters for my racial and ancestral identity than a “PARAMAECIUM” which is what the likes of AKUILA KHAIYUM, VOREQE CHAUDHARY, PETERO BAINIMARAMA and MAHENDRA MATACA are suggesting.

    Screw the Sai Baba diaspora thesis right now, we fight against displacement and annihillation of our IDENTITY as a unique species of the HUMAN RACE which GOD himself created and assigned as he did our piece of TERRA FIRMA on this planet. If anyone has a problem with that they can BLOODY WELL go and howl at the moon!

    FACT – There is a RACE of PEOPLE on this planet called FIJIANS AND they refuse to be absorbed into NOTHINGNESS!!

  16. Mark Manning Says:

    Tui
    please tell us , if the Commander abrogates the Constitution and is thereby successful in replacing the Government , can he and others still be tried for treason , murder etc. ?

  17. Budhau Says:

    Manning – they can prosecute FB for treson at anytime he is either overthrown or replaced – UNLESS he gets a Rabuka like deal – then he is free and clear.

    ..as for murder and other “non-political” – he might have a harder time getting an amnesty.

    Tui Savu’s remark,”…..does not condemn declaration of indigenous rights per say,”

    Hey Savu, if you really want us to believe that you are a lawyer – stop going make mistakes or typos with stuff like “per say”

    Enuf – those definitions of racist and all that – very good – you must be really good at googling.

    Aubatinuku-N – yeah – it is always OK to be a racist when it suits your cause – now it is just that I cannot make a racist remark in here. BTW – the cause that you are talking about – I guess doing a coup would be OK also for the same case – just we did the last few coups – sort of like the end justifies the means.

    The other day I heard my cousin sing his little baby to sleep with that Woody Guthrie song “this land is your land, this land is my land”…… I thought that was real funny.

  18. aubatinuku-N Says:

    People who have an obsessive paranoia with the word “racist” are the ones who refuse to acknowledge their origins and are severely “DISENFRANCHISED”!

  19. Jose Says:

    No it wasn’t funny Bhudau, it was the truth you needed to hear.
    “OUT OF THE MOUTH OF BABES………………”

    FIJI is MY LAND. INDIA is YOUR LAND. There is nothing funny about that truth be told.

  20. EnufDictatorship Says:

    Since we are on the issue of race and racial issues, here is another example from France. Take note you VISITORS to our homeland, not only Fijians want to preserve our culture and secular values, EVERY other citizen of their own God-given country wants to do so too. It may look racist to diaspora descendants but to those that own the land, it is just preservation and maintenance. Nothing Bhainimarama or his goons know anything about.

    Bride\’s virginity a white lie
    Elaine Ganley | June 5, 2008 – 3:37PM

    PARIS – The bride said she was a virgin. When her new husband discovered that was a lie, he went to court to annul the marriage – and a French judge agreed.

    The ruling ending the Muslim couple\’s union has stunned France and raised concerns the country\’s much-cherished secular values are losing ground to cultural traditions from its fast-growing immigrant communities.

  21. Jose Says:

    @NP, Nationalism is in everyone. Try doing it to the French and the Italians.There will be hell to pay. These are volatile people.

    Bhudau, you ignorant poor bugger,Mark was asking Tui, you idiot. Is your name Tui, you idiot.Take your bush lawyer advice and shove it in your $18 wheelbarrow and push off, you idiot.

  22. LUVfiji Says:

    Happy Sunday.. @ Jose!

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