Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Qoliqoli Bill

Letter to Fiji Daily Post 5-Jun-2007


With the recent resurrection of land tenure in Fiji, I would like to bring up again the topic, what is unlawful or immoral about the Qoliqoli Bill that had hoteliers up in arms claiming it would ruin their businesses and the military rejecting it on the basis that it was racially divisive.

Whilst it is not disputed the bill still needed further refining after going to the committee, the hoteliers claim about the ruining of their businesses was nothing but a smear campaign.

As for the military’s stance that it had to be shelved because it was racially decisive lacks merit and wholly unsubstantiated.

Ever since 1970, respective Governments have implemented policy or law that specifically benefited a particular racial group and mainly Fijians on the grounds of positive discrimination or paramount interests.

These laws or policy were never rejected by the people, although they may not have approved of it, but it was accepted that it was the prerogative of the government of the day.

For instance, to mention only a few the Alliance supported the FAB which had scholarships exclusively for indigenous Fijians, so they can get better educated and compete in the workplace.

The SVT government funded the Fijian Holdings with $21m and this was specifically set up to assist indigenous Fijian businesses.

The Chaudhry Labour government created a resettlement policy for cane farmers whose ALTA leases were not renewed to be resettled in the Navua plains and these benefited mainly Indian farmers. Then the SDL introduced the Qoliqoli Bill to return to the indigenous Fijians what has always been theirs since time immemorial, which they gave away ownership and control of their lands and qoliqoli to Her Majesty in the Deed of Cession in 1874.

The lands belonging to the indigenous Fijians have been returned and is now administrated by the NLTB, however the qoliqoli have remained with the State.

When you consider the few examples I have mentioned above, it seems to be conveniently ignored by the critics of the bill, that in all cases, they were new rights which never existed before, which were conferred to the targeted group.

However, with the qoliqoli bill, it is totally different because it is an existing legal, traditional, cultural and moral right, which is being given recognition by the government of the day as it seeks to complete what needed to have been done back in 1970.

UN protocols recognises indigenous rights and the qoliqoli bill was the legal way of returning to indigenous Fijian what is rightfully theirs. The critics have succeeded in delaying the implementing of the qoliqoli bill, but it will one day be passed by Parliament.

The military has been used as a scapegoat again during this coup and the big players behind them have a totally different agenda for Fiji which is not in the best interest of the indigenous Fijians.

Before you respond to my letter, let me ask you this:

Who is guilty of discrimination and in contravention of international protocols? The SDL Government in endeavoring to return to indigenous Fijians their qoliqoli through the qoliqoli bill or the objectors who seek to permanently deprive the indigenous Fijians from reclaiming what has always been rightfully theirs since time immemorial?
So I ask again, what is unlawful or immoral about the qoliqoli bill?

Tui Savu,

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