www.fijilive.com - November 10, 2009|
Discontent over compensation for the use of traditional fishing grounds has prompted the review of Government’s existing policy.
The Qoliqoli Compensation Policy was established by Government in 1974 as a result of the increasing interest in foreshore development in the 1970’s.
However, that has been deemed outdated and does not address current issues, according to Minister for Indigenous Affairs Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.
He said some qoliqoli rights owners have been disgruntled about the use of their fishing grounds without fair compensation.
“Likewise, investors are showing their frustrations in the delay in processing of applications for foreshore development and continual interference from qoliqoli rights owners once formal approval had been obtained from relevant authorities.”
Bainimarama said the emerging issues include “the misinterpretation of the customary fishing rights; the absence of marine resource inventory to determine value of compensation; rights of compensation; restriction of compensation to foreshore development; lack of consultations between chiefs and members of the yavusa; processing of fishing licenses and foreshore applications; and environmental issues”.
Since ceding the country to Great Britain in 1874, Fijian chiefs have continually raised their concerns with the British Government about the ownerships of reefs and foreshores.
In 2006, the Qarase Government introduced the controversial Qoliqoli Bill, which proposed the transfer of proprietary rights of qoliqoli areas (beach, lagoon and reef) from the State to the qoliqoli owners.
This meant that others such as hotel owners will be required to make payments to the ethnic Fijians holding the rights.
The Bill was strongly opposed by the military and labelled by certain civil society organisations to be biased towards the Fijian elite who were effectively the qoliqoli owners.
The Bill and other so-called pro-indigenous policies of the Qarase Government were vehemently rejected by the military leading up to the coup of December, 2006.