Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fijian Landowners Not Obliged to the State but to Members

The story below is another healthy illustration that native Fijians are not obliged to the State and they are asserting their rights to ensure their self sufficiency. I have often written about this continuing trend as a reflection of Fijians recasting their relationship with the State. This is as a result of the ongoing assault by the State and its organs on Fijian institutions, practices and governance structures that have been part of the State since the 1874 Cession and Independence in 1970. For me it is a sign of maturity on Fijians and it is to be welcomed. I note my Turaga Bale Tui Cakau, in last week's Cakaudrove Provincial Council meeting, called on the province not to be dependent on government for its development. Yes, work with the State in true partnership but never again in a subservient relationship where we are held hostage to those in power, especially those that don't have the mandate to rule over us.

The decision by Savusavu landowners to consider first their livelihood over the use of a key resource for them is only to be expected for a growing township in the north. As they reminded, they are not doing this to stop development but to ensure members can use the land for their livelihood. Fijians with land close to urban centres and those with minerals should expect ongoing approach by developers and the State for the use of their land. It is therefore critical landowners have the capability to negotiate a good deal for the use of their natural resources. The ability of landowners to properly value, assess and decide on the worth of making their resources available to the State or developers will require careful attention and support. This task just cannot be left to the State. After all, as Turaga Bale Tui Cakau correctly stated at the Cakaudrove council meeting, government also have others to consider.

This is an area where the State could pitch in to develop landowners' capability and to empower them. I have also suggested that each province could partner with a Maori tribe in New Zealand based on similar asset base to gain insight, knowledge and develop capability on how Maori have recast their relationship with the State. Again the State could facilitate this through the NZAid programme to Fiji, something I have raised with authorities here on a number of occasions. Having worked with Maori over many years, I know Maori will be keen on it by virtue of the cultural ties and links with fellow indigenous peoples of the Pacific. On this note, Maori have developed this type of partnerships with indigenous peoples of Canada and America and no doubt will jump at the opportunity to engage with their Pacific cousins for development purposes.

Fijians must also be wary of the State's response when it does not get its way, especially under a regime that has no popular mandate. Under a fair and just legal environment, landowners can resort to the courts for redress. This week, the Maori Council began its case in the NZ High Court challenging the National government decision to sell state assets without first settling the question of Maori rights over those assets. At the moment, courts in Fiji just cannot be trusted. 

With its resources and power, the State could regard any non-cooperation by landowners as indication of dissent and deprive it of development opportunities. While this could be extreme behaviour under normal situations, it nevertheless can happen under dictatorships. Denial of opportunities have often been used by authoritarian regimes to punish opponents. The Bainimarama regime is an authoritarian one and its record of going after opponents is becoming legend.

Fiji Times News

Request denied

by Salaseini Vosamana
Tui Nasavusavu - Ratu Suliano Naulu

A LANDOWNING unit in Cakaudrove has rejected a Water Authority of Fiji's (WAF) request to lease a piece of land belonging to them for the construction of a sewerage plant.

Tui Nasavusavu and head of the mataqali Valelevu, Ratu Suliano Naulu confirmed that the request by WAF had been turned down.

He said the land belonging to the mataqali at Lesiaceva Point in Savusavu would now be reserved for the mataqali members.

Ratu Suliano said the decision by the mataqali did not mean they disagreed with having development in Savusavu. The only reason for not agreeing to the proposal, he said was because they wanted the mataqali members to make use of the land because of its small size.

Ratu Suliano said the piece of land wanted by WAF was not sufficient for such development as it was less than an acre and would be suitable for usage by members of the mataqali.

Ratu Suliano said his vanua of Nasavusavu would continue to support government and its initiatives of development in the area if other pieces of land belonging to the mataqali were available and identified for possible development. WAF chief executive officer Opetaia Ravai could not be reached for a comment.

Acting roko tui Cakaudrove Bulutani Matai confirmed that his team approached the mataqali on behalf of WAF. He said the mataqali stood firm on their decision not to lease the land to WAF.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Fijian Customs and Culture Ebook

 Fijian Customs and Culture – A Brief Guide and Handbook 

by Sai Lealea

Throughout this book the term Fijian refers to the indigenous people of Fiji.

For any one wishing to gain a general understanding of Fijian Culture and Customs, it can be a challenge finding useful information or guide as what to learn in order to be able to conduct oneself when amongst the people of Fiji.

As a Fijian, I know I have always been keen to have an accessible handbook from which I could quickly glean and learn the basics about my Fijian culture, especially those elements that form part of everyday life. 

In my work, I have often been approached to provide advice, deliver language lessons and presentation on Fijian culture or translate Fijian materials. I have been fortunate to have learned and lived my culture all these years and am now keen to share it with those wishing to gain some basic understanding.

That is the aim of this book:
  • to show you how to get started in developing a basic and general understanding of key aspects of Fijian culture and customs. It is not intended as a comprehensive guide but enough to be able to gain an appreciation of its importance and significance to Fijians.

In this book I have attempted to bring together and summarised materials that are contained in various publications into one to serve as a guide and handbook.

It is my hope that with the topics covered in this book, those of you interested in learning and understanding Fijian culture and customs will at least have access to material that would come in handy and useful. 

Topics covered include the following:
  • I Cavucavu ni Vosa Vakaviti - Pronunciation
  • Vula Vakaviti - Fijian Calendar
  • Wiliwili Vakaviti - Fijian Numbers
  • A I Cavuti – Chiefly Titles for Province and District
  • Na I Vosavosa Vakaviti – Fijian Idioms and Proverbs
  • Etiquette for Visiting a Fijian Village  
  • Useful Resources


Price: only $6.99 US

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Deceitful Land Developer Ignore Landowners Agreement

by Sai Lealea

"We refused to go ahead with the negotiation of the proposal after finding out the intention of Pacific Building Solutions to lease 36 acres instead of 3.5 acres which we had initially agreed to" 

The arrogance and naked deceit of the developer, Pacific Building Solutions, is there for all to see in its dealing with the landowners of Draunibota Bay in Lami. Having obtained the agreement of landowners to lease only 3.5 acres and for them to have gone about to publish its plans in newspapers for 36 acres of development is wholly deceitful and arrogant. Sadly, for landowners in Fiji, this attitude by developers will become increasingly common as the current regime seeks out investors to salvage Fiji's ailing economic situation. Developers are increasingly emboldened by the lax approach of the regime to ensuring proper process of consultation and scrutiny of development proposals. In such an environment, corners will be cut and landowners will be hoodwinked into dodgy deals such as intended for this one at Draunibota Bay.

The far more relevant question here though is:  

what indications or encouragement were given and by whom, to the developers, to proceed on the understanding they could lease 36 acres instead of 3.5 acres as initially agreed?

 If authorities were aware of the initial agreement, why did they allow the proposal to proceed to this stage? Given similar cases of rushed proposals concerning development of Fijian natural resources, the current regime must be orchestrating matters in favour of developers in its desperate quest to secure any kind of economic return. The regime has become blind and deaf to objectors as it bulldozes through its myopic development vision for the country. Some of those are beginning to fall apart as landowners begin to compare and encounter short term benefits with ongoing costs of developments.

It is therefore very heartening to see the determination and courage of the Fijian landowners in standing up for their rights, especially given the ever increasing number of attempts by developers, in collusion with the Bainimrama regime,  to trick them into parting with their birth rights. The landowners are to be congratulated and serves as a warning and notice to others of unscrupulous developers now present in Fiji.

Fiji Times News

Landowners reject Draunibota deal
Draunibota Bay in the distance - Bay of contention & Developer Deceit

LANDOWNERS of Navakavu have rejected the Pacific Building (Fiji) Solutions' proposal for the development of Draunibota Bay in Lami.

The secretary of the landowners' committee handling the proposal plans by PBS, Taniela Vueta Bani, confirmed they met last Friday.

The meeting was attended by Mr Bani, Navakavu chief Na Rokobaleni Joape Tukitoga, Navakavu development chairman Joape Tukitoga Caginidaveta, and representatives from the seven yavusa — Nasei, Nabaramai, Waitabua, Nakaubeqa, Natodre, Laselase and Natabuivalu — of Navakavu.

"We refused to go ahead with the negotiation of the proposal after finding out the intention of Pacific Building Solutions to lease 36 acres instead of 3.5 acres which we had initially agreed to," Mr Bani said.

He said the initial agreement was for 3.5 acres only. This was decided by elders who met the representatives of PBS to discuss its intention to lease the 3.5 acres of foreshore at Wailekutu earlier this year.

"Before they met for their first seating to finalise finer details of the lease, the landowners found out a notice of foreshore development had already been published in one of the dailies. It was the leasing of the 36-acre foreshore instead of the 3.5 acres that had already been agreed on," Mr Bani said.
PBS Managing Director, Michael Fairfax

Ministry for Lands foreshore officer Thomas Fesau said if the landowners had rejected the proposal from PBS, there was nothing the government could do. He said the final decision was with the landowners themselves and now they would wait for an official confirmation from them.

"I have written a letter on behalf of the Rokobaleni and heads of the eight mataqali and this has been delivered to the roko of Rewa Province. We are following this channel and they will deliver it to the Ministry of Environment," Mr Bani confirmed. She said once they got a confirmation from the landowners of their decision, they would then release a statement.

PBS had proposed to subdivide and develop 1.3935 hectares of freehold land at Lot 1, Waibola in Wailekutu, a residential zone, and further lease the foreshore State land that consists of more than 14 hectares of mangrove and shrub land in the Wailekutu flood plain, about 11km from Lami Town.

The proposal is to construct the PBS main headquarters and have access to the foreshore for the purpose of sea transportation using its own barge to load and offload containers and cargoes for heavy civil engineering works.

The development proposal, divided into three phases, proposed stage one to construct a jetty and wharf, a container yard, 10 lots for commercial complex, reclamation of the proposed 4.5 hectares of foreshore and tidal flat for construction of a maritime facility, deepening of immediate mud flat through dredging, sourcing landfill and marine slipway for boat repairs and maintenance.

PBS managing director Michael Fairfax was unavailable for a comment but his personal assistant Ana Coogan-Whippy confirmed they had yet to meet with the Navakavu landowners.

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