Fijians are rightly proud of their culture, where they come from and their connection to their land. The land gives them security for them and their future generations. It also allows them to live off the land as their forefathers did and to follow their customs and traditions.
British colonial rule imposed a unity on the Fijians that had never existed before. A unity based on a fear that if they were not united and did not stand together then they risked forfeiting all that they held most sacred: their lands, their culture and traditions, their language and their very soul.
Fiji’s first Governor, Sir Arthur Gordon, established the Fijian Administration. It was a separate system of indirect rule by the British through the Fijian chiefs over their Fijian subjects. Sir Gordon also wanted to preserve and protect Fijian society, as he saw it. He did not want to see the Fijians lose their lands like the NZ Maoris had. Therefore, Sir Gordon had no issues importing indentured labour from India to plant cane for sugar production in order to finance the running of colonial Fiji.
The first indentured labourers arrived in 1879. They brought with them their own language, customs, beliefs and way of life that were totally different to that of the Fijians. This difference still exists today.
The immigration of people into Fiji came with its good and bad. A prominent issue, however, has been the ability of immigrants to access and utilize more freehold or native lands. Prof Wadan Narsey refers to the Fijians as having a selfish share. But the land does belong to the indigenous Fijians. It’s theirs. Just like any property that is owned by an Indian or European. The owner decides if they want to sell it or not, and if they want to sell it, then at what price are they willing to let it go for. This is basic supply and demand.
The Fijians have a great commodity in land that others want so they should be allowed to deal with it as they see fit. If the nation needs the land for development then the Government should buy it or lease the land at a rate and terms that are fair to the landowners. Fair being the operative word that, at a minimum, is equivalent to what an Indian or European would sell or lease their same piece of land for.
In the case of the native lands, history suggests that those wanting the land want it for as cheap as possible and for as long as possible, while the landowners want as much as they can get for their land. This resulted in different rents being charged by landowners from across the country. So what? If you didn't like the price then all you needed to do was to move on to the next seller, or the next, until you reached a price and terms you were happy with. Right?..........Apparently not, as there were complaints about the different rents.
In 1933, Ratu Sukuna told the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC): "We regard the Indian desire for more permanent tenancy as a natural and legitimate consequence of an agricultural community settling in any country. But how was this desire to be reconciled with the need to protect the interests of present and future Fijian landowners?"
The indigenous Fijian landowners now had to consider providing land for the Indian community settling into Fiji. There is no argument against the fact that immigration did bring development and prosperity to Fiji. But why did the Fijians have to share their land or lease at a common rate? They didn’t need to.
But we cannot forget that these beautiful islands contained warring and contending people and chiefs before cession to Britain in 1874. The indentured labour system was required to provide finance for the British colonial rulers to run Fiji. This was the initial price of cession.
More and more indentured labourers chose to stay permanently in Fiji and their numbers grew. Fiji offered more opportunities for them and their families compared to returning to India. In addition, the Fijian population was declining due to measles and other epidemics imported to Fiji. This changed indigenous perceptions and the Fijian chiefs responded by becoming more hostile towards Indo-Fijian interests and concerns. Then when the Indo-Fijian population exceeded that of the Fijians in the mid-1930s, it further increased Fijian fears. But the Fijians still had control of their lands, unlike the NZ Maori and Australian Aborigines who had lost most of their lands to immigrants through land wars, trickery, theft and murder.
Native Land Trust Board
Ratu Sukuna’s answer was the complex land leasing organisation, the Native Land Trust Board (NLTB). It was set up after extensive visits with his team nationwide. The aim was to ensure that landowners benefited from leasing and retained land for their future needs. The NLTB would collect and distribute rent on behalf of the landowner. But the NLTB had its problems. Time has proved that it lacked the appropriate leadership, skills and competence.
A key issue was the idea of landowners surrendering forever the control of their land and entrusting its administration, in the national and the owners’ interest, to a central body (NLTB) – it took some explanation and understanding before being accepted.
Ratu Sukuna had visited every mataqali in Fiji to seek their acceptance. He visited village after village and attended districts and provincial councils explaining the details and purpose of the scheme. At the end of the day the landowners still had control of their lands – they had to be consulted and in agreement before the lease was issued.
The Bose Levu Vakaturaga (Great Council of Chiefs), after long discussions, accepted and approved the scheme.
In a speech during the Legislative Council debate on the Native Land Trust bill, Ratu Sukuna said that, when passed the legislation will be a monument of trust in British rule, of confidence in its honesty, and of hopes for the future – hopes that the seeds of disruption will disappear and the Europeans, Indians and Fijians will settle down to labour and if need be sacrificing, if need be, community interests for the benefit of the whole. But the Native Land Trust Act (NLTA) clearly indicates that all such land shall be administered by the Board for the benefit of the Fijian owners. Landowner’s interests are all that matter under the NLTA and landowners are consulted before any lease is given. This will not be the case under Bainimarama’s Land Use Decree.
How Bainimarama is using trickery and fraud to access native Lands
Under Bainimarama’s Land Use Decree, the Land is taken out of the hands of Parliament and the courts and handed straight to Bainimarama. None of the key rules governing rent and terms of leases are in the Decree. They are hidden in Regulations, which means the Minister (Bainimarama) can change them without approval by Parliament.
Bainimarama will decide the terms of the lease and the amount of rent to be paid. This also means that Bainimarama (a fourth form drop-out who didn't pass basic maths, committed treason and murder, is more corrupt than any previous leader in Fiji’s history, gives his relatives and friends top jobs and contracts they clearly wouldn't win in a free and open application, pays himself a salary higher than the President of America and higher than the salary of both the Australian and New Zealand Prime Minister combined, and is clearly running from the law to avoid prison) is now going to decide on the best deal for the landowners? Remember, Bainimarama has removed the Great Council of Chiefs and a potential key obstacle to his and Khaiyum’s land grab.
Fiji’s dictator, Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama and his partner Khaiyum (a thieving and megalomaniac opportunist), are both lying to the faces of the indigenous people in an attempt to trick them into putting their land into Bainimarama and Khaiyum’s land bank. But once the land is placed into the land bank then they have lost control of their land! And Khaiyum will have finally gotten access to and control of the native lands.
There will be nothing the landowner can say or do about it afterwards. The dictator will decide, with advise and help from his corrupt advisers and Khaiyum, what the term of the lease will be, whether it will be for 99 years or more or less, what the rent will be (whether free or for a thousands of dollars a month) and how much will be paid to the landowners.
You the landowner will not even know how much the land is being leased for. Bainimarama could lease 100 acres to Tappoos or YP Reddy for 99 years at $1 a year or even $10,000 a month, but you won’t know that. All you will receive is the amount that Bainimarama deems is good enough for you. This could include 15% more rent then what you received previously but it will be far less than what they actually receive in rent or bribes.
You the landowner will have no say about what you are paid and nor will you be able to do anything about it. In effect, you will have lost your land.
This is similar to owning a house but you have no say and control over it. It’s yours only in name. The rent and terms of lease is dictated by someone else, including how much they will pay you and if they will pay you at all. You won’t be able to go to court over and any issue you may have. This is exactly how Bainimarama and Khaiyum’s Land Use Decree can work. They will have total control.
Bainimarama’s trick is to visit the indigenous land owners in their communities and lie to their faces that his land bank is better for them because:
The lies told and the current premiums paid out to landowners easily sounds wonderful to landowners, given NLTB’s history of mismanagement, the very low rents received from leases, and how the rents were shared. But here lies the fraud, because the reality is the opposite. With the NLTA you still have a say and control over how your land is leased and how much it is to be leased for etc. But you will lose all control of your land under Bainimarama’s Land Bank – so be warned!
Bainimarama and Khaiyum are using lies and fear to promote and sell their Land Bank scheme to indigenous landowners. This is similar to how Adolf Hitler blamed Germany’s economic issues on the Jews and tricked the German people into following him, until it was too late.
The illegal Attorney General, Khaiyum, has also travelled throughout the country telling people that their draft Constitution provides better protection for native land than the 1997 Constitution. This is simply not true. The 1997 Constitution provides for the entrenchment of certain laws covering group rights. These laws include the Fijian Affairs Act, the Native Land Trust Act, the Agricultural Landlord and Tenant Act (ALTA), and the Rotuma Land Act. Amendments to these Acts require a majority vote in Parliament, particularly in the Senate. This provision makes it difficult to amend any of the entrenched legislation. Bainimarama’s constitution, on the other hand, removes the Senate, making it easy for him to amend any legislation without any consultation.
The key point here is that it is Khaiyum and his corrupt family and friends and opportunists who are pushing for access to the native Fijian lands. And this is how they intend to access native lands with Bainimarama as their key tool to achieving their goal. In return, Bainimarama receives financial bribes and payouts and he gets to stay out of prison – well, for now at least or until the Fijian people stand-up and say enough is enough and remove Bainimarama!
Bainimarama and Khaiyum are hoping that the indigenous landowners are ignorant enough so, coupled with their culture of generosity and respect, they will easily be mislead and accept the sweet sounds of receiving more money for their lands while still owning their lands. When in fact they will only own their lands in name only.
The indigenous Fijians follow their ancient customs and traditions based on respect that is shown to seniority, their Chiefs, heads of state and senior government officials etc. Many of them also trust that their leaders will make the right choice for them. This custom has been abused by some leaders, but not all. Now Bainimarama, who also has removed the Fijian’s Great Council of Chiefs, is using his illegal position as dictator and Prime Minister to exploit the indigenous customs in an attempt to trick them into believing that he is there to help them.
Bainimarama isn’t there to help indigenous Fijians. He is there to help himself by buying votes with Chinese loans to keep him out of prison, in power and continuing to rob Fijians of their wealth and resources. This is Bainimarama’s objective.
In a similar manner, Bainimarama has also used his illegal position as Commander RFMF to manipulate opportunistic and fickle minded senior ranking military officers into supporting his treasonous and seditious actions. Remember, senior and highly qualified military officers who stood their moral ground and refused to follow Banimarama’s orders to commit treason were all removed by Bainimarama. What remained floated to the top. Now the corrupt Brigadier Azizz, Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga (Fisher), Col Pio Tikoduadua, Natuva and other senior officers are leading the rest of the soldiers into supporting Bainimarama. Remember, that Bainimarama’s own appointed court ruled that the 2006 coup was illegal.
A small number of indigenous Fijians have also fallen for Bainimarama’s lies and turned against their people, chiefs and traditions. They have done this as a quick way to gain wealth or to gain some form of notoriety or stardom. They also promote Bainimarama’s lies through kakase as if they were facts and good for everyone.
The fact is that the landowners will not have any say on the terms of the lease and they and their children won’t be able to use their lands for over 99 years or more. Which, in effect means that they are the landowners only in name, and have lost their lands.
Most of the senior Fijian landowners today will be dead before the lease is even close to expiring. Their children, the next generation won’t even have access to the land. Nor will they be able to use it if they find a better use for their land. Given that a lot of young Fijians today are gaining a higher education and becoming more adept at commerce and production, there is a real possibility that they could indeed come up with a better alternative for their land held in the Bainimarama land bank. A bank that they cannot withdraw their land from. They will continue to receive whatever rent is offered to them, as is dictated by Bainimarama. This could be as little as a dollar an acre, per year, or some portion of the amount that was offered to entice corrupt businesses into investing in Fiji and supporting the illegal military junta.
This is not the future that Ratu Sukuna had envisaged for his beloved Fiji.
Let’s turn for moment to Matthew 4:8-11 - New International Version (NIV) - when Satan shows himself and attempts to trick Jesus into worshipping him, by promising Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.
8~ Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.
9 ~“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 ~Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”
11~ Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
This section of the bible offers the indigenous Fijians a way out from their oppression and misery. By uniting and standing together once again and sticking to the truth and the righteous path, and say NO to Bainimarama and his evil lies and temptations.
Stand united together and say to Bainimarama, Enough of your lies and tricks, Away from me Satan for it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.