The Native Land Trust Act was created by Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna to assist Fijian landowners to lease their land. His aim was to ensure that landowners benefited from leasing and retained land for their future needs. The NLTB was to have the professional expertise in accounting, surveying, valuation and land management to ensure that landowners were not cheated.
The NLTA said clearly: “all such land shall be administered by the Board for the benefit of the Fijian owners.” There is no qualification to this. Landowners interests are all that matter under the NLTA.
In Bainimarama’s Land Use Decree the PM has to consider the landowners interests AND the economy. If the PM thinks it would be better for the economy to offer land at low rent to a Chinese company who want to build a factory to process cassava, he can do it. The landowners cannot stop him and they cannot go to a court and ask the court to over-rule the lease on the grounds that it’s against their interests.
It goes without saying that chiefs have been cut right out of the process by Bainimarama and ASK. Five landowners have to be appointed as Trustees for landowning group. They are elected by 60% of the landowners but the PM can refuse any elected landowner he doesn’t like (say because he’s a Methodist or a member of the FLP or SODELPA). If at any time the PM doesn’t like one of the trustees, he can also remove him.
None of the key rules governing rent paid, terms of leases, are in the Decree. They are hidden in Regulations which means the Minister can change them without approval by Parliament. Land has been taken out of the hands of the Parliament and courts and handed straight to Bainimarama.
At the moment Bainimarama is letting landowners choose between his Land Bank and the TLTB, but he doesn’t have to do this and once elected he will no longer let landowners have this choice. The Land Use Decree gives him unlimited power.
The Native Lands Trust Act, which was created by Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, was one of the main targets of Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum in the mission of cultural genocide he mapped out in 2002 in Hong Kong. By delivering personal power into the office of PM he was able to persuade Bainimarama to support his war on Fijian cultural institutions.
The Land Use Decree creates a dangerous concentration of power, regardless of who the PM is. Its aim is to rob iTaukei of any say over their land and make everyone who wants land dependent on the whims of an all powerful PM. That’s bad for everyone.