Our long awaited constitution has been promised for the end of this month. Once again Bainimarama has been saying that land will be totally protected, and then adding that he’s guaranteeing rights to livelihood, water and electricity and who knows what else.
This is hardly likely to satisfy iTaukei Fijians. Their right to ownership of their land should not be equated with the rights of “everybody” to electricity or safe drinking water.
Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has a strategy that’s not hard to see. Everyone has a large number of rights – rights to a job, rights to water, education, electricity etc. In the first draft the right to ownership of land was just another right to ownership. No different to ownership of any other piece of property.
It’s not hard to guess what the new ‘revised’ constitution will contain. It will mention iTaukei landownership as one of the full range of rights. It will mention that iTaukei landownership is inalienable. It cannot be transferred to another person.
Of course, rights to use of land can be handed to others through the medium of leases. That won’t change. And it’s the power to hand out 99 year leases under the Land Use Decree that Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum sees as the key to his land plan.
The Land Use decree gives Bainimarama as PM the power to do whatever he wants to hand out 99 year leases. It says he should look at the best interests of the landowners but he has to balance this against the best interests of the economy and the nation.
With a Constitution that hands out rights to all, it will be the state and the ASK controlled court system that will be deciding on who is entitled to what. Make no mistake, the first draft we saw was a charter for state power and the next version will be no different. Itaukei landownership rights will be transformed into just one right alongside many others which will be handed out by a regime posing as a state.