Of all the outrageous claims made about the Bainimarama Land Bank, Tevita Boseiwaqa’s claim that the bank has cut out bureaucracy, is the most outrageous.
He is obviously hoping that the public will remain completely ignorant of what the Land Use Decree empowers the government to do. The Use Decree sets up a head lease and sub-leases so that tenants are no longer tenants of the landowner; they are tenants of the state. What is this but bureaucracy?
But the landowners are also cut out. They have no power to approve a lease. They approve only handover of their land to the PM to exercise his power to ‘designate’. Once designated the mataqali has no say in how the land is used or what rent is paid. The land and the tenants are then in the hands of the Land Use Unit. What is that but bureaucracy?
Landowners and tenants are denied access to the courts for any decisions by bureaucrats that they dispute. This is a typical Bainimarama regime modus operandi. All power to the state. If you want anything you come to the dictator on your hands and knees.
Landowners cannot complain that the rent is too low and tenants cannot complain that a rent reassessment is too high when the state appoints a valuer to set a fair market value to raise the rent every five years. In that sense only is the LUD balanced. Land owner and tenant are at the mercy of the state.
In the past many landowners and farmers have thought it would be better if they could deal directly with one another and this has happened, but it’s always been outside the law.
If the Land Use Regime of Bainimarama is confirmed it will further entrench the powers of the state, which already controls media, church meetings and the prices of goods and services.