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April 23, 2013

When answering the call by Fijian academic Paula Raqeukai for Fijian land rights to be written into the constitution Khaiyum claimed land swaps, where native land was swapped with state land as a way of turning freehold land back into native land, allowed Governments “to profit at the expense of iTaukei landowners”. Where is his proof about these profits at the expense of landowners? Give us some facts about the landswap at Denarau? Give us facts Khaiyum, not these claims. The swaps were made with the consent of landowners, with the aim of increasing the value of their land for leasing. What really irks Khaiyum is that land which was once freehold has been returned to iTaukei owners.

Read below Mr Paula Raqeukai’s submission made both orally and written to the GDC panel on the night of Tuesday 23 April 2013 at the Rishkul High School, Valelevu…:

Submission by Paula Raqeukai, commoner of the Vunisekoula family, tribesman of Nakadruma/Teiteiciva, a subject of the “Tui Vanua Levu – Vanua Kingdom”, in the District of Saqani, Cakaudrove Province on behalf of the Local Modernist Conservatism Indigenous Peoples (Both Kai Viti-“itaukei”, Moderate Indo-Fijians and Others) of the Republic of the Fiji Islands.

1.0 United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples

I submit that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the Declaration) be stated in the Preamble of the Constitution as the basis of the relationship of the state and the nation with the indigenous Fijian people. Note the Declaration below and my comments in italics/ bold. Note that Fijian in this submission refers to indigenous Fijian as in the Fijian Affairs Act; because it’s current use by the regime is without the indigenous people’s consent i.e. “Fijian” includes every member of an aboriginal race indigenous to Fiji and also includes every member of an aboriginal race indigenous to Melanesia, Micronesia or Polynesia living in Fiji who has elected to live in a Fijian village; (Fijian Affairs Act, definitions).

The main reasons that the native Fijian people are insisting that the Declaration be recognized in the Constitution and be implemented are as follows:

•The native Fijians, the indigenous people of Fiji, as the people occupying and owning this land of Fiji prior to European contact, whose chiefs, ceded Fiji to Great Britain in 1874, are a distinct people whose ancestral home is Fiji, with their own distinct language, traditional governance structures, chiefs, social systems, ownership systems, communal lands (90% of Fiji), villages, traditional fishing grounds, waterways and estuaries, forests and other natural resources; exist and continue to exist and perpetuate ourselves in this land Fiji; irrespective of the political circumstances which come and go from 1874 to today 2012; the indigenous Fijian people are here forever as a distinct and self conscious entity,,,,,,, as recognized in the Declaration and International Conventions;

• States can suppress indigenous human rights as is happening now in Fiji;

• The military, even though made up of native Fijians (80%-90%), can be an instrument of suppression by a dictator and by the state to suppress / marginalize indigenous human rights;

• The events of 2006 to date have taught us the Fijian people that there is no guarantee of security in our own ancestral lands hence the need for protection from state/ military / corporate/ business/rogue capitalist and non indigenous alliances;

• Fiji is on a 3 legged stool made up of the government, the vanua (indigenous Fijian society including customary tangible and intangible land values) and the church. When these 3 are in harmony all is well. This proposal will bring harmony to the 3 legged stool and stability, prosperity and peace to Fiji;

• The existence of the indigenous people of Fiji (the Fijians or Kai Viti) is a fact and cannot be brushed aside or denied. Its denial will be the sunset clause of the indigenous peoples of Fiji as contained by Aiyaz Sayed Kaiyum’s famous thesis in Hong Kong. This must be recognized in the Constitution for the future benefits of the indigenous peoples of this land and of course to maintain harmony with all citizens of the land.

The GDC is silent on land and indigenous rights, which has several implications. First, there is no constitutional protection for any law on native Fijians or iTaukei, Banaban and Rotuman land and governance. In contrast, the 1997 and 2012 drafts provided special entrenched protections for key laws, including the Native Lands Act or iTaukei Lands Act, Native Land Trust Act or iTaukei Land Trust Act, Rotuman Lands Act, Banaban Lands Act and Agricultural Landlord and Tenant Act. Thus the followings are clearly stated in the current GDC:

(i) Under the GDC, all these laws may be amended by a simple majority in Parliament;

(ii) Second, there is no recognition of ‘customary law,’ so it is no longer protected as it was in 1997 and 2012 and contradicts the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, passed on 13th September 2007, which the Fiji Government under the present leadership regime of Voreqe Bainimarama ratified;

(iii) Third, there is no constitutional requirement that land owners or customary fishing rights beneficiaries receive an equitable share of royalties to mineral exploitation;

(iv) Last, the government has no constitutional duty to consult with land owners for any development projects.

The GDC does include the 2012 right to a clean and healthy environment and freedom from the arbitrary expropriation of property (however the GDC adds several new grounds for expropriation of property


The suggested Clause in the Constitution to read:

“This Constitution gives effect to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as adopted by the sixty first session of the UN General Assembly on 13 September 2007, and that all necessary measures and actions are taken by the state, the Fijian people and all Fiji Islanders to ensure its full dissemination, recognition and implementation”.

Please be reminded that this Declaration does not affect other Fiji Citizens in any way and in fact recognizes and respects all international human rights conventions. This Declaration is merely a protective instrument for the indigenous Fijian people. It is their indigenous human right.

Please note the content of the Declaration and my comments (in bold and italics) as follows:

The General Assembly, Taking note of the recommendation of the Human Rights Council contained in its resolution 1/2 of 29 June 2006, by which the Council adopted the text of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Recalling its resolution 61/178 of 20 December 2006, by which it decided to defer consideration of and action on the Declaration to allow time for further consultations thereon, and also decided to conclude its consideration before the end of the sixty-first session of the General Assembly, Adopts the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as contained in the annex to the present resolution. 107th plenary meeting 13 September 2007



Source – Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement; Posted by Rusi Varani for SWM

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