Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Chiefs agree to hold meeting

Chiefs agree to hold meeting
Last updated 3/19/2008

The Bose ni Turaga would go ahead with a planned meeting despite being warned not to by the interim regime.
An executive committee met yesterday to further discuss the proposed Bose ni Turaga scheduled for April.
The proposed two-day meeting will be followed by the annual general meeting of the Viti Landowners and Resource Association.
VLRA spokesperson and Bose ni Turaga member Ratu Osea Gavidi said the meeting would go ahead as scheduled as agreed upon by all present at the executive meeting.
"We have decided at the meeting that we will go ahead with the planned Bose ni Turaga gathering," said Ratu Osea. He said the Bose ni Turaga being the governing body of the VLRA would have to be briefed on the first day about the progressive reports on the 20 resolutions arrived at in its meeting in February and March of 2006.
"The second and the third day will involve papers and discussions focusing on issues such as land utilisation and agriculture, indigenous land claims, mineral and oil explorations and so forth," said Ratu Osea.
He said in view of the unstable socio-political situation and the economic downturn since the military coup of December, 2006, papers and discussions would focus on how people could survive during these trying times keeping in mind the future of indigenous Fijians.
"The military has changed the legislation of the land by interfering with the Fijian Affairs Act which had also resulted in the removal of the Great Council of Chiefs,'' he said.
"This is why we have to meet in order to discuss about issues that concerns the people and they are trying to stop us from meeting."
He said the military was trying to dismantle the issues which the Bose ni Turaga would discuss.
Military commander Voreqe Bainimarama had earlier warned Ratu Osea to cancel the meeting and that the police would make sure it did not happen.

Land problems will remain despite more rent: Qarase
Last updated 3/19/2008 8:32:39 AM

The recent announcement by the interim regime on the increase in land rental is a good move, says ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.
He however warned it would not solve the land problem.
The Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua party leader welcomes the announcement that rent on agricultural native land would increase to 10 per cent of the Unimproved Capital Value of land with a 4 per cent subsidy to be paid by government.
“It is a good move on the part of the interim regime however it will not solve the land problem or the problem of rent on agricultural native land unless the Agricultural Landlord and Tenants Act is amended,” Mr Qarase said.
He said that under ALTA, rent on agricultural land was fixed at up to 6 per cent of UCV.
“This means that rent actually charged can be anything from 1 per cent to 6 per cent. In effect this is what has been happening since ALTA came into effect in 1976 and 1977,” Mr Qarase said. He said several independent studies had revealed that landowners were receiving an average of only 2 to 3 per cent of UCV as annual rental income.
“This can be attributed directly to the clause in ALTA which allows negotiation in the determination of annual rent,” Mr Qarase said.
He said the SDL government had been pushing for a flat annual rent of 10 per cent of UCV and tenants who could not afford to pay this rent could put their cases to the Agricultural Tribunal for review.
“The ALTA Amendment Bill of 2005 presented to Parliament by the SDL government fixed the rent at a flat 10 per cent of UCV but this Bill was torpedoed by the Fiji Labour Party,” said Mr Qarase.
He said because actual rent levied had been running at 2 to 3 per cent of UCV, the 4 per cent subsidy by government would increase rental income to only 6 to 7 per cent of UCV and not 10 per cent of UCV.”The interim regime should explain this fact to landowners to avoid confusion and anger later on,'' he said.
“The 10 per cent of UCV rental income that has been widely publicised is likely to remain a dream for many landowners.” He said the rent subsidy decided by government was one of two options considered by the SDL government.
The second option was for government to take a head lease of all agricultural land and then issue sub-lease to individual tenants.
“But decisions on these two options should be conditional on appropriate amendments to ALTA,” Mr Qarase said. He said although ALTA appeared to have provided a solution to the land problem at the time (1976), the same law had now become a serious impediment to the development of agriculture in Fiji today.
“Unless and until ALTA is suitably amended to provide fairness and equity to both tenants and landowners the land problems will remain unresolved,” said Mr Qarase.

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