Friday, January 25, 2008

10 October 1874: Chiefs sign Deed of Cession of Fiji to Great Britain

Instrument of Cession of the Islands of Fiji by Thakombau, styled Tui Viti and Vuni Valu, and by the other high Chiefs of the said islands to Her Most gracious Majesty Victoria, by the grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, Defender of the Faith, &c &c &c:

Whereas divers of the subjects of Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland have from time to time settled in the Fijian group of islands and have acquired property or certain pecuniary interests therein; And Whereas the Fijian Chief Thakombau styled Tui Viti and Vuni Valu and the other high native chiefs of the said islands are desirious [sic] of securing the promotion of civilization and Christianity and of increasing trade and industry within the said islands; And Whereas it is obviously desirable, in the interests as well of the native as of the white population, that order and good government should be established therein; And Whereas the said Tui Viti and other high chiefs have conjointly and severally requested Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland aforesaid to undertake the government of the said islands henceforth; And Whereas in order to the establishment of British government within the said islands the said Tui Viti and other the several high chiefs thereof for themselves and their respective tribes have agreed to cede the possession of and the dominion and sovereignty over the whole of the said islands and over the inhabitants thereof and have requested Her said Majesty to accept such cession,- which cession the said Tui Viti and other high chiefs, relying upon the justice and generosity of Her said Majesty, have determined to tender unconditionally,- and which cession on the part of the said Tui Viti and other high chiefs is witnessed by their execution of these presents and by the formal surrender of the said territory to Her said Majesty; And Whereas His Excellency Sir Hercules George Robert Robinson, Knight Commander of the most distinguished* order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Governor Commander in Chief and Vice Admiral of The British Colony of New South Wales and its dependencies, and Governor of Norfolk Island, hath been authorised and deputed by Her said Majesty to accept on Her behalf the said Cession: Now These Presents Witness:

1. That the possession of and full sovereignty and dominion over the whole of the group of islands in the South PaciÞc Ocean known as the Fijis (and lying between the parallels of latitude of fifteen degrees South and twenty two degrees South of the Equator and between the Meridians of longitude of one hundred and seventy seven degrees West and one hundred and seventy five degrees East of the meridian of Greenwich) and over the inhabitants thereof, together with the possession of and sovereignty over the waters adjacent thereto and of and over all ports harbours havens roadsteads rivers estuaries and other waters and all reefs and foreshores within or adjacent thereto, are hereby ceded to and accepted on behalf of Her said Majesty the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland her heirs and successors, to the intent that from this time forth the said islands and the waters reefs and other places as aforesaid lying within or adjacent thereto may be annexed to and be a possession and dependency of the British Crown.

2. That the form or constitution of government, the means of the maintenance thereof, and the laws* and regulations to be administered within the said islands shall be such as Her Majesty shall prescribe and determine.

3. That, pending the making by Her Majesty as aforesaid of some more permanent provision for the government of the said islands His Excellency Sir Hercules George Robert Robinson, in pursuance of the powers in him vested and with the consent and at the request of the said Tui Viti and other high Chiefs the ceding parties hereto, shall establish such temporary or provisional government as to him may seem meet.

4. That the absolute proprietorship of all lands not shown to be now alienated so as to have become bona fide the* property of Europeans or other foreigners or not now in the actual use or occupation of some Chief or tribe or not actually required for the probable future support and maintenance of some chief or tribe shall be and is hereby declared to be vested in Her said Majesty her heirs and successors.

5. That Her Majesty shall have power, whenever it shall be deemed necessary for public purposes, to take any lands upon payment to the proprietor of a reasonable sum by way of compensation for the deprivation thereof.

6. That all now existing public buildings houses and offices, all enclosures and other pieces or parcels of land now set apart or being used for public purposes, and all stores fittings and other articles now being used in connection with such purposes are hereby assigned transferred and made over to Her said Majesty.

7. That on behalf of Her Majesty His Excellency Sir Hercules George Robert Robinson promises (1.) that the rights and interests of the said Tui Viti and other high chiefs the ceding parties hereto shall be recognised so far as is and shall be consistent with British Sovereignty and Colonial form of government, (2.) that all questions of financial liabilities and engagements shall be carefully scrutinized and dealt with upon principles of justice and sound public policy,
(3.) that all claims to title to land by whomsoever preferred and all claims to pensions or allowances whether on the part of the said Tui Viti and other high chiefs or of persons now holding office under them or any of them shall in due course be fully investigated and equitably adjusted.

In Witness whereof, the whole of the contents of this instrument of Cession having been, previously to the execution of the same, interpreted and explained to the ceding parties hereto by David Wilkinson Esquire, the interpreter nominated by the said Tui Viti and the other high chiefs and accepted as such interpreter by the said Sir Hercules George Robert Robinson, the respective parties hereto have hereunto set their hands and seals.

Done at Levuka this tenth day of October, in the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy four.

Cakobau R. Tui Viti and Vunivalu (Seal)

Maafu (Seal)

Hercules Robinson (Seal)

Tui Cakau (Seal)

Ratu Epeli (Seal)

Vakawalitabua Tui Bua (Seal)

Savenaca (Seal)

Esekele (Seal)

B. V. Tui Dreketi( Seal)

Ritova (Seal)

Kato-nivere (Seal)

Ratu Kini (Seal)

Matanitobu (Seal)

Nacagilevu (Seal)

I hereby certify that, prior to the execution of the above Instrument of Cession - which execution I do hereby attest - I fully and faithfully interpreted and explained to the ceding parties the whole of the contents of the said document, the interlineations appearing on line 33 of page 1 and on line 30 of page 2 having been Þrst made, and that such contents were fully understood and assented to by the said ceding parties. Prior to the execution of the said instrument of Cession I wrote out an interpretation of the same in the Fijian language, which interpretation I read to the Tui Viti and other high chiefs the ceding parties, who one and all approved thereof.
A copy of such interpretation is hereto annexed marked A.
Dated this tenth day of October, A.D. 1874.

D. Wilkinson
Chief Interpreter
The interpreter named in the foregoing instrument of Cession

Report to UN CERD - Geneva

A paper on racism -Friday, January 25, 2008

THE race-based communal voting system in Fiji and lack of national identity for citizens have been identified as major problems of racial discrimination says the Citizens Constitutional Forum.

In their submission to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), CCF chief executive Reverend Akuila Yabaki, said the most disturbing feature of racism in the country was the communal voting system inherited from the colonial government.

"Issues related to racial discrimination covered in the submission include the coups and the impacts, the Reconciliation Tolerance and Unity Bill, preferential treatment by previous governments, race-based affirmative action in education and other areas, unresolved land issues and growth of squatter settlements.

"In addition, there is disproportionate migration of Indians, racist provisions in the Immigration Act, suicide rate and the Government's failure to provide a national identity that united non-indigenous and Fijians."

Mr Yabaki said religious intolerance was also seen as a manifestation of racism in Fiji.

He said the Laisenia Qarase-led government had embarked on new land bills which would have had a devastating effect on Indians and other ethnic minority groups such as descendants of Solomon Islanders, Rabi, Kioa, Chinese, Europeans, Part-Europeans and other races.

"These include the Qoliqoli Bill and the Indigenous Tribunal Bill.

"The bills would have placed greater restrictions on non-indigenous people over the ownership and use of land and the sea."

Mr Yabaki said the military stated that the Qoliqoli Bill was one of the reasons for the 2006 coup because it would have created tension in the already strained race relation communities in Fiji.

He said the Great Council of Chiefs did not cater for the interests of other ethnic groups similar to the Native Land Trust Board.

"The GCC nominates the President and 14 of the 32 senators as a guarantee of assurance of majority indigenous representation. Citizens of all other ethnic groups with no representation in the GCC are therefore excluded from the presidential nomination process which ideally should be inclusive of all citizens." On the land issue, Mr Yabaki said since the colonial government was formed in 1874, it has ensured that land remained with the indigenous people and that was how 90 per cent of the land belonged to the indigenous community.

The paper which was endorsed by three non-government organisations including the CCF, Women's Action for Change and the Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education and Advocacy, was sent to Geneva on January 19.

The submission assessed the quality and extent of efforts made by the government since 2002 to comply with its obligations under the CERD convention.

No word on GCC report from regime - Friday, January 25, 2008

THE taskforce on the Great Council of Chiefs has not heard anything from the interim Government since their report was tabled in Cabinet last year says taskforce chairman Ratu Tu'uakitau Cokanauto.

Ratu Tu'uakitau said the team was still waiting for a feed back from the interim government.

"Everything seems to be on silence mode," saud Ratu Tu'uakitau.

"The last I heard was that the report required another Cabinet paper but since there has been a change to ministerial appointments nothing has been forthcoming."

Ratu Tu'uakitau said they would await word form the interim Government to determine their next course of action.

The report recommends that the President select the 52-member council and that those who are bankrupt and have criminal records be excluded.

It recommends that chiefs decide between being politicians or members of the GCC.

The team travelled throughout the 14 provinces and spoke to representatives of the Rotuma Council about the review of the GCC and compiled the report.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

HANDS OFF OUR LAND - 18-Jan-2008

Talk to us first, says Indigenous body

AN indigenous group says they will take the Interim Government to court over the legality of the formation of a Committee on Better Utilisation of Land (CBUL) which was approved by the interim Cabinet in its first sitting this week.

The Fiji Indigenous Ownership Rights Association (FIORA) says the establishment of the CBUL as a legislation is illegal and that the regime is yet again practicing a top-down approach while making decisions for the nation.

Association secretary, Francis Waqa Sokonibogi said the regime wants to continue what the Native Land Trust Board (NLTB) was doing over the past 60 years, only this time shifting from the NLTB to another “illegal body”, under the international law.

The association which compromises 60 representatives from landowning units (mataqali), have strongly opposed the new land body which they believe will be making decisions on how they had to utilise their land. The only International Law that binds the Fiji Government Sokonibogi said is the ILO Convention Law Number 169, Article 6 (2).

It states: “No form of force or coercion shall be used in violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people’s concerned, including the rights contained in this Convention.” He believes the formation of this land body is another of the Interim Government’s action to make decisions for the native landowners.

“What the Interim Government has done is just perpetuate the Colonial top-down policy by deciding for the Fijian people on what to do with their land,” Sokonibogi said.

Sokonibogi said it was only correct if the Government consults with the native owners before any legislation is passed. But this, they failed to do, including the NLTB.

“The new committee (CBUL) body in itself is illegal, not mentioning the legality of the Interim Government,” he said. The interim Cabinet had based its decision on a submission by the interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, on Tuesday.

The formation of this committee has raised eyebrows recently and there were criticisms, especially by indigenous bodies and political parties. Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewevanua leader and ousted PM, Laisenia Qarase, had earlier said for the interim regime to resolve the problems of agricultural land rather than land usage.

Bainimarama said the committee came about as a result of a resolution by the interim Cabinet in 2007, that the Ministry of Fijian Affairs teamed up with the NLTB and the Provincial Administration to approach landowners regarding ALTA leases that had or were about to expire.

Sokonibogi further argued that what the regime did was legislate the land body to look into the utilisation of Fijian land which was illegal.

“In fact, it has been gazetted that the land outside of ALTA will be divided by them (interim government) through the NLTB and the zoning of the area will be dependant on them, not by the native landowners. This is illegal under any Convention, even under the Human Rights Bill in the Fiji Constitution.”

FIORA with other associations are going to seek legal right to take the matter to court in litigation to find out the truth of the legality of this committee.

“We not going to make another coup but we are going to take this Interim Government to court – to decide who is right and who is wrong,” Sokonibogi said.

He said Fijians could make more money out of their land by farming and selling or exporting their produce rather than depend on the lease money which was way less.

He added that the whole exercise by the regime was a masquerade of consultation.

Sokonibogi said there were thousands of acres of freehold land lying idle next to areas like Deuba and so fourth.

“That’s freehold land. Why don’t they (government) deal with that freehold land and make it productive? Why are they not touching vacant freehold land instead, they are coming to take our land? Sokonibogi questioned.

“Initially freehold land was done for national interest and not the native land. Now they are claming it for the national interest by leasing it out.”

He added that the government’s intention was to pressure the native land to be alienated from its rightful owners, the Fijians.

“The native land is for the benefit for the Fijian people. If this is not the case then its illegal, under the trust act – must be for the benefit of the beneficiaries. They should hold discussions with the grassroots people and that they never did.”

But Bainimarama strongly refuted criticisms in the media that the regime was trying to establish a Land Use Commission.

He said the interim Cabinet had only approved the formation of a committee which gives advice to the landowners on the utilisation of land.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Laucala in a class of its own

15/1/2008 -

The Laucala Island Resort project is the biggest in this part of the world, says Interim Defence Minister Ratu Epeli Ganilau.

Ratu Epeli said his assessment was based on feedbacks he had received. "Recently, two of my overseas friends who had visited Laucala told me that they have not seen anything like it before," the Cakaudrove chief said.

"Already, the huge project is benefitting locals in terms of employment and sale of food like root crops. "Farmers in Taveuni and other parts of Vanua Levu are already supplying dalo, cassava and rourou to the island on weekly basis to feed the huge workforce."

Ratu Epeli said the island had a 700-strong workforce comprising locals and expatriates.
Indonesian workers he said went to Naqara on Taveuni in Yaqara to do their Saturday shopping.
"The Indonesians are here to carve the marble gates, which is a difficult task that requires only specialists."
Ratu Epeli pointed out Laucala Island's previous owner millionaire Malcolm Forbes had constructed an airstrip on the island which was now being extended to accommodate bigger aircrafts.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Jimmy Subhaydas finds melody in his farm

2-Jan-2008 -

THE village of Draiba in Ovalau has many fond memories one of which made waves in the country back in the 80s when one of its sons had been performing on stage in the music industry.

Little as he was, the then singer now turned villager, Jim Subhaydas was turning heads everywhere he went because of his melodious voice.

But the lights have dimmed for the now 52-year-old villager who has preferred to take life on the slow lane and get back to what he loves doing best and that is fishing and farming for a living.

Subhaydas, who was the fifth child in his family, used to love sitting around with the older men of the village after they got back from a long day of fishing and farming and listen to their stories.

Coming from a family who fished for a living, Jim- as he was and still is commonly known -decided to try out his hands and do the same for a living.

But after some time, the enthusiasm for fishing died out after he was recognised during a Talent Quest in Levuka Town in 1979 where well known Fijian composer Master Iliesa Baravilala was one of the judges.

“That was the turning point for me and I moved on from there to sing with the famous Fijian band named Kalokalo Cavu ni Koro Makawa and one of the famous songs that we sang is titled Sai Levuka Ga,” said Jim.

With an Indian father and a Fijian mother who hailed from Bau Island, Jim held dear the disciplined characteristics his parents instilled in him with high regard and that is the motivation he has lived with until today.

“My family supported me in my singing career but always reminded me that I had to get into something else for a living because I was going to get old some day,” he said with a smile during this interview.

With that in mind, Jim built on this career and recorded more songs with fellow musicians.

“We mostly sang songs that were composed by Master Baravilala and it was truly inspiring to work with a great composer like him,” he said.

But as the years went on, Jim settled down with a wife and had three children and the thought of moving on in life nagged at him for some time.

“Finally I decided to leave the music scene quietly and make our living with my family in the comfort of village surroundings in the only place that we have called our home - Levuka,” he said.

“The only thing that I thought was going to benefit the family in the long run was fishing so I started off with that and it really went well for me,” he added.

“But as the years wore on, I realised I had to engage in farming as well because it would be another source of income for the family.”

So farming was what he did and Jim has never regretted a moment of it saying there are so many benefits one gets from farming and fishing.

Jim has got a fish trap erected out at sea and every low tide, he goes out to check on it.
“I have been selling my fish at home since I have two freezers big enough to store all the fish that I catch.”

Jim plants dalo (taro) on half an acre of land and yaqona (kava) on two hectares.

“I have two labourers who look after my plantation and at times I also tend to the farm just to see how my crops are growing,” he said.

Jim added that as years went by and age was fast catching up with him, he realised more than ever that time was of essence and should not be wasted on petty things.

“I only wish that I could turn back the hands of time and live life again as a strong young man so that I could prove my worth on the land one more time,” said Jim.

“Life gets difficult when you grow older and I have to admit that farming is something that will keep us going for a long time because we were all meant to look after God’s given gift and that is the land.”

Jim sells his dalo (taro) and yaqona (kava) to consumers in Levuka and hopes to probably ship them to the bigger market in Suva.

“That is why I wish I could turn back the hands of time so that I could plant a whole lot more, but life goes on and this should be a lesson for youths around the country,” said Jim.

“Do not waste any minute of your time, but if you have a piece of land, please till it for a living and the rewards are endless as I am realising now,” he said.

Jim has been working closely with Ministry of Agriculture officials in Levuka in sorting things out on his farm.

“Whenever they come over to visit my farm, I ask them for advice on the problems that I face on the farm and that is my suggestion to everyone on the island of Ovalau to do the same,” he advised.

Jim gave up everything a lucrative and glamorous career to build his life on the farm.

“I gave up my singing career and a taxi that I owned to concentrate fully on the farming and fishing business, so that is where I am today.”

He has no intention of getting back into the singing business as his interest for singing has died but will probably enter the limelight again for old time’s sake.

“That, only time will tell, but fishing and farming is the way for me to go and I am content with that,” he said with a smile.

KUINI WAQASAVOU of the Ministry of Agriculture

A puzzling divorce

3-Jan-2008 -

WHAT is going on between the Tailevu landowners and Fulton College? How can a sustained and presumably amicable 67-year-old relationship break down with such apparent bitterness and rancour? What is really behind this mess? Is it just about money? Perhaps that’s a silly question – land issues eventually devolve to being about money. But who is pushing for such an immediate, final and irrevocable financial end to the hitherto harmonious relationship? Is it the landowners alone – some of whom, are, or have been, members of the Seventh-day Adventist church which operates Fulton? Has something else untoward come between them and the Fulton people – something which is triggering such a land-slide of bad-will?

The college has been the beneficiary of a tenancy arrangement that may or may not have had the authority of past landlords and the legitimacy of NLTB stamps. There are always two sides to a land dispute. The High Court has made a ruling in the landowner’s favour which is being appealed. There is nothing unremarkable about that: legal matters always tend to longevity of process and that is one of the costs that all parties pay for going to court in the first place.

An eviction notice to a highly esteemed private college which has educationally served the public of Fiji in many long-term and deep-structural ways is a device that needs deconstructing. Is it really just a symptom of frustration? Or perhaps a cheap shot across the bows of an organisation already on the back-foot?

Justice is of utmost importance in land dealings. But reconciliation is its twin. There can be no final justice without reconciliation and there can be no lasting reconciliation without a just settlement. Our nation’s future is too often ripped apart on a failure to grasp this critical duality. Moreover, on land related issues, the relationship between tenant and landlord is always in process – as much as we may wish, it can never be taken for granted or filed away as ‘do not disturb’. In long-term leases, generations come and go. Each will have a new conception of what is owed and what is not. New pressures can intervene to make old arrangements seem unreasonable. New voices can come along to interpose themselves on so-called ‘settled’ claims.

All of which means simply that relationships must be massaged, rocked gently in the cradle of ongoing diplomacy. Only in this way can a win-win come out of contractual arrangements. As things stand, there is every prospect of parties to the dispute losing badly and of the nation losing overall the cultural capital of a valued educational asset.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

NLTB Rejects Chaudhry's Land Proposal

Rejected : NLTB wants in-depth study

Saturday, March 01, 2008

THE Native Land Trust Board has rejected a report by an independent consultant on sugar recommending the de-reservation of all native land.

Board lawyer and spokesman Ro Alipate Mataitini said they had returned the report by Dr M Krishnamurthi to interim Finance and Sugar Minister Mahendra Chaudhry.

Mr Chaudhry had forwarded the report to the NLTB for consideration on January 14.

"You will note that the Krishnamurthi Report recommended the de-reservation of all native land," Ro Alipate said.

"As far as the NLTB is concerned that is not an option since Fijians will be alienated from their land for at least two generations."

Ro Alipate said the report had been sent back to Mr Chaudhry with the recommendation for an in-depth research on the recommendations.

"At its 392nd meeting held at the NLTB head office in Suva this morning, the NLTB board elected not to endorse the report which proposed ways to rehabilitate the sugar industry," he said yesterday.

Efforts to get a comment from Mr Chaudhry yesterday proved futile.

The Krishnamurthi report says the first step in salvaging the sugar industry would be to de-reserve all native land.

"It is obvious that four hectare farms are uneconomical," the report said.

"Thus lots of 40 to 400ha are to be created and leased to one individual or company without affecting land ownership.

"The ownership will continue to be vested in the title holder.

"All investment will be by the lessee.

"The lease period is to be a minimum of 75 years or more."

The aims of the report include:

- Provide guidance for the rehabilitation of the sugar industry in Fiji and elsewhere where Fiji may have an interest;

- offer solutions for maximising land use, especially native reserves;

- help to improve production of sugar over the next four years; and

- diversify farmers income through relay crops.

Ro Alipate said the de-reservation of native land would only proceed on the merits of each application for a lease, and only with the majority consent of the landowning unit concerned.

"Management has been given approval to provide details to the Committee on Better Utilisation of Land on the costs of administering rent subsidies and the criteria for qualification of rent subsidies, given the recent increase in percentage of the unimproved capital value of native land," he said.

"The board noted the visit by a Chinese delegation promoting ethanol production from cassava and the delegation's contention that the new venture would be tailor-made for native landowners.

"The board suggested that such ventures as the one proposed by the Chinese could be just one of the many ways to expand the use of native land.

"Management has been encouraged to explore more ways to meet costs of rent subsidies."

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