Thursday, September 28, 2006

Hysteria & Pyromania

A landowner of an island in the Yasawa group has voiced his disgust with tenants who are openly gay. The resort which trades under the name of Champagne Beach Fiji has been touted as Gay friendly by the developers: Evan Williams and Andy Lowe and marketed by Bayley's Real Estate.
This particular case adds fuel to the pyre of dissatisfaction with the Native Land Trust Board, especially when the developers of the resort confirmed (in an email with an interested buyer) that there are two executives within the organization have been bribed over several years to faciltate the development on native land.

Fiji Times further quotes from the email:

Email exchanges dated as recently as September 20 this year, between one developer and an interested buyer in Auckland, said that two executives of the NLTB had been bribed over a number of years.

"It is a very corrupt country, as three coups in 17 years suggest and the NLTB is under so much fire at the moment, they will not interfere with a major development and run the risk of a fight over sexual discrimination," said one email to a buyer.

"I have people at NLTB who I pay to interpret the law as I wish to not as lawmakers perhaps intended and frankly, the NLTB do not care about landowners but the investors so you can be totally honest with the knowledge that we will always be totally protected as our interests are in their best financial interests. You don't need to worry about NLTB cancelling the lease," the developer's email said.

He went on to say the man was one of the "best men money could buy". The developer's email said his partner's residential lease had been changed from residential to tourism with 10 years allowed to start development. "They don't even discuss it with landowners but just go right ahead," the email said while naming a second NLTB officer labelled as corrupt and greedy".

Fiji Times further explains that, according to an online chat (from an unnamed website catering for the Gay community) an individual linked to the resort development advertised the potential for paedophiles interested in young boys. The same unnamed individual also labelled Fijians as simple and stupid.

On an Internet chat channel devoted to homosexual relationships, a man linked to the development tells of Fijian boys "as young as you want them to be" being available for sexual encounters.

"For $100 a Fijian boy will do anything and tell nobody. The Fijians are a very simple people. Stupid people really," he said in the Internet conversation.

Club Em Designs

Monday, September 25, 2006

Fiji: Vugalei Landowners demand tree plantations on their ancestral land.

The landowning group (Mataqali Rara) in Tailevu have brushed aside the counter-offers by the Minister of Public Enterprise. The plantations managed by Fiji Hardwood Corporation was planted back in the 1960's, however no lease were ever issued by the land owning unit. This case reflects the huge disconnect between indigenous landowners and the NLTB.

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Fiji Army Commander and Government practice Freedom of Speech..

Revisiting the old issues of law and order, Fiji Army continues to raise thorny issues involving the Government. Among the issues are the investigation into the 2000 coup, as well as the passage of several controversial bills in Parliament of Fiji propelled by the S.D.L party.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Fiji Ministry of Energy considering applications for oil exploration.

Southern Cross is one company that has submitted their application for an explorative license in Fiji. It is a concern for many, in light of the pending Qoliqoli(Native fishing grounds) legislation, whether the law would impinge

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sugar Cane harvest in Fiji.

This video shows the different sides to Fiji's most volatile political issue: Land.
A perspective on both Fijian and Indo-Fijian canefarmers and their plight during the 2006 season.

Club Em Designs

Monday, September 18, 2006

University of South Pacific (U.S.P) plans to charge for Internet use.

In an unorthodox manner, the management of U.S.P have decided to recoup costs from the operations of their internal Ethernet networks and pass it on to their users.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Another disgruntled Landowning group in Fiji.

Landowning unit in Tailevu province have expressed their disappointment with the administrator for native lands in Fiji.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Robber, The Banker and The Excuse maker.

The news of yet another burgalry of a Hindu temple in Fiji is disconcerting. The other distressing component is that the temples are desecrated after, underlining the moral decay among the populace.
Is this moral decay a reflection on the leadership of the country? Or is this just another indicator of the socio-economic landscape in Fiji?

On the subject of socio-economic landscape, reports of Fiji Govenment seeking overseas loans to the amount of $US150 million is another head shaker.

However, reports that Fiji Government is making a debut by selling their bonds for 150 million after Standards & Poor downgraded Fiji's rating.

Obviously the state treasury is under fiscal pressure by the lethargic export sector. It never seizes to amaze many, on the pandering done by the Finance Minister in rectifying Fiji's negative trade-imbalance.

Club Em Designs

Monday, September 11, 2006

Fifth Estate or 5th Wheel?

A brief on the terms 4th, 5th estate.

In a last grasp at straws to prevent the passage of the Broadcast Bill, industry players in Fiji have begun to view their legal options. Fiji Times publisher Tony Yianni has dropped the gauntlet in seeking a judicial review, branding the legislation as a breech of the 1997 Fiji constitution.

The media campaign against the Broadcast Bill lacked the grass root support to mobilize the issue, which genuinely looked like more of a threat to the media industry itself rather than the Fiji public at large.

It is a reminder that the greater public in Fiji are looking at issues that affect their well-being first, as well remembering the absurdity of Fiji Media Council's premise of regulating themselves. In a world of accountability and performance, the current framework of quality assurance in the Fiji Media Council is limited in scope and function.

The mantra of an industry or institution regulating itself; mirrors the trappings of an oligarchial tyrant. Refusing to conform to the benchmarks of checks and balances, which is a part and parcel of a democratic society.

Observing the observer.

The rudimentry type of advertising standards, currently used by Fiji media industry has failed. As well as the lack of local content especially in the broadcast sector despite public requests, had fallen on deaf ears.

The clause #30 of Local Content is in Part 5 of the bill under "Terms and Conditions".

Local content requirements

30. The Authority may determine minimum local content requirements for any broadcasting service after consulting widely.

Fiji Media industry hopes to gain more traction, by labelling the new Broadcast legislation as a threat to media freedom but in actuality the proposed laws do not affect civil liberties. The tags of media muzzling is a hype, engineered by the Fiji Media Council to misinform, mislead and misreport.

Above: Daryl Tarte-Chairperson of Fiji Media Council.

Fiji Media Council Chairman's interview with ABC.

Media Broadcast Bill-Parliament of Fiji.

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Qoliqoli Bill-Hand Out Mentality or Social Empowerment?

Above: Yasawa Islands- The stomping ground for Blue Lagoon cruises.

To NLTB or not to NLTB – that is the qoliqoli question

Fiji Daily Post Editorial:9-Sep-2006

THE knives and stones are out for the NLTB. A range of voices across the indigenous and academic spectrum have spoken against the provision of the government’s proposed Qoliqoli Bill that gives the NLTB monopoly brokerage of negotiations and settlements on qoliqoli agreements reached between indigenous owners and affected parties.
The central claim made by the lobby is that the instrumentality established under Ratu Sukuna’s reign over Fijian administration, to oversee native land issues, rents and so forth, has proven ineffective and unreliable.

The validity of these claims is beyond the scope of a daily newspaper to test – it warrants a PhD thesis – but we venture to say the Government must listen to where people say the shoes pinch.

It owes them that much. We cannot imagine land and ocean resources in this country being left to open negotiations without a standardising, regulating body such as the NLTB, but we would be remiss to ignore the charges being brought from various lobby groups and individuals asserting that they would prefer to handle matters themselves.

What is the weight of these common claims? Some clarity is required by its critics. For example, (1) is the NLTB’s alleged shortcomings due to the fact of its existence – is that the problem? This seems to be at the base of some criticisms which imply that no regulating broker institution is required and that landowners would be better off left to their own free-market devices, skills and negotiations.

We note that this is a purely hypothetical charge and ask whether there is any empirical comparison, analogue or case-study that could give weight to this alternative view.

Or (2), is the NLTB allegedly failing because of failures in its internal processes (rather than in the fact of its being)? If the problem is bureaupathological – i.e. land-owner dissatisfaction is found to be due to blockages and holdups in the workings of the NLTB – then are these endemic, or are they remediable? If the latter, then the institution might take heart and look at fresh ways to solve its recurring, but apparently remedial problems.

Or (3), are anti-NLTB critics asserting that the problem is systemic – that is, located somewhere in the relationships the NLTB has with its various clients, the landowners, the leasors, the government etc. If this is the problem, then a restructuring of the relationships such as defining areas of responsibility, or sorting out accountability processes, and so forth, may well solve the matter.

Whatever the case, the anti-NLTBians will have to refine their protest. It is an insufficient argument to simply ask the instrumentality to butt out. The NLTB is constitutionally, legislatively, and instrumentally prescribed with the job of doing what it has done thus far. To want to ignore it or to demand that it step aside will not do without arguments that are sufficient and necessary to meeting that end.

The NLTB can no more step aside from its duties than the police-force can be deprived of its national mandate and simply delimit its jurisdiction at the borders of a given yavusa or tikina (if these were to claim that law and order is better left to them than to the police). The NLTB is a part of the social order of Fiji; any argument against must at a minimum be an argument for something better, and with proofs to follow.

Point to clarification by S.i.F.M:

Fiji Police Force provides a law enforcement service which cannot be privatised. Although, the functions of N.L.T.B was legislated in 1940 and has been part of the social order of Fiji; that function of negotiation can be done by the resource owners themselves. The distribution of wealth has been done before, as seen in Monasavu Compensation case.

It would be akin to life long servitude, if the landowners themselves cannot administer their own ancestral land or the royalties derived from them.

That social order as raised by the Daily Post editorial, is not an absolute entity and never was. The nexus of the N.L.T.Bians Vs Anti-N.L.T.Bians is an extension of class warfare embeddded within the machinery of Fiji.

It is question of whether one group of landowners are capable of using their own intelligence to pursue their own destiny. Denying that role only perpetuates the abuse of trust and resentment of the resource owners. Denial of land control, also insinuates that the resource owners are not educated and will have to have training wheels of supervision in all other undertakings.

However, in times of financial hardships by resource owners, those native supervisory entities controlling the purse strings of royalties becomes tight fisted. Only loosening their grips to the agendas of chiefs with more status and governmental influence.

Above: Beachfront at Matei, Taveuni.

A similar perspective on preserving the Native Lands Trust Board is dispatched from the quarters of Fij Sun Political Editor, Maika Bolatiki.

Do we need Qoliqoli Trust board?

Political Editor
Fiji Sun Fri. 8th Sept, 2006.

The call by the Viti Land and Resources Owners Association for the Native Land Trust Board not to be involved in the Qoliqoli Bill is a twist in the whole submission. This is a slap in the face for the NLTB, especially when it comes from an indigenous organisation that claims to have the support of all Fijian chiefs. Be mindful of the fact that the NLTB was established under the Native Land Trust Act of 1940. It comprises the President of Fiji as president, the Minister for Fijian Affairs as chairman and a 10-member board of trustees.

The board may delegate some of its powers to the general manager who with other officers carries out the board's plans and instructions. VRLOA president Ratu Osea Gavidi said in his submission to the joint parliamentary select committee on Economic Services and Natural Resources chaired by government backbencher Mitieli Bulanauca, that the NLTB lacked the capability to look after Fijian food resources (i kanakana)"The qoliqoli (fishing grounds) itself is a great revenue earner and qoliqoli owners are not ready to fully place it in the hands of the NLTB," said Ratu Osea.

He said the NLTB had not been able to successfully deal with Fijian land. It is sad that a group that is supposed to protect this Fijian institution had critically attacked the NLTB. But let's not forget that this group is practising its right enshrined under the 1997 Constitution.

Ratu Osea's group has come up with a proposal to have a Qoliqoli Trust Board."We support the general idea of the Bill but we don't agree with the NLTB," Ratu Osea said."But we would want to make a recommendation to have a separate board to look after the interest of the qoliqoli owners." The VLROA says it just can't sit and watch the handover of a resource that is worth trillions of dollars to the NLTB.

The NLTB, Ratu Osea says in the submission, cannot even collect land debt worth millions of dollars and this is a clear indication it cannot manage the land. We have to ask the VLORA whether it has lost all its confidence in how the NLTB operates. The primary role of the board is to administer native land for the benefit of the indigenous landowners.

As custodian of Fijian owned land, Native Land Trust Board recognises its responsibility to the indigenous landowners and the nation to ensure that land and natural resources are used and managed in a wise and sustainable manner. The board must also ensure that unique and important features of the Fijians' natural and cultural heritage are set aside and protected for the benefit of the current and future generations.

Landowners can rest assured that the Native Land Trust Board is an institution specifically established for them.The NLTB had played its role since its establishment but the call by the VLROA should not be overlooked. However, the establishment of a Qoliqoli Trust Board will surely call for new legislation.

The NLTB is established under the Native Land Trust Act. It seems the group is not happy with the benefits the qoliqoli owners will receive from the proposed legislation. Let us have a look at the protection benefits to the qoliqoli owners under the Bill.

According to the Minister for Fijian Affairs, Turaga Bale na Tui Cakau Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu: l The financial benefits that will flow to the qoliqoli owners include all fishing licences, all monies payable to qoliqoli owners for non-fisheries commercial operation within the qoliqoli areas, all monies paid in respect of damages to or the use of the qoliqoli areas whether as a result of reclamation, commercial operation, or otherwise, and all other monies received or payable for the benefit of qoliqoli owners.

The Bill will establish Qoliqoli Trust Funds where all monies will be deposited and withdrawals strictly complying with the Regulations. The Trust Funds will be audited annually and Statement of Qoliqoli Funds will be published in the Na Mata, the Fijian publication annually. l In brief, the onus on accountability, transparency and responsibilities of funds will under the proposed Bill be entrusted to the qoliqoli owners themselves. This is a major shift from the current management of funds by institutions.

Landowners through the assistance of the Fijian Administration machinery, will be expected to consult with each other, draw up their development plans and link these to the use of their qoliqoli funds. l In another major shift the qoliqoli owners will be expected to take the leading role in the conservation of their fisheries resources.

The restriction on the use of fisheries resources will also apply to the qoliqoli owners themselves. That is, they are expected to prescribe quotas of fisheries resources for personal or home consumption, which can be taken from their qoliqoli areas, and such limitations set out by laws shall also be applied to qoliqoli owners themselves. Surely the benefits are well protected.

Many are querying why the qoliqoli is to be administered by the NLTB when it is not part of the land. The minister says the legal position on the proprietary ownership of the land or sea-bed in qoliqoli areas is based on the English common law principal that the State's ownership of the foreshore up to the high water mark is vested in the Crown.

This principle of English common law is codified in Fiji under section 2 of the Crown Lands Act which provides that:" 'Crown Land' means all public lands, including the foreshore and the soil under the waters in Fiji, which are for the time being subject to the control of Her Majesty by virtue of any treaty, cession or agreement.

……" Section 13(1) of the Fisheries Act, Cap. 158, confirms the usage rights already owned by qoliqoli owners as follows -
".. it shall be an offence for any person to take fish on any reef or any kai (cockle) or other shellfish bed in any area in respect of which the right of any Mataqali or other division or subdivision of the Fijian people have been registered by the Native Fisheries Commission in the Register of Native Customary Fishing Rights unless he shall be a member of such Mataqali, division or subdivision of the Fijian people who does not require a licence….".

It is clear in law then that two rights co-exist in respect of Fijian customary fishing areas: the State under section 2 of the Crown Lands Act enjoy the rights of ownership of the foreshores, reefs and the seabed; and the Fijians enjoy merely the right of usage as confirmed in section 13(I) of the Fisheries Act.

Fijians continue to claim ownership of the reefs and foreshores as proclaimed by Governor William Des Voeux's statement at Nailaga, Ba in 1881. The NLTB has established the Native Lands and Fisheries Commission. Now a Qoliqoli Trust Board would be a financial burden to the Government. It will mean that the country will have another institution with its entire staff paid by the taxpayers.

The proposed legislation will confer on qoliqoli owners proprietary ownership rights and interests in land within qoliqoli areas by transferring such rights and interests from the State to qoliqoli owners.

It will reconfirm the ownership of usage rights previously enjoyed by qoliqoli owners over their respective qoliqoli areas. It will vest with the NLTB the power and functions to control all dealings in land over qoliqoli areas, in consultation with qoliqoli owners and the Qoliqoli Commission.

It will reconstitute the Native Fisheries Commission (NFC) established under the Fisheries Act in terms of -
a) its composition;
b) its status as a Government Department as opposed to being a statutory body;
c) its powers, functions and procedures, to ensure that the new Commission should not be a means of reopening the inquiries already completed and adjudicated upon by the NFC; and,
d) its name which is to be changed to Qoliqoli Commission.

The Qoliqoli Commission will complete the survey and registration of the ownership and boundaries of qoliqoli areas. The Commission will have an appeals system from parties aggrieved by the decisions of the Qoliqoli Commission.

Surely we have already a system in place within the NLTB to look after qoliqoli We have yet to know of how the Qoliqoli Trust Board will operate and look after the 410-qoliqoli areas throughout Fiji. The VLROA should also be mindful of the fact that the Bill has the support of the 14 provinces and the Bose Levu Vakaturaga and they have full confidence in the NLTB.

Rebuttal from S.I.F.M.

It is rather amusing when the all other notable legislations have been amended to suit modernity. The Native Lands Trust Act, a colonial creation has escpaed ths legal reform and social recalibration.

It can be argued that the archaic legislation is the prime catalyst to the increasing numbers of landowner's protest. The latest rumblings are the Narewa landowning unit threatening the egress to the multi-million dollar resorts in Denarau.

The sad reality is that the state is isolating N.L.T.B from the changing fabric of society in Fiji. Propping up the chiefly framework, that basically controls the N.L.T.B Board of Directors. The same layer of chiefs within the Great Council of Chiefs. The same layer with controlling interests in Fijian Holdings Ltd and Yasana Holdings Ltd, private brokerage entities set up in the 1980's.
A move that was supposed improve the commercial aspirations of all Taukei, using the filter-down model of wealth distribution. To say, after all this years Fijians are still not able to stand on their own is mis-information to protect the gravy train.

The same kind of 'Filter-down' template used extensively by N.L.T.B, with a similar profile proposed by a clasue within the Qoliqoli Bill. It is this clause that many resource owners' detest and feel has been their Achilles heel in economic prosperity.

Club Em Designs

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Fiji Sun front page(Fri. Sept. 8th 2006)-Landowners demand abolishment of N.L.T.B
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Fiji native landowners demand abolishment of N.L.T.B.

Landowners for Fiji's Denarau island have highlighted the deficiencies of Native Lands Trust Board, justifying it's termination.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Happy Is The Country, Which Has No History.

Image above: Denarau, Nadi. This area hosts the most upscale hotels on a single beach front (Upper left:Regent of Fiji, On the point: Sheraton Fiji, Far right: Soffitel Fiji). For certain these businesses will be affected by the proposed Qoliqoli legislations.

Above image: Soffitel Resort, Denarau, Nadi.

Interesting perspective from the Fiji Hotel Association C.E.O, an indigenous woman in her own right and wife of Fiji's Ministry of Home Affairs C.E.O, Lesi Korovavala.

Defining the ‘Vanua’
Fiji Daily Post 6-Sep-2006

Closing remarks of Fiji Islands Hotel and Tourism Association CEO, Mereani Korovavala to the Joint Sector Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Services on the Qoliqoli Bill.

The Fijian definition of the vanua is that it is the combination of the people and the land. Land includes qoliqoli. The people derive their identity and spirit from the vanua and vice versa. The level of interaction between and within each strata of the social structure, through the use of the land expresses the individual and tribes’ sense of affinity, communication and relations.

Removing the vanua from the people and vice versa, or splitting the vanua from established roles of each clan, and their role to the Chieftain household, strips both from their sense of being and identity. The qoliqoli as treated in this bill has been removed from this definition of vanua, as a separate base with its own raison d’eter and source of power. This is a serious caving in and/or splitting of the foundation of the identity and spirit of the Fijian people. Accordingly the gonedau or fisher clan has been treated as a separate vanua. The according of a separate lease for the qoliqoli demonstrates this separation.

Ownership and Stability
It is assumed that when legal authority is added to the base of Fijian legitimacy, ownership is both clarified and strengthened. This is a myth. For a chieftain system that is maintained through a combination of primogeniture and consensus, the introduction of the legal dimension correspondingly introduces a component that is foreign to the established chieftain succession formula.

The bill is relatively straightforward and easily managed when tenants are non-Fijians. When Fijians become tenants, and more importantly when individuals from the same vanua are lessees, the situation is significantly different from what is at present. The bill proposes the addition of the Fisheries Commission to the decision making machinery of so-called owners. Instead of the ownership being clarified, it is instead complicated further into a triumvirate.

This is a construction that retards efficient decision making, let alone confusing the idea of Fijian ownership. From this complexity, it is clear that the majority of ruling (adjudication) will become the sole prerogative of the Courts. The consequential question therefore is ‘who is the owner?’ It therefore becomes a question of who affords the best lawyers available. The outcome of that path is tacitly understood.
There will be a temptation, particularly from the NLTB standpoint, that qoliqoli be treated in the same way as land. Where the qoliqoli will be treated as kovukovu or sub-divided into mataqali and even tokatoka lots.

This is even more precarious for the basis of Fijian traditional power structure as the qoliqoli is the remaining vestige of communal ownership where the chieftain and the yavusa, mataqali and tokatoka conjointly share ownership, under the paramount chief of the vanua. Kovukovu will erode whatever is left of the Fijian chieftain authority in a real and practical sense.

When the chieftain authority is neutralised in a structural sense as this, the connectivity of the different clans in the Fijian social structure is lost, as they are only connected at the top. The kovukovu formula will replicate the same problems we are facing to date in the leasing arrangement, through the NLTB. Kovukovu will split the Fijian social structure, erode further chieftain authority and compound the same difficulties that current lessees are facing with new ones.

The revenue derived from this sub-division cannot be equated with the cost to the Fijians as a race, in the long term. The failure of the proper management of the proceeds from the leases of these resources by those responsible has been a cause of consistent tension. Using the NLTB formula of kovukovu under the Native Reserve Commission compounds existing difficulties.

The Government can extend ownership in the manner of the Qoliqoli Bill to underground and air space resources, but if the management of proceeds is not reviewed no amount of revenue will please the resource owners. The manner, with which proceeds are managed on their behalf, either promotes or ridicules their integrity and dignity as owners.

To turn these resources into money making endeavours per se without meaningful participation in development and active involvement in business reduces Fijian ownership and mana to timidity. When these happen the owners turn on the tenants. Mobilising support and unity is usually forthcoming in a situation of vagueness and confusion.

The moment clarity is achieved, the sense of unity and solidarity that had existed during the search for that clarity and perceived status, disappears almost instantly.

Again, the sanctioning provisions of the bill will neutralise the very same idea of ownership and control that the bill had intended to realise for the Fijians. By implication, the Courts have become the new owner.

Control and Stewardship
The bill as Fijians interpret is supposed to enhance their control over their resources. As has been indicated, that status of ownership is a shared one, where the ultimate decision making rests with the Courts. There is a fundamental responsibility of stewardship inherent in the status of the owner.

The fact that ownership is unclear, or at best, a shared one with the Courts as the final decision maker, renders the responsibility of stewardship as was supposed to be the expression of status and authority is under serious threat. The Government’s 2020 Vision document for Fijians and Rotumans has a number of objectives. The sum total of these objectives is to raise the level of participation of Fijians and Rotumans, in economic activities of the country to a level that corresponds with their ownership of resources.

The vigorous pursuing of those objectives means, that we should expect an unprecedented level of tensions among Fijians in particular, from promulgation date.

In sum the bill in its current form, is likely to neutralise the very same objectives it had set out to promote. Instead the bill should endeavour to achieve a state of balance (equilibrium) where absolute ideas that aggravates gulfs and frictions between groups, sectors and even intra-communities should be re-tuned, to one that embraces complimentarity.

Fijians and Rotumans cannot achieve the objectives of the 2020 Vision on their own. They need investors and others in a complimentary setting. The application of the idea of substitution in this case, has not catered for the misfit between the scenarios explained earlier. There is the false assumption that the Qoliqoli Bill will strengthen, or even replace, lost status and authority of the owners.

On the one hand, we are talking about strengthening the status and authority of the Fijians and Rotumans, on the other, legislating it in this manner, splits and reduces that authority from the paramount chiefs to the mataqali and tokatoka. Vanua Chieftains are therefore mere figure heads. The dilution of the Bose Vanua illustrates this, in the current set up. The bill is therefore desiring one thing and moving in the opposite direction.

As can be seen, this cannot and will not, give certainty to the desired goals of the Fijians and Rotumans in eternity. It is apparent that the Qoliqoli Bill in its current form needs to be re-worked in a lot of ways to avoid the outcomes stated in this paper. Ultimately, the base ideas that caused the creation of this bill are thin. I now leave these thoughts with you for your consideration. As a joint team of the Fiji Islands Hotel & Tourism Association, Tourism Resource Owners Association and Retailers Association - promoting the best interests of Fiji through tourism with you, our ruling Government, we find ourselves ‘between a rock and a hard place’. However, to ignore them, is to approach the future at our own, but known costs.

Fiji Indigenous Owners Rights Association has vowed to seek legal redress on the matter.

Here is the interview(WAX).

Club Em Designs

Sed Caueat Emptor!

Above image: West Coast of VitiLevu, location of many tourism ventures.

Above image: The islands off the west coast of Viti Levu.

Fiji landowners file another legal process against the N.L.T.B.

This is an excerpt from Fiji T.V article.

Landowning unit files fresh legal papers against NLTB and developer

Fiji T.V-6 Sep 2006 18:54:50

A landowning unit in Nadroga disputing the validity of a native lease given to Natadola Holdings by the N.L.T.B. has filed fresh legal papers against the two groups.

The Tui Nahoni of Malolo, Ratu Apenisa Rakuro, and two other plaintiffs had withdrawn an earlier writ for reasons they would not disclose. [Landowners] argue [that] the N.L.T.B. did not comply with the Native Land Trust Act when obtaining the consent of the landowners and gave false promises to them.

The Plaintiff's spokesman Tevita Korodrau says they've filed a fresh writ with similar grounds at the Lautoka High Court today.

It appears that the tabling of the Qoliqoli Bill has sent mixed signals throughout the nation of Fiji. The hotel industry are rattled because their bottom line is affected. On the other hand the native resource owner's fears are also congealing to an uproar because of certain provisions within the Bill.

Here is a link to the Qoliqoli Bill, hosted by Parliament of Fiji website.

This particular clause within the Bill(below) is the cause of resentment for many resource owners. It can also be argued, how the Native Lands Trust Act be made applicable to the sea. The boundaries of the land is set apart from the sea and technically a separate Native Seas Trust Act needs to be set in place first to administer the Qoliqoli royalties.

Apparently that move was conveniently set aside and the Bill designers erronously cut & pasted the Native Lands Trust Act into the actual Qoliqoli Bill. Land is not legally equated to Sea, therefore a major legal loop hole is embedded within the wording.

Distribution of monies from trust funds

24.(1) Monies in a Qoliqoli trust fund shall be applied or distributed by the Board in accordance with regulations made under the Native Land Trust Act.

(2) For avoidance of doubt, all rental income for leases and licences approved by the Board within Qoliqoli areas shall be paid to and distributed by the Board in accordance with regulations made under the Native Land Trust Act.

Fiji T.V 1 article highlights the indifference and frustration within the ranks of native landowning units.

Parliament Committee receives more submissions on Qoliqoli Bill

Fiji T.V-6 Sep 2006 18:58:00
Indigenous Landowner groups have proposed alternatives for the Parliamentary Committee scrutinising the Qoliqoli Bill, to consider.

They would like to see the establishment of a Board, operating independently of the Native Land Trust Board.

The Viti Landowners Resources Association would like to see the establishment of a Native Qoliqoli Trust Board, which will consist of the qoliqoli owners from the 14 provinces.

With this as their challenge to the N-L-T-B. But they're not taking any chances. If the Bill is passed in its current form, then it leaves this group of Landowners with one option.

The Joint Sector Committee is expected to hand their report to Parliament in November.

Club Em Designs

Monday, September 04, 2006

Yaqona Vakaturaga peformed by Naiduri village, Macuata.
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The Chiefly System in Fiji.

Fiji Sun editorial comments on Sitiveni Rabuka's call to end the reign of chiefdoms in Fiji.

Fiji Sun, Tuesday 5th September, 2006

Chiefs are born, not made

Former prime minister Major General Sitiveni Rabuka’s call to abolish the chiefly system is harsh. Although Rabuka, no doubt, has his reasons for making such a call.
The fact of the matter is that the chiefly system is an integral part of the Fijian culture. However, that is not to say that a review of the chiefly system is not warranted.
The current chiefly system has brought some disarray to the Fijian people. An increasing number of dissident groups have disputed decisions made by the Native Land Commission over the installation of chiefs.
In the process, divisions have been created among the people.
Fijians hold their chiefs in high esteem as someone who is sent from God.
To them, the chiefly lineage must be followed and revered; education or academic achievements are irrelevant when it comes to the appointment of chiefs.
The chiefs of the past ruled with great wisdom and had the hearts to serve the people.
These days, it is not the same.
It is a pity that politics and academic achievements have reared their ugly heads into the chiefly system.
This has lowered the chiefly system, as commoners, due to their academic qualifications are now chosen to take the places of chiefs in the Great Council of Chiefs and in the Senate.
This is alarming because, if not controlled, it will lead to the erosion of the chiefly system.
It is already taking its toll as evidenced by the rising number of self- promoted chiefs, who cause nothing but confusion and division among the Fijian people.
As a result, economic and social problems within the Fijian fraternity are becoming worse.
It is time to review the chiefly system and to institute changes immediately.
Only chiefs and no one else should be part and parcel of the GCC and it is there that chiefs will get their appointments to the Senate.
The Fijians of today need to be directed and it is only made possible if these God sent chiefs are brought back to assume their rightful roles.

Club Em Designs

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Rights to Express.

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Measuring the Media in Fiji.

Burning wreck on Suva's horizon.

The Lands Tribunal and Qoliqoli Bills in Parliament will undoubtedly open up a can of worms with respect to the lease of prime real estate in Fiji.
Fiji Island Business presents a balanced view of the matter.

The Hotel industry in Fiji enjoys the cream of these water front properties in Fiji and will have to begin sharing the pie of economic prosperity. Although the slice is smaller, having something is better than nothing at all.

1987 Coup Leader, former Fiji P.M Sitiveni Rabuka proposes the abolishment of the chiefly system in Fiji in the midst of his court case hearings. A radical undertaking in itself, that may require more thought but S.i.F.M believes in the urgent deconstruction analysis of the Great Council of Chiefs after the involvement of the current chairman in the Ba Holdings Ltd. hostile takeover recently.

Pic above: Burebasaga chiefs pose before the traditional welcome ceremony of Princess Anne, during her royal visit to Fiji in July 2006.

The other contenscious Media Broadcast Bill has been raised by the media industry in Fiji with their funded organization, Fiji Media Council trying to raise enough support for a campaign like seen in the opposition to the initial tabling of the R.T.U Bill.

Reference documents:

Title IX (PDF)- Media Broadcast Bill architects.(PDF)

This is an excerpt from the Pacific Islands Media Association(P.I.N.A) submission to the select committee.

PINA's comment:

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Chairman
Sector Standing Committee on Administrative Services
Parliament House

Attention: Committee Secretary (Kalo)

Dear Sir

The Pacific Island News Association (PINA) wishes to comment, as invited, on the Broadcast Licensing Bill, presently under consideration.

Thank you for the opportunity to have our say on this issue of importance to all of the people of Fiji and the Pacific Region.

Our concerns revolve, for the most part around the media freedom issues inherent in the matter under discussion. PINA is committed to the preservation of Media Freedom everywhere and in particular in the Pacific.

Specifically our concerns are:

The Bill would provide the Minister for Information and Communications in Fiji with remarkable power to control the make up of the authority, the programming
advertising and technical codes.

The Minister would appoint (and remove) the members of the Authority. The Minister would have the power to formulate policy and give policy directions. The Minster would appoint the Secretary of the Authority. The Complaints Committee would necessarily consult the Ministry.

The Minister would make regulations without necessarily consulting the Authority
The Minister would determine the allowances paid to Authority members. The Minister will; formulate policies relating to broadcasting and give general and specific policy direction to broadcasters

S.i.F.M agrees with the general requirements of division of powers; that would make the proposed Media Broadcast authority independent of the Fiji Government. The E.M spectrum should be managed by a Government department agency like U.S Federal Communications Commission.

This spectrum management authority is responsible for assigning a frequency's upper and lower limits for which communication equipment to operate in as well as defining the electronic envelope which the broadcast media should not violate.
Wall Street Journal has in interesting article on the developments in HD TV and the use of Digital spectrum in TV broadcasting. Fiji T.V signal is in Analog format. What if Fiji T.V suddenly decided to change to a digital signal without notifying anyone? Chaos would erupt in the spectrum.

Each of these areas on its own would be sufficient for PINA to wish to comment. Taken as a group they are sweeping controls that would have a remarkably deleterious affect on broadcast media in Fiji and as a consequence on Media Freedom in the country. Freedom would be at the convenience of the Minister.

Not necessarily. Freedom of Specch is still guaranteed under the 1997 constitution.

The Authority, as supervised by the Minister, would develop an Advertising Code and a Programming Code and would oversee the implementation of the codes. These codes already exist and work well under the Media Council of Fiji’s administration.

Other countries have Advertising Council working hand-in-hand with their own media legislations. Fiji Media Council's terms of reference does not specifically deal with advertising in print, radio or T.V. Neither does it set out any standard of how advertisers ply their trade.

This fight about advertising standards is really an attempt by Fiji Media Council to justify their existence. Clearly the Advertising standards cannot be created by the media industry, which is analogous to the premise of 'the fox guarding the hen house'.
That is why the advertising standards organization should be clearly demarcated from the overall media industry affiliated organizations like Fiji Media Council.

Currently Fiji media enjoys this mish mash of pliable interests, that really does not listen anybody except themselves with respect to content.

If we were to analyse the role of Fiji media before the 2000 coup in Fiji, they were as guilty of fanning the flames of prejudice and nationalism as the coupsters. This fact is well documented with independent research that is often embarrasing to the Fiji media at large.

When the tensions between the Fiji Army Commander and the Fiji Government erupted, it resulted in the firing of Radio Fiji announcer Mr. Sitiveni Ratulala by the R.F Management.
(Note by S.i.F.M:
The actions undertaken by Fiji Broadcasting Commission Ltd with the famed radio announcer Messr Ratulala actually violates some of their own postulates outlined in page 5 of their submission for the Broadcast Bill).

[This is the excerpt of the F.B.C.L's submission. Links to the official submissions by media industry at the end of the posting.]

Media ownership is a public trust. This means that whoever owns a media organization does so on behalf of the people and should therefore not use it to destroy any individual or group. This also means that the government must stop its practice of regarding the media as mere propaganda instruments to disseminate only information favoured or favourable to it.

Whilst the so called media freedom advocates in Fiji remained sqeaky silent in their ivory towers and glossed over any concern of editorial censorship.

It is time that the media in Fiji get a taste of their own medicine. What goes around, comes around.

This is demonstrated by the numerous complaints about the content of Fiji T.V music videos and the apparent lack of educational broadcasts that could benefit rural communities.

The deliberations in Fiji Parliament should be covered by an independent unit(co-financed between industry players and Government). This is to ensure the all media networks contribute towards nation building by using their spectrum to televise the Parliamentry debates.

U.S created that seperate non-partisan news agency called C-SPAN that just gives the facts without advertising. During times when Fiji Parliament is not in session, alternative and appropriate community empowerment programs should fill the time slot and channel.

Fiji cannot rely solely on the media to motivate themselves to undertake this task. If the digital divide is to ever be bridged in Fiji, the media industry has to adhere to new objectives and not a self imposed agenda.

>Each of these conditions is vital to any commercial
>broadcaster and reflects directly on the costs of that
>broadcaster. Some commercial broadcasters are listed
>companies on the South Pacific Stock Exchange and as
>such have obligations to their shareholders and to the
>stock exchange system. These proposed regulations
>would fly directly in the face of the necessary
>business activities of these listed broadcasters and
>whether listed or not, each commercial broadcaster
>must make a return on the investment made to establish
>the business.
>Such regulations work against the necessary business
>activities of commercial broadcasters
>Cross media Ownership
>Further the media cross ownership issues would be
>determined by the terms of the Broadcast Licensing
>Bill as and when it became an Act.
>It is PINA’s view that cross media ownership in this
>modern world is an issue that should be separately
>deliberated upon and many other factors should be
>considered – where does the internet fit, how will the
>management of spectrum affect all of the parties
>interested in their use to the benefit of the
>Spectrum management
>As we understand the plan, there would be one group of
>Authority responsible for administering Broadcast
>spectrum and another assigned to the management of the
>rest of the spectrum. Surely it will be simplest and
>most cost effective to have one over all authority
>handle the administration of the entire spectrum.
>Further, there is underway at this very moment, a
>review of the telecommunications system in Fiji.
>Surely this matter should be resolved before any
>further licensing restriction is imposed.
>Advertising Code
>PINA fails to understand why the bill would impose
>restrictions on the content of advertising to the
>extent that the bill proposes.
>Why restrict the advertising of prescription
>medicines? These are advertised widely in North
>American broadcast systems.

Pharmerceutical advertising is a closing window in the U.S. It also irresponsible to air commercials for products that permanently affect anyones health. Fiji does not have a support system of pharmerceutical researchers who can validate the claims of the drug's manufacturer. Remembering those who have money will buy out the media and silence counter argurments. Comparing the advertising content in the U.S and Fiji and not the standards framework is a hypocritical stance employed the Fiji Media.

>Present licenses allow the advertising of alcoholic
>beverages – why impose restrictions?

Concern for minors as well as setting a good example. Not to glamorize the consumption of alcohol.

Click to read Canada's Advertising Code. New Zealand has their own Advertising Standards organization. So does Australia. Here is an example of advertising standards working in favor of Fiji as a nation.

This webpage(click here) illustrates the arena of advertising bench marks.
>The Authority would set the number of hours which a
>broadcaster would broadcast, set local content
>requirements, specify the number of repeat broadcasts
>and set the language in which the broadcaster would

It is more prudent and wise to have an independent agency to set out these bench marks to isolate political interference. That does not mean the concept should be ruled out altogether.

How many Rugby fans who watch international matches on local Fiji T.V and are bombarded with the mono-version of a commercial produced by the company. To turn the screw in further and make fans more furious, the same version of the commercial is played back to back at every possible convenience to the media company. That would fit the definition of hypnotic and mind altering programming.

This is the pinnacle of irresponsible media standards.
The same media industry in Fiji who cut their operating costs by NOT producing alternative versions of any company's commercial. So that the media company can rotate the air-time between the 3-4 different versions of the advertisement.

That is the standard of advertising which the media industry in Fiji are basically ignoring.

Furthermore political advertising is a subject not even covered adequately with Fiji Media Council, along with politial fundraisng legislations.

>Audiences determine what they will or will not watch.

That cannot really be tolerated in Fiji simply because there are no other alternatives in the media to begin with. That is why the programming code is a good idea to keep the media active.

>The amount of advertising permitted will be determined
>by the audience by way of their “remote” switch. Why
>regulate it?

Those hastily manufactured generalizations by Fiji media representatives need to be scruntinized by an independent 3rd party with no links whatsoever to media industry. Certainly anything produced by any media group requires more than a grain of salt.

>Broadcasters make an important contribution to
>election coverage in the country. Why should political
>parties or candidates be restricted from advertising
>as long as the party is identified?

Political advertising should not swayed towards those with money.

>The result of such a restriction would be severe
>cutbacks on expensive election coverage and a negative
>affect on the prospects of a political party in a
>modern democracy.

No it doesn't. It makes the advertising companies more responsible to identify who the funders of the media advertising are.

>Programming Code
>All of the components of the potential programming
>codes are presently covered in the Fiji Media Council
>Code of Ethics and Practice.
>There is no need to change the system so that all of
>what a broadcaster does becomes subject to the
>jurisdiction of the courts as proposed to the less
>obtrusive and less costly present system.

Fiji Courts are basically operating blindly without any bench marks. This is the basic objective of laws. To project the current judiciary legal quandary: if or when a broadcaster violates a non-existant code- there is NO datum of law to refer to. A classic example of a flawed 'straw man' argurement.

>Our preference would be to endorse and strengthen the
>Fiji Media Council system and require that all
>broadcasters become members of the Council along with
>all other media. The Ministry of Information and
>Communication is already represented on the Fiji Media

This is the biggest flaw that the media industry try to claim.
Fiji Media Council cannot be used as a 'one size fits all' type of jurisdiction.

It is prudent to separate the media council, the advertisng council and the spectrum management in Fiji. So ideally Government does not control it nor does the media industry.

The self-regulation model hyped by the Fiji media is an example of circular logic used in abundance without any independent fact checking.

>There are many concerns in this proposed legislation
>for PINA – but the main one is the restriction on
>Media Freedom.
>It is our preference, while recognizing the need that
>spectrum is effectively managed, that this be done
>without the considerable restrictions revealed in the
>proposed Broadcast Licensing Bill.
>Yours sincerely
>Ken Clark

One last issue, Fiji is considered one large market instead of several smaller units joined togther. The market in urban cities are clearly a different audience than rural dwellers.

To date no media freedom advocate recognised this as an issue.

Local means local. Local content in urban setting in Fiji does not constitute local programming in rural areas. This means the differing markets require different styles to the broadcast, a fact that most media outlets in Fiji just sweep under the rug.

Furthermore the Title IX submission does not effectively ward off the need for a media broadcast law but actively welcomes it. It also recognises the present Ad-Hoc situation that Fiji media enjoys and often paints an over zealous depiction of the new legislations.

ARTICLE 19 welcomes the fact that the Fijian government is moving forward with this longoverdue initiative to put in place comprehensive broadcast legislation and to put broadcast regulation in the hands of an independent body, instead of a ministry, and to set clear rules for licensing.

This is a key element of democratic media oversight and it reflects the practice in other democracies. Until now, broadcast regulation and, in particular, licensing, in Fiji has been conducted in an ad hoc manner, in the absence of clear guiding rules, and by the government.

This has resulted in a patchwork of often unclear licenses, which normally contain no or only very minimal public interest conditions

Official Submissions(PDF) to the new Broadcast standards Bill.

Fiji Times

Fiji Broadcasting Commission Limited

Communications Fiji Limited

Fiji T.V 1.

Fiji Sun

Pacific Islands News Association(PINA)

Fiji Law Society.