Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Measure of a Republic in Fiji.

Wikipedia definition of a Republic includes the different types:- A republic is a state or country that is not led by a hereditary monarch, where the people of that state or country (or at least a part of that people)have impact on its government, and that is usually indicated as a republic.

Fiji is amid many changes. According to the latest census data, the population of persons with Indian heritage have dropped, according to the Fiji Times article. However, an article by Micheal Field titled "Census reveals Indians fleeing Fiji" in Stuff online Magazine frames the census data in negative conotations. Judging from the sensationalism used by Field, the actual census data does not denote that anyone is "fleeing" and it appears to be another concoction derived from Fiji's census data that was not fully released by the Bureau of Statistics.

Fiji Times article quoted from two chiefs from the Rewa Province who took issue to the recent remarks made by the Interim Prime Minister in article that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH)regarding the Methodist Church of Fiji and their epoch of hatred preached from the pulpit.
The following is an excerpt of the SMH article:

Rumblings of a revolution

October 27, 2007


iji has never had a coup like this one. As it turns into a revolution against the country's chiefly and church establishment, Hamish McDonald talks to its leader. The grandly titled King's Highway leads from Fiji's capital into the hinterland of Viti Levu, but on leaving the lowlands it abruptly degrades to a muddy, potholed dirt road, winding between jagged mountains covered in vivid green trees and scarlet flowers.

On Sunday, up by a little village of corrugated-iron houses, a man we'll call Iona (Jonah) is walking back from church, dressed in a pale blue shirt and tie and grey lava-lava kilt. He seizes the chance of a lift back to Suva.

Inside his ramshackle house, Iona grabs clothes from trunks around the furniture-free matting floors, thrusts them into a sports bag, and we set off. Iona introduces himself as a farmer and Methodist lay preacher: "The Holy Spirit has sent you here today," he declares. "Amen. Hallelujah."

On the road down, through the shabby rice-milling town of Nausori, and then over a bowl of kava at the tin shanty on Suva's fringes occupied by his ailing 73-year-old father and some younger relatives, Iona talks about how Fiji's big events have affected people like him.

There was the coup attempt in May 2000 by the young failed businessman George Speight, who held the Indo-Fijian prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, and others hostage for 56 days, until outmanoeuvred and outgunned by Fiji military's commander, Commodore Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama.

Then came a new government under Laisenia Qarase (pronounced "nGarasay"), at the head of a party representing the taukei or ethnic Fijians, the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua, or SDL, and after six years, a spectacular falling out with Bainimarama, who seized power.

Iona kept growing his cassava and taro on the plot of land allotted to him by his local chief, tribal land he is not free to sell, and seeking the will of the Holy Spirit in what was happening around him.

To him and his family, Qarase was a good prime minister. "He helped the poor. When there was flooding, Qarase gave money to replace the houses, and gave a small pension to my father," Iona says. "I don't think he ever steals, but maybe the money he gave out to the poor was not properly put down in the books."

Both Speight and Bainimarama come from Iona's province on Viti Levu's eastern side, Tailevu. The coup leader, now serving a life sentence on an island off Suva, gets a tick from Iona. "George would always give a cow for a big festival up in the province," he says. "He should get a pardon, because what he did was to help the poor people."

Iona and his family don't like what Bainimarama is doing and don't like the support he is getting from many Indo-Fijians such as Chaudhry, who joined the interim government as finance minister. "Indians are idol worshippers," he says.

They especially don't like the commodore's abrupt dismissal five months ago of the Great Council of Chiefs, the pinnacle of a traditional authority structure nurtured by the British that has some important constitutional powers, notably appointing the head of state, the president.

"He want to demolish all that system," says cousin Tevita, studying at a Methodist theological college. "He himself does not know what to do," Tevita adds. "He's relying on secret outsiders. They keep texting him on mobile phones and all."

So far, this view from the bottom, with its mix of patronage and conspiracies, hasn't counted much. Bainimarama's obstacles have mostly come from Fiji's institutions - the chiefs' council, the political parties, the legal system, some churches, the mostly Australian-owned newspapers, the human rights groups.

But the day that the grassroots voice will decide has suddenly grown closer, since Bainimarama agreed at a meeting with South Pacific leaders in Tonga on October 17 to hold elections for a new civilian government by the end of March 2009 and to abide by the result.

All settings unaltered, Qarase would probably sweep back in. He remains popular with ethnic Fijians whose vote is given extra weight in Fiji's electoral system. The ousted chiefs and Methodist leaders support him. Despite trawling through the files, Bainimarama's men have not found any corruption to pin on him.

But if Bainimarama has his way the settings will be altered. Pacific leaders pressed him to commit to holding the elections under Fiji's existing constitution and laws, but he didn't. Instead, as Bainimarama spelled out in an interview with the Herald this week, he hopes to sweep away the entire structure of racial-based voting that has ruled Fiji since independence in 1970.

"The countries that are urging us to return to democracy - I don't know if they understand how unfair the system has been over the last 20 or 30 years," Bainimarama says.

""Fijians live in a democracy with a mentality that belongs to the Fijian chiefly system. They decide for us who to vote for, our church talatalas [ministers] decide for us who to vote for. These are the Fijians living in the villages and rural areas. The provincial [chiefly] councils dictate for us who to vote for and we go along with that." "

Instead of voters having two votes, one for a general all-races constituency and one for a closed communal constituency, Bainimarama wants a single vote for all in multiracial constituencies.

"The common roll is the way to go," he says. "It takes away the race card."

He hopes the panel he co-chairs with the Catholic Archbishop, Petero Mataca, to draw up a "people's charter" will back this. Communal seats? "I am hoping they will do away with them altogether," he says.

Since most of the commodore's opponents, including the Methodist Church (sometimes called 'the taukei movement at prayer'), are boycotting the charter, there is a fair chance that it will do just that.

As Qarase observed this week, while waiting at his Suva house for a reply to his request for a meeting with the commodore: "I have a feeling that this guy, when he wants something, he must get it right or wrong."

But how to make it legal? Under the existing constitution, which Bainimarama has said is still in force, the only mechanism for amendment is by two-thirds vote of the House of Representatives, dissolved by order of the 86-year-old President, Josefa Iloilo, after the December coup.

"Parliament is not going to sit, that's for sure, so take away that option," says Bainimarama. "There's talk of referendum, we can do it through referendum. We have not stopped discussing how we can do it … there has to be some changes to the constitution because of the electoral reform, there has to be amendment."

The precise way then? "I leave that to the legal people," he says.

The chief legal person is the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, an Australian-trained lawyer formerly with the law firm Minter Ellison in Sydney, who lost his permanent residency in Australia as part of Canberra's "targeted sanctions" against Bainimarama and associates, including any identifiable soldiers.

Sayed-Khaiyum won't be specific ahead of the charter, but says a referendum can carry great weight. Fiji's first constitution in 1970 was negotiated with London "by a handful of leaders" and then simply promulgated, he notes. The army coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka's 1990 constitution, from which the present one is derived by amendment, was "shoved down our throat at midnight".

A referendum and the eventual elections will be battles for the mind of Fijians such as Iona, with the traditional chiefs and many of the preachers ranged against Bainimarama.

In coming weeks, Bainimarama will fire his next salvo at recalcitrant chiefs, with a dossier detailing how they have played politics, and creamed off rents on traditional lands. With about half the Fijians drifting away from ancestral villages to the towns, the hold of the chiefs on them may be weakening anyway.

The commodore is equally scornful of the Methodist leadership, whose flock includes 80 per cent of ethnic Fijians and who have rejected the charter, calling for an immediate return to elections.

"They had been "sowing the seeds of [racial] hatred" since they backed Rabuka's coup, and were part of a traditional conspiracy of power against ordinary Fijians. "The chiefs, the politicians and the talatalas keep them suppressed so that they can take advantage of them every now and then," Bainimarama says.

He will fight them on Christian principles. "You know it's very easy to tell the people in the villages, who go to church every Sunday, and the first thing you are taught there is love," he says. "And if you don't love your neighbour, what's the use? But they will understand that."

The fourth arm of Fijian supremacy used to be the military, which has just 15 Indians among its 3527 full-time members (thanks to its rigorous physical standards and low pay, not any exclusion policy, insists a spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Mosese Tikaitonga).

Bainimarama - and other officers contacted - insist the military has done a 180-degree turn since supporting Rabuka. "When 1987 came around we thought Rabuka was it, until we realised that the people who had backed Rabuka did it for their own interests," he says.

Whether the standing of the army can help carry the debate remains to be seen. In the first months after the coup, soldiers cracked down on dissenters and petty criminals, with at least two dead from barrack-room bashings and humiliations. The troops returned to bases in May, and incidents have abated, but the lesson lingers.

"People keep inside what they think of this government, because they are very frightened," Iona says.

The Methodist Church is not not lying down. Its head of "Christian citizenship", Mamasa Lasaro, says none of Bainimarama's charges against Qarase or the chiefs have been proven. Fiji was no more or less corrupt than any other comparable country.

The church had set up branches for its minority of non-Fijian believers and was trying to engage with a multicultural reality. "We are struggling,' he admits. "But to say we are very racial, we are very communal - it's quite unfair."

Levelling the playing field could take generations, he says. "I think that is a very superficial view by a few army officers," Lasaro says, "because on the ground there is a feeling of insecurity. On one side the Fijians are very insecure about their identity and their destiny in their own country."

The constitution can also fight back, with Qarase's case for reinstatement coming before Fiji's highest court in March. And once it gets to open politics, Qarase's SDL will not hesitate to play the accusation that December was an "Indian coup", with Chaudhry the Machiavelli behind Bainimarama. "He was very much part of the planning process," Qarase says.

One of the commodore's red-line issues leading to the coup - Qarase's attempt to legislate ethnic Fijian ownership of inshore fishing grounds, known as qoliqoli - is also susceptible to counter-charges of alien influence against native Fijian interests.

"I think he was very much influenced by a few people in the tourist industry," Qarase says.

For his part, Bainimarama thinks the military is the only entity that can bring change. "No other entity that has an influence with the Fijians is professional and apolitical like us," he says.

As for any external influence over the Qoliqoli Bill, it had come from the Maori figure and New Zealand Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, he says. Peters had told Bainimarama he had personally headed off similar legislation because he foresaw "Maori killing Maori" over it.

Bainimarama throws up his hands at the idea Fijians need "generations" of protection. "They want us to remain in that shell, because they can take advantage of that," he says. "We should come out of this shell and think for ourselves, and do things that are right. And one of them is to recognise that another race is in Fiji. That's the only way forward.

"It's a revolution, but it needs to be done in Fiji … we were heading back into our cannibalistic days. We were going to get rid of the Indians and we would be just left on our own. And that would be worse for everyone."

This is an excerpt of the Fiji Time article:

Attack on church upsets chief

Thursday, November 01, 2007

REWA chief Ro Filipe Tuisawau described comments by interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama about the church and chiefs as inciteful and would definitely burn whatever bridges left between chiefs, church, the vanua and the interim regime.

Ro Filipe, the nephew of the Roko Tui Dreketi Ro Teimumu Kepa said, "we are just plain sick and tired of his childish and immature comments and shows that once again he is not of national leadership material."

He was reacting to Commodore Bainimarama's observations in an Australian newspaper that the church had been "sowing the seeds of hatred" since they backed Sitiveni Rabuka's coup, and were part of a traditional conspiracy of power against ordinary Fijians. "The chiefs, the politicians and the talatalas keep them suppressed so that they can take advantage of them every now and then," Commodore Bainimarama said in the article.

"The words of a leader must heal and build bridges but this leader destroys and hurts with his words and actions. We can only pray that this nightmare ends soon," Ro Filipe said.

"Despite the insults and hurt, all should be thankful that the Fijian chiefs and people have chosen to respect the rule of law. "As for the Charter, it cannot be a people's Charter because it did not originate from the people. The regime leader has publicly stated that the Fijian communal seats will be abolished and that the Charter structure will be used to achieve that. No right thinking Fijian must ever support this Charter which in the long term will make Fijians political refugees in their own land."

Although, the chiefs are entitled to their opinion however flawed it maybe; the truth of the matter may rest with the experience of Citizens Constitutional Forum (CCF) head, Rev. Aquila Yabaki as outlined in a Fiji Village article. The excerpt of the Fiji Village article:

Yabaki agrees with Interim PM
Former Methodist Church Minister, and CCF Executive Director, Reverand Akuila Yabaki said he agrees with the statement made by Interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama said the Methodist Church leadership in Fiji has been sowing the seeds of racial hatred in the country since they backed Rabuka's coup in 1987.

Reverand Yabaki said the church leadership supported the last two coups by Rabuka and George Speight, but the big question is why they have changed their stance on the events of December 5th last year.

Reverand Yabaki said he was part of the church leadership in 1987, but he was told to go after he opposed the military coup. Bainimarama said the Methodist leadership was part of a traditional conspiracy of power against the ordinary Fijians and the chiefs, the politicians and the church talatalas keep the ordinary Fijians suppressed so that they can take advantage of them.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Sporting Kick In The Shins For New Zealand Soccer- Is Rugby Next?

The issue of travel visas for sports has come home to roost in Wellington as a New Zealand Herald article suggests, following the canceled soccer match in North Harbour by the game's ruling organization FIFA.
An opinion article in the Manawatu Standard describes the unintended consequences of such boisterous diplomatic posturing by the Foreign Minister, Winston Peters. If soccer world cup qualifiers where so cavalierly trivialized by the New Zealand Government, perhaps the economic impact report of the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia should be a stark reminder of the ripple effects of involving sports and petty politics; displayed recently by the New Zealand Government.

Fiji opposition an own goal
Manawatu Standard | Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Isn't it wonderful how our money can be spent on our behalf by politicians?

New Zealand Football is in line for compensation from taxpayers, possibly to the tune of half a million dollars, because Winston Peters decided he had an issue with Fiji's goalkeeper's father-in-law.

The goalkeeper's offence was being married, or possibly engaged, to a fairly lowly army officer in a country where there is a non-democratic government.

The same Mr Peters, and his Prime Minister, were recently in Europe watching the rugby World Cup, in which a team from Fiji was competing and doing rather well. The country's rugby side had had long links with the Fiji army, but that seems to have been ignored by our pious politicians.

And a cabinet minister is free to holiday in Cuba, which is as undemocratic as it is possible to be, without anyone batting an eye. And what about Tonga? Their move to democracy is half-hearted, yet there is no talk of banning sporting contact with that nation.

Then there is China. Our politicians are busy grovelling and greasing in a bid to establish a free-trade deal, but when did the residents of China last see a ballot box?

Now that the All Whites' home game against Fiji has been moved to Sydney, due to Mr Peters' meddling, what sanctions will our government propose to punish Australia for allowing the hated goalkeeper into their country? A ban on Kiwis holidaying on the Gold Coast, perhaps?

And if the game is going to be played anyway, what will have been achieved by the original ban apart from a big bill for New Zealand's taxpayers and the loss of home advantage for a sporting side fighting to win a place in the next Football World Cup?

Let us hope there is more astute thinking around these issues if Fiji hasn't returned to a form of democracy approved of by our politicians by the time the Rugby World Cup rolls around. If those in Wellington start banning players because it doesn't approve of their relatives' occupations, or their country's type of government, then the compensation bill in 2011 could make the Fiji football fiasco look like chicken feed.

The recent RWC grossed $NZ495m, with half of that going as profits to the IRB. That sort of money as compo would give taxpayers a serious headache if our meddling politicians choose to disrupt that tournament.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Trouble With Native Land Administrators.

Fiji Sun article by the their Political Editor poses interesting but academically flawed questions about the issue of native land in Fiji. The following is an excerpt:

Landownership is ‘intact'

Maika Bolatiki
Political Editor

Last updated 10/24/2007 9:46:52 AM

A lot has been said about the People's Charter and one of the major concerns is the promotion of equal rights. The indigenous people are worried about this, especially when they have their own rights. Some interpret these equal rights to be transferred to land ownership.

It is a fact that this must be addressed. Can the indigenous Fijians lose their land ownership right? Some are trying to look at legal means of trying to have land ownership rights. Is the landownership of the indigenous Fijians safely protected under the Deed of Cession? Can this ownership right be challenged in court?
With the charter paving the way for a non-racial Fiji will it affect land ownership?

Let us look at the total social set up of the indigenous Fijians. They belong to a clan which is located in a village. Every clan in the village is represented by an elder, known as a mataqali. Then they have the village chief who has the total respect of all in the village. Fijians believe that there are two types of people, "taukei" - the indigenous people who are of the land, look after the land and own the land, and the "vulagi" who are visitors to Fiji,(including the Indians brought into Fiji in the late 1800s to harvest Fiji's major cash crop, sugar cane).

A politician said in his research: "The vulagi are not seen as belonging and therefore not obliged to care for the land. The Fijian categorises everybody into these two boxes - while we might be a "taukei" in our homeland we are a "vulagi" in theirs and vice-versa."

Former president of the Methodist Church of Fiji now a resident of New Zealand Dr Iliatia Tuwere summed this philosophy up to Fijians living in New Zealand in 2004, "It is good to always remember that in Aotearoa, we are visitors and will remain so. It does not matter how long we have been here in New Zealand, whether it has been for 40 or more years, we are and will always remain visitors here; we are however taukei of Fiji."

It can be clearly seen that land ownership is a key foundation of Fijian culture and for this region it has been fiercely protected from the first settlement of whites and Indians back in the mid-1800s. Today more than 80 per cent of land in Fiji remains in the hands of the indigenous people - although some of this is leased for up to 99 years through agreement with the village mataqali to hotels and, mainly, Indian farmers growing sugar cane.

It is this issue of land ownership that has been the source of much trouble in Fiji since its independence - including the latest coup in 2000. Just recently a submission was made by Ba lawyer Dr Shamsud Dean Sahu Khan to the Fiji Law Society on "Legal status of different types and/or ownership of lands and status of sea water and reefs in Fiji from the Deed of Cession 1874 - today".

He says it is very important to appreciate that under the Deed of Cession the proprietorship of all lands in Fiji except some lands were transferred and vested in Queen Victoria and her heirs and successors except the lands which had become the property of the Europeans and other foreigners and the lands which were in the actual use or occupation of some chief or tribe or not actually required for the probable (not possible) future support and maintenance of some chief or tribe."

It is a fact that the legality of land ownership is now questioned. Interim Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said there was a misinterpretation of the charter with regard to land ownership. He said land ownership rights would remain with the indigenous Fijians forever.

Land ownership is protected under the 1997 Constitution. The constitution clearly stipulates that any change to the Native Land Act must be passed by three quarters of the members of the Lower Hose and three quarters of the Great Council Chiefs in the Senate. The indigenous people are very suspicious because of the change in the GCC membership and the new move to hold a referendum to amend the constitution.

We applaud the strong stand taken by the Prime Minister. Land at no time should be discussed without the knowledge of the indigenous owners. They know for fact that land was acquired through tribal wars where lives were lost and this happened well before cession. Land acquisition also was through traditional means. Land is a very sensitive matter for the indigenous people. Their land is close their hearts and it is part of them.

How will they feel if their landownership right is taken away from them? The late Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna went around the whole country crossing mountains and rivers to establish landownership. The Native Lands Commission has records of this. It is not the right time and there will be no right time for the land issue to be brought up.
But for the legal birds there will always be a right time.

Land is linked to politics and this must be dealt at that level and at the right forum. I know there have been attempts made to amend the legislation in regard to native land but to no avail. With the new charter as the way forward for a new Fiji, it can only be a reality if the rights of the indigenous are protected.
One of the major sources of conflict in Fiji and the region has been the failure to respect the rights of the indigenous people.

As resource owners they should be fully consulted in development projects such as tourism or extractive industries like mining and logging that would affect their environment and subsistence livelihood. This is just a matter of courtesy and respect which is fundamental to human rights.
Just recently a United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Rights was passed.
The declaration does not take away or diminish the rights of others as guaranteed under the Constitution, so it should not be taken as a threat. Okay, the concern of the indigenous people remains and that is the move to have equal rights.
The new charter should clearly state in what areas the equal rights apply.
With the 1997 Constitution still in place, landownership rights for the indigenous Fijians is intact.

It is also a fact that landownership will remain with the indigenous people and no one can change that even by the power of the gun. Let us all hope the new charter will address the land conflict that usually comes up.

W hile, Bolatiki attempts to persuade native landowners that their ancestral land still remains safeguarded under the existing Native Lands Act. Where the rubber meets the road, grassroots landowners have been routinely abused by the officials from Native Lands Trust Board; who appear to have their own dubious agendas, well divorced from those of the humble landowning unit.

The newly appointed General Manager of NLTB, Semi Tabakanalagi has also some skeletons in his closet, with respect to access, accountability and transparency to landowners as an earlier S.i.F.M post outlines in regards to the negotiations for Natadola Project. Fiji Times website "Have Your Say" column has many posters questioning Tabakanalagi's character and ask why Semi Tabakanalagi wasn't removed along with the old NLTB General Manager, Kalivati Bakani.

The following comments are an excerpt from "Have Your Say".

Katalina Balawanilotu of The Greater Bay Area, CA (5 days and 6 hours ago)
14 million $$ in LEASE AREAS


When are these tenants going to pay up?

They cannot expect to make profit off the land yet refuse to pay the landowners

NLTB need to just cease completely

LANDOWNERS to have the freedom to sell or lease directly to tenants and get 100% of monies.

NLTB being the middleman is the hindrance for both the tenants, developments and especially the landowners.

KAI VIITI of Australia (5 days and 3 hours ago)
We do not know who we can trust anymore: they said it is a clean-up campaign?

Yet they have replaced Mr Bakani with his offsider: the man himself, Semi Tabakanalagi.

What is this man's reputation?

A major institution like the NLTB, which is the heart and soul of every Kaiviti, for;

1. Should always be transparent.

2. Everyone involved should always be accountable to the people.

Semi Tabanalagi needs to declare any business interests and shareholdings he has.

The Military appeared to cut the head of the NLTB, but elevated Semi who is just as bad as Bakani to control the Fijian Land?

The same group of rascals is still operating, untouchable?

Is this a clean up? What is our future Commander? Did you transfer us form a small fire to an inferno?

Are you selling the Fijians out? Just because of your fear of facing the justice? Are you really scared? Why?

Sikituru Villager of United States (5 days and 2 hours ago)
I don't believe it!

I thought this was a clean-up campaign to clean up NLTB and clean out Semi Tabakanalagi and yet they brought him back. NLTB is such a sensitive issue to us Landowners - why did they bring the culprit back. They should have checked his corrupt practises. I am so disappointed!

Rusanavanua of United States (4 days and 21 hours ago)
I'm not sure if Semi is the right man since he's tarnished with defending the words of Bakani "Fijians are not educated enough to manage their own land!" Semi Tabakanalagi also defended Dakeuidreketi's conflict of interest with being an executive of APRIL as well as being a NLTB Board member. Tabakanalagi word's will be come back to haunt him.

And the news of this Vanua Development Corp Ltd being preserved is also a big mistake. It appears that the FAB Interim Minister is being led down the same garden path. Clearly, the root cause of landowner's poverty is the NLTB(which has used Unimproved Capital Value) formula which is less than the Market Value prices for years.


Go NLTB Go of Fiji (5 days and 0 hours ago)
Reading thru the comments it seems a lot do not really know what NLTB is there for its functions/roles. Under their Act they have to administer native land for the benefit of native owners (fijians).

The 2 main bodies propping up the native Fijians are NLTB (land) and FAB (people) and they need to work in tandem to improve the welfare of Fijian in general and for land generating more benefits for them. Just trying to point at NLTB being corrupt, etc, etc is a mere waste of time but one needs to look at it objectively.

Why are the Fijian Landowners so poor, so uneducated and underdeveloped? Is NLTB only to blame or others as well including the individual Fijian themselves? There needs to be a revolutionary change in the Fijian mindset, social structure and customs to embrace the global changes we are facing. Is it the people's charter? The previous govt came up with affirmative policies to bridge the gab but it did not assist as much. More Fijians are becoming poorer, more in prisons, more getting sick (lifestyle disease and aids) is it NLTB's fault, FAB, BLV, Govt.

I suppose we all need to take a break and look again where are we going. The Indians took nearly 100 years to educate their children to where they are today holding to all the advantages in our society. For Fijians and landowners they need to take stock and try and work on strategies moving foward for the better. For the new changes at NLTB, my advice is listen/consult landowners more/better, an effective PR/education for landowners/customers,work towards intiatives that landowners and customers value and can take ownership on. Its a hard ask but its not too late and not impossible. Philp 4:13

One thing is certain that, Tabakanalagi has managed to sweet-talk himself out of scrutiny. What is a concern to many native landowners is, the perceived "Quid Pro Quo" made by Semi Tabakanalagi to the Interim Minister of Fijian Affairs, Epeli Ganilau; in exchange for his new post as General Manager for NLTB, which may include immunity from prosecution for prior abuses as a NLTB official.

Semi Tabakanalagi appears to have to have seat on the board of Yaqara Group, along with the former NLTB Board Member and APRIL Executive, Keni Dakuidreketi as the Yaqara Group website explains. This is the excerpt of Tabakanalagi's CV as posted on the website:

The question of ownership of Yaqara land was raised by former Fiji Senator, Dr. Atu Emberson-Bain during a heated debate in the 2004 session in Fiji Parliament. Hansard available here.

The following is an excerpt:


Traditional Landowners - Yaqara Studio City

(Question No. 9/2004)

HON. SENATOR DR. A. EMBERSON-BAIN asked the Government, upon notice:

In the interests of expediting the studio city development at Yaqara and doing justice to the traditional landowners, could the honourable Minister for Fijian Affairs kindly: -

(a) Confirm that the Native Land Commission has conducted the veitarogivanua and that a ruling on the rightful owners of the Yaqara Studio City land has been made?

(b) Could he explain why there has been such a delay in confirming the ruling in writing with the rightful owners, namely, the descendants of the Bicilevu family, when the ruling was made four months ago?

(c) Can he confirm when the NLTB will submit a formal Memorandum of Agreement to the Bicilevu family for signing so that the studio city development can proceed without further disruption or delay?

(d) Can he explain why another landowning group, which is not the acknowledged owner, was involved in the recent installation of the Telecom disk in Ra, in apparent contradiction of the veitarogivanua ruling?

(e) Why did the NLTB draw up an unlawful Memorandum of Agreement with a landowning group without first establishing the rightful owners of the Yaqara land, and what are the liabilities likely to arise out of this unlawful agreement?

HON. SENATOR Q.B. BALE.- Mr. President, Sir, I rise to respond to the questions raised by the honourable Senator as follows:

(a) There has been no such inquiry conducted, because the Yaqara Studio City land which comprises three parcels of land, namely Nabuta, Qeledradra and Naqara (Part of) were sold as Crown Freehold land well before the Native Lands Commission was established. When the Commission was established, it conducted inquiries throughout Fiji on ownership of native land only. Freehold lands, like Yaqara were never the subject of such inquiries.

Moreover the Native Land Commission has not conducted any inquiry into the rightful holders of the subject or rather the initial native owners of this land and any land like it in Fiji, because it does not have the legal power to do so under its own act that is the Native Lands Act.

(b) Sir, the "ruling made two months ago" by the NLC was not a formal Commission sitting but merely a meeting with the Yavusa Navauvau of Korovou Village in Tavua to ascertain the current land ownership rights of Mataqali Nabulou and who the descendants of Bicilevu are.

On this latter issue, there were two claimants - the head of the Yavusa Navauvau of Korovou Village and Noa Sakava, a member of the Mataqali Nabulou, one of the mataqalis of the Yavusa Navauvau.

The Commission could not confirm that the descendants of Bicilevu at Korovou Village are the rightful landowners of Yaqara Studio City, meaning all those parcels of crown freehold land referred to in the previous answer, because it has no jurisdiction in such matters. However, the Commission advised the Bicilevu family during its meeting at Korovou Village on 11th August this year to take their claim to the proposed Lands Claim Tribunal when it is established (and I think he is referring to the Indigenous Claims Tribunal, which will be tabled in Parliament sometime next year).

(c) The NLTB is not aware of the Bicilevu family connection. It has issued a legal binding contractual lease to the developers of the Studio City, with the consent and blessings of the registered owners of the native land portion of Yaqara and the Yavusa Nadokana of Rabulu Village, Tavua. This is native land, which was formally Schedule A and was allotted to the Yavusa Nadokana under the provisions of section 18 of the Native Lands Trust Act.

(d) In order to answer this part of the question, it should be clarified perhaps, by the honourable Senator Dr. Emberson-Bain, who is this "another landowning group" that she is talking about or referring to, which is not the acknowledged owners. Further, we would like to know what is this veitarogivanua ruling that she is referring to because as I have said, there has been no such ruling.

(e) The NLTB is guided by the Register of Native Lands under the Native Lands Act on land ownership. The leasing process is within its legal jurisdiction and discretion to act as it deems necessary under the provisions of the Native Land Trust Act. As far as NLTB is concerned, it has acted in accordance within the confinement of its legal and moral obligations under that statute.

HON. SENATOR DR. A. EMBERSON-BAIN.- Mr. President, Sir, the honourable and learned Attorney-General and Minister for Justice has just asked what is this veitarogivanua that I am referring to.

Firstly, to refresh the memory of the honourable Prime Minister and Minister for Fijian Affairs and the staff of the Ministry of Fijian Affairs, two veitarogivanuas have been conducted in the past and officially recorded. The first one was actually on 29th November, 1926 and I can confirm that the honourable Prime Minister is aware of that; that established the rightful claim of the traditional owners that are descendants of the Bicilevu family.

Secondly, contrary to what the honourable and learned Attorney-General and Minister for Justice has said, a veitarogivanua was conducted on 11th August this year, in Korolevu Village near Tavua. When he gave his reply, he went on to effectively confirm that, but in his answer to part (a) of the question, he denied that it has not taken place. In fact, it has taken place.

My supplementary questions are; can the honourable Prime Minister and Minister for Fijian Affairs assure the House that the NLTB has not in any way sought to interfere with, overturn or compromise the ruling of the NLC, and in turn fought the legitimate right of the traditional owners to gain their ancestral land?

Secondly, can the honourable Prime Minister and Minister for Fijian Affairs give his assurance to this House and to the public that none of his Ministers has any kind of personal or financial interests, either directly or indirectly in the Yaqara Studio City Development or the Fiji Waters Development, both developments taking place on the land in question. Can he confirm that none of his Ministers is in any other way related or associated with any of the claims who purport to have a claim to ownership over the Yaqara land?

HON. SENATOR Q.B. BALE.- Mr. President, Sir, both questions are new in the sense that I think the honourable Senator could have realised that those are substantive questions in their own rights. If they were intended to be asked, they should be in the substantive question, even anticipating answers to the questions raised.

To be fair to the honourable Senator, I do not have the answers ready with me, Sir, but I would be happy to obtain the answers to those specific queries and give them to the honourable Senator, either personally or on the floor of this House, whichever way she prefers.

MR. PRESIDENT.- Honourable Senator, can you just wait for a while?

HON. SENATOR DR. A. EMBERSON-BAIN.- Mr. President, Sir, I am requesting if I can ask my first part of the supplementary question.

MR. PRESIDENT.- You are asking a new question. These are supplementary questions, for the purpose of elucidating the questions that you had asked originally.

HON. SENATOR DR. A. EMBERSON-BAIN.- Mr. President, Sir, I do believe that I have a right to raise them, but the honourable and learned Attorney-General also has a right to come back with the answers at a later stage, given the fact that it does require him to go and search for the answers. So, I accept his response, Sir, but what I am asking him to do is to respond to my first part of the question, and that is in relation to the veitarogivanua that had taken place.

HON. SENATOR RATU G.K. CAKOBAU.- Mr. President, Sir, a point of order. Standing Order 51 - Relevancy. She is not a member of the VKB, even to ask about the native land or even about Yaqara. So, you just keep quiet and you will learn.

HON. SENATOR DR. A. EMBERSON-BAIN.- Listen, don't you point at me, honourable Senator!


HON. SENATOR RATU G.K. CAKOBAU.- Why? You should not talk about anything to do with NLTB or about our land!

HON. SENATOR DR. A. EMBERSON-BAIN.- You are saying that I have no right!

HON. SENATOR RATU G.K. CAKOBAU.- Yes, you have no right, you are not even in the VKB.

HON. SENATOR DR. A. EMBERSON-BAIN.- And you are being offensive!

HON. SENATOR RATU G.K. CAKOBAU.- I am talking about something that is right. You are not in the VKB, so do not talk about it.


HON. SENATOR F. ANTHONY.- Sir, this is not the first time that the honourable Senator Ratu Cakobau has behaved in the manner he has. This is unparliamentary, disrespectful and brings disorder to this House. This is not on!

MR. PRESIDENT.- Sit down!

HON. SENATOR F. ANTHONY.- That is not on!

MR. PRESIDENT.- Now, honourable Senator, because you were not listening, I will put that question to an end. We will move on to the next item.

HON. SENATOR DR. A. EMBERSON-BAIN.- The honourable and learned Attorney-General has not answered my question and because it was ....

MR. PRESIDENT.- I have made a ruling.

HON. SENATOR F. ANTHONY.- Sir, may I say that as President of this august House, you have a responsibility to be fair and that when questions are asked, they should be answered.

MR. PRESIDENT.- Order, I have made a ruling.

HON. SENATOR ADI L. CAKOBAU.- Mr. President, Sir, a point of order, Standing Order 2 - Ruling of the President must be adhered to.

HON. SENATOR DR. A. EMBERSON-BAIN.- Yes, that's all you have to say.

HON. SENATOR ADI L. CAKOBAU.- That's all I'm saying, honourable Senator.


HON. SENATOR ADI L. CAKOBAU.- If you have anything to say, do it the proper way - stand up and speak. He has made his ruling. You sit down!

HON. SENATOR DR. A. EMBERSON-BAIN.- Don't you tell me to sit down!


HON. SENATOR ADI L. CAKOBAU.- Keep quiet, I have a right, like you have.

MR. PRESIDENT.- Honourable Senators, before I call on the next item, I have already said why I had put an end to that question. It is simply because honourable Senators were not listening to me, so I decided to put an end to that question and then I called for the next item.

If you want to ask a new question, you put it forward in writing for the next meeting.

That particular debate on the question of ownership of Yaqara raises more questions than answers. On 14th February 2005, the company was issued a 99 year Crown lease No 15734 by the Department of Lands and Survey of the Government of Fiji, for Crown Land totaling 1091.2668 hectares and effective from 1st January 2003. The specific purpose of the use of the land is described as for the “Development of the Studio City”.
Why is NLTB representative sitting on the Yaqara Board of Directors, when the Department of Lands issued the 99 year lease?

How will NLTB General Manager, Semi Tabakanalagi demarcate his interests of being a icon of Native Lands Trust Board but at the same time, representing the interest of the land developer called Yaqara Group?

It appears that something drastically amiss in this clean up of NLTB, because the abolishment of NLTB"s commericial arm company "Vanua Development Corporation(VDC) was one of the main demands made to deposed Fiji Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase by Army Commander, Frank Bainimarama prior to the 2006 coup.
The List of Demands:

1.)Drop the controversial Qoliqoli and Reconciliation, Truth and Unity Bills.

2.) Abolish the Native Land Trust Board'’s commercial arm Vanua Development Corporation. The NLTB has to only serve its core function of helping the landowners.

3.)Audit the provincial council's’ financial status, which had not been done for the past years.

An excerpt from a Fiji Government website article describes the lack of credibility with Tabakanalagi:

Minister hears Natadola landowners grievances
Jun 22, 2007, 17:30

The Interim Minister for Fijian Affairs, Heritage, Provincial Development and Multi-Ethnic Affairs Ratu Epeli Ganilau along with officials and board members of the Native Lands Trust Board (NLTB) were in Nadroga yesterday (21/06/07) to meet the disgruntled landowners of Natadola.

The landowners of Sanasana Village are unhappy with the way the NLTB has been handling their piece of land on which the Natadola Hotel is currently being constructed.

Sanasana Village is located near the coast of Nadroga and comprise of seven clans, 12 sub-clans and 18 tokatoka’s (extended families). Ratu Epeli was accompanied yesterday by the Chairman of the NLTB Standing Committee, Ratu Tuakitau Cokanauto and Board Members Ro Epeli Mataitini and Nemani Buresova.

Representing the NTLB were Acting General Manager Joveci Tuinamuana, Deputy General Manager Operations Semi Tabakanalagi, Client Relations Officer Mataiasi Bolatagane and Mesake Mara.

According to Village Headman Ilami Nabiau, the village was now split over the Natadola saga. Speaking in Fijian, the 83 year old said the village was looking forward to meeting Ganilau and were determined to find the truth about April Investment.

“All we want to know is the truth behind this people so we can solve this problem here and now. If the government is telling the truth, than so be it.

“All we’re saying that a lot of money has been spent by the FNPF in financing the investment company who’s contract has been terminated. We want to know if the development at Natadola will continue. If so, who will fund its continuation,” he said.

Mr Nabiau said an invitation had also been extended to the Roko Tui Nadroga to come and hold discussions with the villagers but this did not eventuate because of differences that arose between the two factions. He says he hoped the Minister will clarify these issues with them in the meeting.

Another villager who wished to remain anonymous said the village comprised of two factions; one for the government and the other for April Investment.

“Some of them had been given money by Mr Salliot and this is why they want the company back,” the villager said.

Villagers at the meeting yesterday were clearly frustrated at the NLTB officials saying they had fooled them.

“ You (Tabakanalagi) came to us during the early stages of our discussions regarding the use of our land. You had so many things to say and yet nothing has happened so far,” another villager said.

“Having the Fijian Affairs and the Ministry of Lands advising us is enough. We don’t want the NLTB.”

The villagers also questioned whether it was lawful for Keni Dakuidreketi to hold two positions simultaneously. Dakuidreketi was a former member of the NLTB Board and CEO of April Investment while primary discussions for developments at Natadola was taking place.

Ratu Epeli reminded the villagers of the NLTB’s role saying they were first founded to protect the rights and interest of the indigenous landowners. He also urged the villagers to reconcile, solve their differences and work towards a resolution that would benefit them and their future generation.

“You must come to a final resolution so that for a start, we don’t lose the money of the people who contributed to the FNPF and also the investment of the FNPF is at stake here,” Ratu Epeli said.

Ratu Tuakitau told the villagers that problems will be encountered along the way and encouraged the villagers to embrace the future and the many good things that the Natadola Project would yield them.

The Minister and Ratu Tuakitau both reassured the villagers they would do all they can within their constitutional powers to ensure that those who had abused their positions for personal gains would be brought to justice.


"Villagers at the meeting yesterday were clearly frustrated at the NLTB officials saying they had fooled them.

“ You (Tabakanalagi) came to us during the early stages of our discussions regarding the use of our land. You had so many things to say and yet nothing has happened so far,” another villager said.

“Having the Fijian Affairs and the Ministry of Lands advising us is enough. We don’t want the NLTB.”"

A Fiji Times article also raises serious questions about the honesty of Tabakanalagi. The following is an excerpt of the FT article:

Landowners query board loyalty
Fiji Times
Monday, July 24, 2006

THE Native Lands Trust Board was last week required to provide landowners of one of the country's largest tourism developments the reassurance that they are committed to protecting landowners' interests.

NLTB's Deputy General Manager Operations, Semi Tabakanalagi was swamped with concerns regarding the loyalty of the board during a meeting with landowners from Sanasana Village in Sigatoka.

Seven landowning units from the village own the land on which the Natadola Marine Resort project is currently being developed. A delegation led by Mr Tabakanalagi traveled to the village on Thursday to address grievances raised by landowners.

However, during the meeting Mr Tabakanalagi and his team were bombarded with claims that the board was working more with the project developers and either ignoring or sacrificing landowners' interests.

Landowners' spokesman, former cabinet minister and senator, Apisai Tora said the four units he was representing were concerned about their rights and interests being sacrificed to ensure the project continued.

Mr Tora said a major concern of landowners was Keni Dakuidreketi's position with NLTB while being the main developer for the project. "This is a clear case of conflict of interest and this has raised a lot of eyebrows within the landowning units of Sanasana."

"Since Mr Dakuidreketi is the main developer, we are concerned that all decisions made by the board would be made to see that the project went ahead regardless of whether our rights were sacrificed," he said.

"Even though NLTB is our trustee, it seems that it is pushing the company's interests," said Mr Tora. "We have some grievances with several works that the developers are carrying out so how do you expect us to trust that the board will address our concerns when the developer is sitting on the board," Mr Tora asked.

Attempts to contact Mr Dakuidreketi yesterday were unsuccessful. But Mr Tabakanalagi said there was nothing to worry about because the board always fought for the rights and interests of landowners. He promised that no decision would be made in favor of the developers because Mr Dakuidreketi was a member of the board.

"You do not have to worry about Mr Dakuidreketi because that is our job to see that he carries out his duties properly. NLTB is always for the landowners and your rights and interests are always our priority," Mr Tabakanalagi said.

However, several legal precedents made by several notable cases in Fiji have thrown the spanner in the works with regards to the Fijian understanding of land ownership and squaring that particular claim with past legal cases. One particular paper, addresses the Fijian Understanding of the Deed of Cession.

Several of these legal case has been addressed by a working paper authored by Sunil Sharma LLB. The following excerpt is the conclusion of the paper:


The control of all native lands is vested in the NLTB, which makes the decisions for the landowners, but without consulting them. The relationship according to the Native Land Act is one of trustee and beneficiaries yet the beneficiaries are not consulted on matters affecting them. As already seen the members of the matagali or the matagali itself do not have the locus standi to bring out an action against the NLTB.

Although there are other remedies available, however, the legislation has deprived the right of the landowners in suing the NLTB in their personal capacity or as a landowning group. The cost involved for a judicial review is expensive therefore a deterrent to the landowners as majority of them are poor. The role of the landowners is that of being the "shadow" or the "instruments" of the NLTB, the legislation's governing the natural resources directly shows a disregard to the Fijian culture and traditions.

On the "white paper" the landowners have been given the recognition but this is not so in reality, most of the landowners do not know what will happen to their land because they do not participate in the decision making process. The NLTB deducts 25% and there is a further 30% deducted before the members receive their share. The amount finally received may not be much because of the number of members eligible to receive their shares.

The current crisis in Fiji can therefore be attributed to the current system, the decision by the landowners not to renew the expiring leases under ALTA is justified because they don't receive much financial benefits after all. They will be better off using their own land and earning an income for themselves. The NLTB has for very long enjoyed itself by "riding on the shoulders" of the landowners, times are changing the landowners sooner or later will discover the importance of their role in the real sense. Its now or never, the concerns of the landowners must be heard they need a fair share of the "cake" which rightfully belongs to them.

It is suggested that the following recommendations might be considered:

1. Update on the legislation's dealing with the Native Lands in Fiji.

2. NLTB to reduce their 25% administrative fees, needs to be downsized or dissolve the NLTB completely.

3. New legislation's to incorporate the participation of the landowners in the decision making process

4. Vakavanua arrangements to be made legal

5. Chiefs to play a formal role in dispute settlement before the matter can be heard by the Native Land Commission.

Another view of the legal precedence in Fiji case, demonstrates that despite the understanding of most landowners, mostly reinforced by misconstrued information delivered unapologeticaly by some ill-informed writers like Bolatiki.
The following excerpt is from the ruling form a Supreme Court case: Kaliavu v Native Land Trust Board [1956] FJSC 1; [1955-57] 5 FLR 17 (27 August 1956)


[No. 107 of 1954]


All of Lawaki, Sawakasa, Tailevu North, Members of the Mataqali



Mataqali land - members suing in personal capacity - no right of action.

The plaintiffs, five of a mataqali of some 150 members, instituted this action against the Native Land Trust Board. They claimed damages and all injunction restraining the defendant Board from granting a lease to one Yee Cheng Foo of a portion of the land owned by their mataqali. The plaintiffs sued in their personal capacity as members of the mataqali and not in a representative capacity on behalf of the mataqali.

Held. - If any damage has been suffered by the mataqali as a result of any action by the Native Land Trust Board for which the Board is liable in lam to pay damages, the mataqali could undoubtedly recover them. It was not however open to individual members to sue and recover damages in their own personal capacity. Nor could the plaintiffs succeed in their personal claim to the equitable remedy of an injunction.

Judgment for the defendant Board.

F.M.K. Sherani for the plaintiffs.
D.M.N. McFarlane for the defendant.

HAMMETT, J. [27th August, 1956]-

In another Supreme Court decision in the case of Dikau v Native Land Trust Board [1986] FJSC 7; [1986] 32 FLR 179 (9 May 1986) which Justice Rooney concluded that:

There is nothing in that section which gives a right to any member of a mataqali to challenge the action of the Native Land Trust Board established under the Native Land Trust Act, Cap. 134. The section seeks to regulate the rights of Fijians in accordance with native custom. This is not a suit in which the question of the tenure of land amongst native Fijians is relevant. It is an action in which a group seeks to assert a right on the basis that they have a beneficial interest in land owned by the mataqali of which they are members.

The common law and the rules of equity cannot be applied to a system of land holding which is alien to and independent of the law of England as the received law of this Dominion. In the result there is in existence a system of legal dualism.

A mataqali cannot be equated with any institution known and recognised by common law or statute of general application: The composition, function and management of a mataqali and the regulation of the rights of members in relation to each other and to persons and things outside it are governed by a customary law separate from and independent of the general law administered in this Court.

In the case of Native Land Trust Board v Narawa [2004] FJSC 7; CBV0007.2002S (21 May 2004) may have also placed the issue of mataqali rights under a new light by overturning the ruling by Justice Rooney in the case of Dikau VS NLTB (1986).

The excerpt of the Appeal Courts Judgement is as follows:

Reasons for Judgment of the Court of Appeal

16 The Court considered the legal position of the mataqalis. It accepted as “clearly established” that an individual member of a mataqali could not sue and recover damages personally where damage had been suffered by the group – Meli Kaliavu v Native Land Trust Board (1956) 5 FLR 17; Naimisio Dikau No 1 & Ors v Native Land Board & Anor CA No 801/1984; and Waisake Ratu No 2 v Native Land Development Corporation & Anor (1987) Civil Action No 580 of 1984.

The Court referred to divergent views expressed by Rooney J in Naimisio Dikau No 1 and Cullinan J in Waisake Ratu No 2 on the question whether the traditional interests of a mataqali could be recognised under Fijian law. In the latter case, Cullinan J said that he did not consider that a mataqali or a tokatoka was an institution alien to the applied law of Fiji. It did not require judicial ingenuity to equate either of these bodies to an unincorporated association. Their members shared a communal proprietary interest. While land holding might be individual in places they were nonetheless communal proprietary rights such as those over the veikau or forest. Cullinan J had said:


“Such groups are of common agnatic descent, the individual membership and leadership and the physical location and proprietary rights of which are by statute recorded in the Register of Native Lands, preserved by the Registrar of Titles. Not only has the mataqali been recognised as a central proprietary unit by the statute law of Fiji for over a hundred years now (to the extent indeed that the law provides for the devolution of the lands of an extinct mataqali), so also have all the individual divisions of the Fijian people by the act of statutory registration. How then can any of those groups be regarded as alien to such statute law?”

17 The Court of Appeal referred to various authorities relating to the common law recognition of customary title including In Re Southern Rhodesia [1999] AT 211; Amodu Tijani v The Secretary of Southern Nigeria [1921] 2 AC 399; and Mabo v The State of Queensland (No 2) (1992) 175 CLR 1. The Court then said:


“These and other authorities to which we were referred put beyond doubt the proposition that native customary rights and obligations may be recognized by the common law and enforced in the courts. More particularly, in the case of mataqali, it may, by representative action or by action brought by all those belonging to the mataqali as an unincorporated association, bring proceedings in the court seeking common law or equitable remedies for any breach of rights it is able to establish.”

18 The Court took the view that, in reaching his conclusion that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the proceedings, the learned primary judge had relied, at least in part, on the principles stated by Rooney J which the Court of Appeal found to be incorrect. His Honour had thereby erred in law. As will appear from these reasons it is unnecessary in this case for the Court to express any view on the matter which is of considerable importance and is best considered in the light of findings of fact after trial.


19 The Court considered the representative character of the action and whether the primary judge was right to conclude that the plaintiffs lacked the standing necessary for them to bring the proceedings in a representative capacity. It referred to Order 15 rule 14 of the High Court Rules noting that the only requirement of the Rule is that persons intending to be represented have “the same interest in the proceedings”. Counsel for the Board submitted to the Court of Appeal that if an individual litigant, a member of a proprietary unit, wanted to pursue an infringement of a communal right he would need the majority support of the unit which he sought to represent before he could pursue such proceedings. The Court of Appeal did not accept that submission. There was nothing in the Rule to suggest that requirement. The cases made it clear that the person seeking to bring an action in a representative capacity did not have to obtain the consent of those whom he purported to represent – Markt & Co Limited v Knight Steamship Company Limited [1910] 2 KB 1021 at 1039.


20 Their Lordships concluded that the plaintiffs should be permitted to bring their proceedings on a representative basis. All of the members of the mataqalis had a common interest in ensuring that their agreements are being properly administered by the Board and that they receive whatever is due to them from their agreements. If the agreements had not been properly administered and Timbers (Fiji) were guilty of breaches for which damages had been payable but had not been claimed, the members would also have a common grievance. Whether that were so in fact could only be determined at trial. It was also apparent from affidavits filed that a substantial number of members of the mataqalis supported the plaintiffs in their action. It was also apparent that a substantial number did not. But they did not appear to be advocating a different course of action, rather they favoured taking no action at all. If the action were to succeed they would share in its fruits. If it did not, they would not be liable for costs.

21 There was, in any event, no other course open to the plaintiffs. They could not sue personally nor bring an action as an unincorporated association because they would not obtain unanimity. In addition, the plaintiffs were persons of standing. The Court accepted that they were likely to have acted responsibly in bringing the proceedings.


The Grounds of the Petition

22 There were some twelve grounds of appeal some of which were of little substance and arose out of references by the Court of Appeal to the views of members of the group, the status of the respondents/plaintiffs and the availability of other remedies. It may be said immediately that none of these would warrant the grant of special leave to appeal. Of the remaining grounds, 2.1 to 2.7 were in the following terms:


“2.1 in reversing the judgments of Rooney, J in Naimisio Dakai No 1 & Ors v Native Land Trust Board & Anor Civil Action No 801 of 1984 and Timoci Bavadra v Native Land Trust Board Civil Action No 421 of 1986, by holding that a Mataqali may by representative action or by action brought by all those belonging to the Mataqali as an unincorporated association, bring proceedings in court seeking common law or equitable remedies for any breach of rights it is able to establish;

2.2 in holding that Rooney, J was wrong in holding that a tokatoka or a Mataqali are institutions alien to and not recognised by the common law and in agreeing with the views expressed by Cullinan J in Waisake Ratu No 2 v Native Land Development Corporation & Anor (1987) Civil Action No 580 of 1984;

2.3 finding that the proceedings instituted by the Respondents/Plaintiffs were properly constituted representative actions, contrary to Fijian custom and in dimunition of customary law when such rights, custom, laws and usages are constitutionally recognised and protected under sections 6(b) and 186 of the Constitution;

2.4 holding that the Respondents/Plaintiffs had the necessary locus standi to bring or continue the present proceedings against the Petitioner on behalf of their own and other Mataqali, when the respective Mataqali had no authority under customary law to do so;

2.5 in failing to consider that the decision making process of Mataqalis generally, and specifically in relation to the issue of whether to institute a court action or not, is according to customary law through a process of consensus, thus disregarding customary law;

2.6 in applying John v Rees [1970] 1 Ch 345 and Markt & Co v Knight Steamship Co [1910] 2 KB 1021 at 1039 to the circumstances of the present case, by holding that the person seeking to bring an action in a representative capacity including native Fijians does not have to obtain the consent of all or some of those he purports to represent;

2.7 in finding that the members of the Mataqalis had a common interest, common grievance and that if the causes of action were made out, the relief obtained would likely to be beneficial to the members or at least most of them;”

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Moving Forward Like A Crab.

Two exceptional letters were published by the Fiji Sun "Letters to the Editor" column. The following are excerpts:

Last updated 10/22/2007 8:56:18 AM

I can't really disagree with Mick Beddoes contention that justice delayed in justice denied. An argument he raises in accusing, rightly or wrongly, the Fiji Human Rights Commission for not doing anything for the victims of the 2006 coup. He of course assumes that these people who he is advocating for have been denied justice and that it was indeed the commission that denied or deliberately delayed it for reasons that have not been disclosed by Beddoes. Of recent Beddoes has been commenting rather negatively on all matters pertaining to the governance of Fiji by the Interim Government.

I wish he had shown the same level of enthusiasm in criticising the governance of this country when Qarase and his cronies were rather blatantly engaging in corruption and racism. I wish he had shown the same courage in raising issues, in the relative immunity of the Parliament, in exposing corrupt practices of the Qarase government. I wish he had shown the same due diligence, that he seems to rather hypocritically show now, when the nation's coffers were be pillaged and scarce national resources and assets exploited for personal gain by Qarase and his gang of rogues.

I am equally flabbergasted why Beddoes has never raised matters of justice that were so blatantly denied to other victims of the 19987 and 2000 coups. Many lost all they had toiled for in Fiji and in fear of further persecution and in complete absence any one raising a voice for them, they left the shores of Fiji for good to live abroad, in what for many them is tantamount to 'self imposed exile'.

Where was Beddoes then? What has he done about these thousands who were so blatantly denied justice? Or does Beddoes like other self proclaimed leaders of human rights who have mushroomed so suddenly in Fiji is only an advocate on a selective basis?
Beddoes would be well advised to be equally selective about when he should open his mouth. For Beddoes it might be prudent to remain silent, for as soon as he opens his mouth the world will know how hollow and biased his human rights rhetoric is.

The following letters was in response to the SDL stalwart, Mere Samisoni's perception of the proposed People's Charter:

Move forward

We hear much these days from the interim regime on the need to "move the country forward".

But if that is really such an over-riding concern, then surely the question needs to be asked as to why the military leadership found it so unavoidably necessary to "move the country backward" in December 2006.

The SDL-led Multi-Party Cabinet (MPC) had already set itself about the task of bringing the kind of desirable changes suitable for the 21st century information civilisation.

This was well documented in the Strategic Development Plans (SDP) 2006, rolled over to 2007-2011, which incorporated much of the legitimate manifestoes of the two major parties in the MPC.

That means that a workable and legitimate system was already in place to "move the country forward" pre-coup. Whats more, it was based on market metrics, implemented through the rule of law, and achieved through the democratic process as representative of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious society.

This represents a far more legitimate and sustainable foundation for "moving the country forward" and "bringing the races together" than what the IG is trying to shove down peoples throats.

Despite this, the Military Council (MC) supported by the Fiji Labour Party (FLP), and other opportunists in the IG (MC/FLP/IG) still saw it fit to impose an illegal coup that violated those democratic and administrative processes already in place under the 1997 Constitution.

And now, the illegitimate regime is simply trying to achieve the same goals as the ousted Government, but from a far less popular and legitimate policy foundation framework, and with dictatorial style of leadership that is far less effective and popular.

Moreover, we now have the anomaly of the Peoples Charter (PI) with its Council of decision makers that renders the IG essentially redundant.

What is of concern, is the idea that the PI or what I call the Military Charter did not come from the people, it was not written by the people, there is no ownership by the people and it serves no obvious purpose for the people. That means the idea of a Military Charter is fundamentally disconnected from reality and peoples daily lives.

Moreover, the Military Charter and its dictatorial and impositional management style are incompatible with the new economic order of win-win relationships based on community human values.

Therefore, in the bigger picture, the MC is doomed from the start.

Also, at a global level, the latest trend in strategic business planning is to differentiate and segment markets along group demographics and psychographics so as to achieve better market servicing.

This marketing "best practice" is certainly transferable to the work of Government, where it can help to tailor and target policies according to specific and measurable demographic needs, values and aspirations, where these differ. Despite this, the MC/FLP/IG is still moving toward the complete opposite philosophy by embracing an obsolete 'one size fit all vision.

This just sweeps everything under the mat, including diversity of human and community values and choices, by preferring instead to manage things via an "out of sight and out of mind" approach.

How is the MC going to measure motivation, performance and success of target groups without differentiating its policy "market" for felt needs, values and special aspirations?

Mere Tuisalalo Samisoni

Apparently, the talking points issued by the SDL Headquarters was to resist and desist the People's Charter proposed by the Interim Government. Obviously, SDL's idea of movement for the nation of Fiji is akin to a crab's motion: side to side but never forward.
Back to the future
Last updated 10/22/2007 8:55:45 AM

We have heard of the saying that one becomes wiser after the event. However, Mere Samisoni's academically garbled theory and analysis of the Military Council's action and the people's charter shows that some people lose all sense of reasoning and logic if they are removed from their cushioned positions.
Being a post graduate student myself, I could not comprehend her far- fetched theories, so I feel sorry for the common Tomasi, Deepak and Hamid on Suva streets who would be scratching their heads and wondering what group demographics and psychographics mean.

She talks about transferring the latest trend in strategic business planning on differentiating and segmenting markets along group demographics and psychographics to government to achieve better market servicing, whatever that means.
She also spoke about tailoring and targeting policies according to specific and measurable demographic needs, values and aspirations, where these differ.

It is a pity she did not give this lecture to SDL caucus, and especially the chiefly minister and aunty- in- law of two existing interim Minister when she was the Education Minister. Assuming if they could understand what was lectured to them; one would assume that the country could have been saved from the doomsday that supposedly 5 December, 2006 spelt. Was this not the policy of one size fits all that she is accusing the Military Council of having now?

Qarase's blanket racist policies, based solely on race rather than needs dictated that a rich Fijian parent with a combined income of $200,000 could have free Form Seven education for their child while an evicted Indo Fijian with an income of only 2per cent of the Fijian parent still had to pay full fees under Qarase's racist policies. Where then was this bright academic who is acting holier then thought and preaching theories that common mortals like me, and many others, cannot comprehend?

Bread is a basic staple food that people would eat despite the falling economic situation of the country. Perhaps that is why Mere Samisoni could not have her finger on the pulse of Fiji's economy that was sliding down to bankruptcy. Just a basic example is sugar mills. People who could hardly maintain their vehicles and repair falling mufflers were made to run multi- million gadgets which never had preventative maintenance and capital input on a progressive scale.

No wonder, like a wrecked car in the heart of Suva City, the sugar mills are being rendered to scraps by an incompetent regime. Where were then these market servicing theories of the gold medalist graduate of SDL party?
You need not be a rocket scientist to see what was wrong with Fiji's sick economy which was exaggerated by equally sick racist policies that went against all the grains of academia.

I wonder where then were the arm chair critics and MBA graduates, masquerading as coup victims and professors from academic institutions, now coming out of woodwork and pontificating on the state of economy that a common cane cutter already knows.
Now that Australia and New Zealand has twisted Fiji's arm for another election, who will give a guarantee that this election will stick? Who says that elections are a panacea to Fiji's problems?

But my concern is, how democracy can save Fiji from a racially divisive party like SDL and how the country can be saved from academics who say so much without telling anything.

Fiji Times also published another letter responding to the Ex-Officio from Lami Open, Mere Samisoni.

Racist policies

I think I must be a masochist but I forced myself to read Mere (I will use 10 words when one will do) Samisoni's letter, of 19th October, 10 times to understand what she was saying.

In brief, the first part basically said the SDL led multi-party Cabinet was doing a fantastic job moving the country forward and the there was no need for the military takeover.

The second part was that the People's Charter was doomed for failure.

The third part interestingly says modern governments should use targeted marketing to give the different sectors of the community what they need. We have seen examples of this from the SDL. The Qoliqoli Bill: very targeted towards the indigenous community

The reconciliation Bill; again very targeted towards the indigenous community; not many Indians were going to be released from prison due to that? The list of such targeted policies is endless.

We also had the agricultural scam: you may think that only benefited the indigenous, SDL voting, rural poor. But, hold on a few rich shop owning Indians allegedly did very well. So that's okay. That was multiracial.

When you use market segmentation as a government and only put forward policies that benefit just one segment of a community and forget about the rest, then that is called a racist government. That sort of government has no place in the 21st Century.

So Mere, you have answered you own question. The Interim Government is definitely moving the country forward because amongst other things, they are trying to end racism in Fiji.

Mere Erasito

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Editorial: Door must stay closed to imposter Says Aunty Helen.

Don McKinnon, former Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, now Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, hosted a dinner for heads of government at the Pacific Islands Forum this week and invited Fiji's coup leader, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama. Helen Clark objected, almost throwing a tantrum.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Blog: Clark tires of 'Frank' issue

NUKUA'LOFA - Helen Clark is normally famous for her frank talk but she couldn't be bothered today continuing a press conference that kept returning to the "frank" issue at the Pacific Island Forum in Tonga.Frank Bainimarama clearly has a following in the Pacific, that was evident from the hero's welcome he received from the Tongan spectators.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Who is to blame for the Fiji visa fiasco?

Fifa cancelled the World Cup qualifier between New Zealand and Fiji after the New Zealand government refused to grant a visa to Fijian goalkeeper Simione Tamanisau. But in this clash between politicians and sports administrators, it is the players and fans who lose.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

NZ soccer in limbo as Fifa cancels Fiji game over visa row

New Zealand's soccer future is in limbo after the sport's world governing body accused the Government of political interference.The All Whites' qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was due to begin today against Fiji. But Fifa yesterday cancelled the game after New Zealand Government refused to withdraw their stance.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sports -An Extension of Politics by Any Other Means?

A livid Fijian football chief plans to take New Zealand's refusal to allow his side's goalkeeper into the country to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport. Fiji will play the All Whites at North Harbour Stadium on Saturday in a vital World Cup qualification match.

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This particular story was also featured in The Australian newspaper and the following is an excerpt:

Court challenge to Fiji goalie ban

October 11, 2007

WELLINGTON: Fiji plans to take the New Zealand Government to court for refusing to grant its soccer team's goalkeeper a visa.
The gvernment has rushed through visas for the team so they can play the All Whites at North Harbour Stadium on Saturday - in a vital World Cup qualification match.

However, it declined their first choice goalkeeper Simione Tamanisau entry because because his father-in-law is a military policeman. Under sanctions imposed by New Zealand after last December's coup in Fiji, people with ties to the military cannot come to the country.

Fiji Football Association president Sahu Khan said he planned to take the situation to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport. He was sure the court would nullify the game because it was “grossly unfair”, he told the New Zealand Herald.

“He is a key goalkeeper, and it is a very vital position. For the New Zealand government to say that we give visas to all the others and not to him...means Fiji is not only playing New Zealand, but we are also playing the New Zealand Government.”

Fiji would play the game under protest, Dr Khan said. A letter had been sent to football's world governing body Fifa protesting the situation, he said.

He hoped they would take Fiji's side “No more Oceanian or Fifa games should be played in New Zealand until they give up on these sanctions.”

A spokesman for Foreign Minister Winston Peters said any Fijian sports team coming to New Zealand for an internationally sanctioned event would be held up to the sanctions.

“New Zealand has the right to deny entry to any member of a sports team as it sees fit.” No appeal from Fifa had been received yet, the spokesman said.


This particular case, confirms that the demarcation between Sports and Politics have been conveniently blurred by the New Zealand Government and as a result of their heavy handed approach with respect to issuance of travel visas, has invariably relegated the New Zealand Government to the position of villain; while elevating Fiji's status as a victim, further undermining New Zealand's soft power into the Pacific region.

The issue of Sports and Politics was revisited in the wake of Fiji's performance in the 2007 Rugby World Cup; when local Economist, Dr. Wadan Narsey called for a Free-Trade in Rugby; as the Pacific Island Rugby playing nations have captured the imagination of the Rugby world with their recent performances during the Rugby World Cup with a passionate brand of hard-hitting and free-running rugby. Fiji, Samoa and Tonga have not been playing on a level playing field with Tier 1 nations like Australia and New Zealand; despite repeated calls to bring the Pacific islanders into their fold of an expanded Super 14 competition.

This is the excerpt of Dr. Wadan Narsey views as published in a Fiji Times article:

When our rugby was noticed

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Members of the Flying Fijians have won praises for the victory over Wales.

The performance by the Flying Fijians at the Rugby World Cup in France when they beat Wales 38-34 on Sunday has been commended by many people who believe such a victory attracts massive economic benefits for a country that badly needs it.

This is because four billion people would have watched the game on television while 1.8million rugby fans, 600 players and 3500 media people visited Europe to be part of the 2007 World Cup.

Such exposure for Fiji greatly benefits a struggling tourism sector and would get many people visiting websites to access information about our country which has been in the spotlight negatively since 5/12 for the military takeover of an elected government.

For many the win came as a surprise as even though the Fiji Rugby Union's target was for the team to reach the quarter finals, some fans thought otherwise, judging from past performances.

Ilivasi Tabua, the former Queensland rugby flanker who hails from Naivicula, Tailevu, since taking up the coaching post from Wayne Pivac has had a mammoth task molding a new combination of players to lead Fiji to the Rugby World Cup. He was restricted by time and money and deserves to be congratulated.

The former Australia-based player nicknamed the human skewer' replaced Pivac who stepped down citing personal reasons. Tabua is now admired for trusting his men despite criticism since the beginning of the year.

A former Fiji rep at the 1987 World Cup Sairusi Naituku said the country's political instability helped the team perform at another level just as they did 20 years ago in New Zealand.

"Twenty years ago this was the same feeling the team went through before qualifying for the quarter-finals against France where a gallant Fiji side was defeated 16-31 as it was also after a coup but as rugby players with the country at heart, we decided to be above politics," said Naituku.

The Natabua High School teacher said it took another Fijian coach to take Fiji up to "that level of rugby".

"In 1987 it was Jo Sovau and this year it is Tabua, so we can confidently say that we do not need expatriates paid hefty salaries and perks to boost the performance of the team," he said. "The political crisis is a blessing in disguise because it is a challenge as through rugby, life friendships are built," said the former tighthead prop.

Naituku said rugby was something that made Fiji significant on the map even though many people struggled to find where it was naturally because it was just a "dot" on the globe. Acting Fiji Islands Visitors Bureau chief executive Patrick Wong agrees with Naituku as the performance by the team was historical and attracted a lot of talk about Fiji. "Potential visitors to our shores will certainly start asking where this paradise Fiji is and it is a plus for tourism," Wong said. "It brands our country." [Wong]said people would be logging on to the internet to find out more about Fiji and this was an advantage of performing in rugby whether it be in sevens or 15s. "It may be late to notice a surge in tourists as a result of the game in the next couple of months but it would surely show next year," Wong said.

Former FVB CEO Bill Gavoka who offered similar sentiments said the exposure because of media coverage made a great difference and was a boost for tourism. "We were on the screen in countries like Europe, the British Isles and the USA which are key markets here so it will bring in positive benefits for tourism," said Gavoka.

Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party spokesperson Peceli Kinivuwai said the team's performance was excellent and brought a ray of sunshine to rainy Fiji. He said despite the political and social uncertainty, the performance by the Flying Fijians made Fiji an attractive destination.

"The team reflected the true spirit of the indigenous Fijian spirit in Nicky Little's insistence to witness the end of the game despite the pain from a medial knee ligament injury he sustained during the match," he said.

"The boys were definitely loyal to the call of duty for the country and we managed to shine as a nation."

Like the SDL, the National Federation Party's Pramod Rae said he was over the moon and speechless about the victory and that the spin off effect of reaching the quarter finals in the World Cup would be more investment, tourists and unity among the people.

Economist Dr Wadan Narsey said the win against Wales showed that Fiji could compete with the "big boys" and what was needed was a level playing field. He said Sunday's game was a mighty achievement as the fields where local players were based was no comparison to what overseas players were used to.

Dr Narsey said such performance showed countries in the Pacific could take part in the Super 14 that could even be hosted in Fiji. He said if that was allowed there would be a massive flow on financial benefits as teams could be billeted in hotels and the game could attract hundreds of media people to broadcast games worldwide. Dr Narsey said the sad part was that many local fans did not expect the Flying Fijians to win against Wales and that some people made a few bucks from bets.

"It's sad that many Fijians did not trust the team. We verbally bashed our Flying Fijians even though the boys showed they had great potential in their fantastic performance," he said.

Dr Narsey said the team had a great chance in their next game at 1am on Monday and that even if they did not win they would still not be disgraced. Without ignoring the coach's hard work Dr Narsey said Tabua made a difference and took the team to a level only experienced 20 years ago. He said overseas based players performed exceptionally and brought guts that blended well into the spirit of the team.

FRU chief executive Ratu Timoci Tavanavanua said their goal had been achieved and that the $2 million spent on the team's preparation and bonus was worth every cent. [Tavanavanua] said although the FRU would want a Pacific team in the Super 14, logistical arrangements needed to be scrutinised.

"Only time would tell and we hope there is something for us in the near future to compete at that level," he said.

Outside half Nicky Little described the win well when he said it made a mockery of money in the sport and modern day rugby considering that players in the Fijian side were just paid $50 a day. [Little] does not know where he'll be this weekend as money would determine that but says "I'll be right behind the boys wherever I am". The thoroughly deserved victory over Wales in Nantes earned the islanders a quarter-final against the Springboks in Marseille that all fans look forward to watching this weekend.

Both Trans-Tasman nations have benefited with the status-quo in Rugby's socio-economic capacity , with their national sides actively featuring Rugby players poached from Pacific islands. While enjoying the fruits of imported players, it is difficult to fathom why the Pacific Island teams of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga are yet to recognized as peers, by their colonial cousins.