Thursday, June 07, 2012

Return of Fijian I Qoliqoli Will Right Historical Wrong

To all Fijians, the indigenous landowners in Fiji.

We have got back our lands from the State following the independence of our nation from Great Britain, after our chiefs ceded Fiji to Queen Victoria in 1874.

Our fisheries has yet to be returned to us by the State. Queen Victoria had in fact already returned it to us. Fijian chiefs, through Enele Maáfu as Roko Tui Lau, at the meeting of the Great Council of Chiefs held at Mualevu village on Vanua Balavu, in November 1880, made their desire clear to the Governor at the time for the treatment of their qoliqoli in the same manner as their ancestral lands. I can only include a quote from Dr Tupeni Baba's piece below outlining the clear communication from Queen Victoria in relation to the chiefs request that was read to the Council of Chiefs meeting on April 14 in Nailaga Ba, by the Governor, William Desvouex. He said to the chiefs at the Opening:

"I have to tell you with regard to your representation on the subject of the reefs, that the matter will be carefully investigated and that it is her Majesty's desire that neither you nor your people should be deprived of any rights in those reefs, which you have enjoyed under your own laws and customs; and I may tell you, on my own part, that measures will be taken for securing to each Mataqali the reefs, which properly belong to it, exactly in the same way as the rest of their land will be secured to them."

It only remains for the Government of the day to follow through on it. This was what the SDL government was embarking to do in 2006 through the i Qoliqoli Bill. No more no less.

The SDL Bill had sought to reconfirm the ownership of usage rights by qoliqoli owners. Its principal objective was to transfer to qoliqoli owners from the State the proprietary ownership of their respective qoliqoli areas which are currently owned by the State.
Until and unless our fisheries are returned, Fijians will continue to table and agitate for their grievance with the State and international bodies. It is time for Fijians to have what is rightfully theirs returned to them. This will ensure their ongoing livelihood, enhance their economic wellbeing and self sufficiency, thereby reduce their dependence on the State. It will also contribute to better and harmonious communal relationships among races and ethnic communities in Fiji. 

Fiji is more likely to prosper and thrive politically, economically and socially when Fijians do well and are free from any sense of exploitation and injustice by the State. The return of I Qoliqoli ownership to its Fijian owners is one way of achieving this objective.

Read Below Dr Tupeni Baba's article clarifying and arguing for the same  outcome for Fiji and Fijians.


PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT

Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i

Commentary

FIJI ‘QOLIQOLI BILL’ WOULD RIGHT HISTORICAL WRONG

By Dr. Tupeni Baba

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Nov. 13) – The restoration of the qoliqoli [traditional fishing grounds] to indigenous owners represents the outcome of a long struggle by the indigenous Fijians led by their chiefs, especially those who were signatories of the Deed of Cession and their descendants, to ensure the return of their resources in land, forests, rivers and qoliqoli, in accordance with Fijian chiefly custom.

What stood in the way for the achievement of the goal of this struggle or quiet revolution were the settlers as represented by the planters, traders, industrialists and others whose understanding of the meaning of the annexation of Fiji was at odds with those of the chiefs and the Fijian people.

The idea of creating a competent body to allow aggrieved chiefs and their people to present their historical grievances for consideration is an important part of this process. Since the 1880s, Fijians have used the Native Lands Commission to deal with many issues specifically relating to land, so the process of dealing with competent bodies to discuss and settle issues and grievances has been part of their history and consciousness. It is not unrelated to their traditional way of dealing with Fijian disputes except that the partners to their historical grievances are often non-Fijians and usually, they are the settlers or people with settler mentality. This is why the Indigenous Claims Tribunal which will deal with all types of historical grievances relating to their resources is so central to the so called chiefly and indigenous Fijian struggle.

It is often difficult for non- Fijians to understand why the chiefs who were signatories to Cession decided to sign away or hand over unconditionally all their people’s resources to Queen Victoria in return for being governed by her, her heirs and successors.

The chiefs had raised and sought clarifications on the implications of this move with and from Sir Hercules Robinson, before the act of Cession was finalised. One of them said: "We would like His Excellency to make clear to us what our position will be in the event of Cession taking place with regards to our fishing and forest rights. We are confident that His Excellency will give us the kindest consideration"

Soon after Cession in 1875 and again in 1879 and 1880 at the Council of Chiefs meeting in Waikava, Cakaudrove; on Bau, Tailevu and, Mualevu in Lau respectively, the chiefs actively sought the return of their resources especially their land and qoliqoli. The process with regards to the return of their land quickly got off the ground with the work of the Native Lands Commission headed by Wilkinson in the 1880s, and later by Maxwell in the early 1900.
Roko Tui Lau Enele Maáfu
With regards to their qoliqoli, the chiefs maintained that it was owned in a similar way as their land and should be treated similarly. At the end of the Council of Chiefs meeting at Mualevu in November 1880, the Roko Tui Lau, Ma'afu, as the host of the meeting said in concluding the meeting:

 "There is, however, one other matter which gives us concern, namely our reefs. All reefs have ownership from the past down to the present time; that is clear to us and it is a matter which has often given rise to quarrelling and disputes. We beg of your Majesty (the Governor Sir Arthur Gordon) that they may be registered with our lands or that some regulation be made that the rights of the owners may be fixed on a clear basis as with our lands."

The above concluding statement by Ma'afu at the Council of Chiefs meeting in Mualevu was part of a detailed Memorandum of Sir Arthur Gordon that he sent to the Colonial Secretary as background to his dispatch of November 15 which contained the Native Lands Ordinance xxi of 1880. He referred to this Ordinance in the dispatch as follows:

 "This is one of the most important ordinances which was been passed by the Legislature in Fiji. It is the result of five years of careful thought and inquiry."

So the qoliqoli issues were always treated in a similar way as native lands and the chiefs wanted it. As mentioned by the Roko Tui Lau, Ma'afu that some regulation be made that the rights of owners may be fixed on a clear basis as that of native lands.
Governor Sir Arthur Gordon
The chiefs had a sympathetic Governor in Sir Arthur Gordon and he was able to move promptly on the return of Fijian land in spite of the strong pressures by the settlers and planters who were keen to purchase land in Fiji. Sir Arthur Gordon was the architect of the colonial land policy and accepted the Fijian notion of ownership that all lands, forests, foreshores and qoliqoli were owned irrespective of whether they were being occupied or not, at a particular time. The settlers on the other hand widely shared the opposite notion of terra nullius', that unoccupied land or empty spaces' were not owned and this has been questioned in the well known Mabo Case in Australia, not long ago.

The chiefs and Sir Arthur Gordon himself, had to struggle against the strong views of the settlers and this was more evident when Sir Arthur finished his term as Governor at the end of 1880. His dispatch, he wrote at Mualevu, was one of the last he wrote as Governor and as he wrote, his emotions came to the fore as he realised he had not completed the work on the return of qoliqoli in his six years as Governor. This was why he saw the need to include the closing statement of the Roko Tui Lau, Ma'afu, in his detailed Memorandum that followed his dispatch of November 15, 1880.

The result of the chiefs requests on the qoliqoli came in the following year, 1881, and was read to the Council of Chiefs meeting on April 14 in Nailaga Ba, by the new Governor, William Desvouex. He said to the chiefs at the Opening:

"I have to tell you with regard to your representation on the subject of the reefs, that the matter will be carefully investigated and that it is her Majesty's desire that neither you nor your people should be deprived of any rights in those reefs, which you have enjoyed under your own laws and customs; and I may tell you, on my own part, that measures will be taken for securing to each Mataqali the reefs, which properly belong to it, exactly in the same way as the rest of their land will be secured to them."

Many of the successive governors including William Desvouex, were unable to carry through successfully this task until well into Fiji's independence as the settlers and planters increased their pressures to open up more land for alienation and commercial use. Even one governor, Governor Im Thurn in the early 1900, supported the settlers and planters case openly.

In 1907 he sent a petition from the Planters Association signed by six prominent planters to the Colonial Secretary seeking the opening up of unoccupied land for their commercial development. He stated that the planters' case was a reasonable one and the tone of his comments showed he shared their views somewhat.

The case was discussed in the British Parliament and Sir Arthur Gordon at that time, as Lord Stanmore was greatly disturbed by the move. His work he felt had not been carried out in accordance with the express wish of the Queen Victoria. As he stood up in the House of Lords and spoke he said he was on that occasion, speaking as Turaga i Taukei' (land owning chief) in view of the two islands in Fiji the Fijian chiefs had given him, through a Crown Grant in appreciation of his services to the Fijian people.

"On two separate occasions her late Majesty did me the honour to convey to me her commands from her own lips that I was to tell the Fijian people that their lands were theirs and should never be taken from them," Stanmore said. "I told them on the authority of our Sovereign and I do trust the pledge then given, will be maintained."

The move by the planters and settlers were defeated and in the colony, Lord Stamore was criticised and publicly vilified in The Fiji Times (Fiji Times in November, 1908), which was controlled, by the settlers and planters in Fiji. This reflected the pressures that were exerted on future governors following Sir Arthur Gordon that it took more meetings of the great Council of Chiefs like the meeting in Bau in 1982, the insistence of the Alliance Government, the support of the SVT Government and now the SDL and the multi-party Government to bring this important issue to Parliament.

The emergence of the current Qoliqoli Bill is an outcome of a long struggle by the chiefs beginning with the signatories of the Deed of Cession to return to Fijian people what they owned according to their understanding of what they were expected as chiefs when they agreed to give Fiji unconditionally to Queen Victoria in 1874.

It appears that the holders of opposing perspectives to the current debate have much to learn from our local history.

Dr Tupeni Baba is an academic and politician, who founded the New Labour Unity Party. He is also the co-author of "Speight of Violence." He was a senator in the Qarase Government.

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Posted on Matavuvale.com

Fiji a hot spot for minerals and oil : SOPAC report

By Pina Wani
Fiji is actually a hot spot for minerals and oil according to the SOPAC Report on the Status of Oil and Minerals in the Pacific region that was released in 2005-2006.
The Report identifies an area forming a triangle between Indonesia, PNG, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Fiji’s Land and Sea Bed. According to the Report, the Fiji Basin can supply 3.1billion liters of oil.
I was privy to that information when I was in Government prior to being given the marching orders by Khaiyum. The detailed SOPAC Report is unfortunately with the Australian government. All the SOPAC discussion regarding the Report is undertaken in Sydney, the latest meeting a few months back.
A South African Mining Company with Nass Botha (Former Springboks Fist Five) as one of the GMs was the first to identify this mineral galore to the Qarase led government delegation during the 2002 WSSD Meeting in Johanesbugh during a private dinner meeting hosted by the Company. South Africa followed that interest later by opening a South African Embassy in Suva in 2006.
At the same time, 2004-2006, the GCC was pressuring Government for the return of the Qoliqoli to the i taukei (with Queen Victoria’s 1881 Letter as the point of reference) as information about the mineral findings had reached the GCC. The GCC was also concerned about the abuse and lack of financial return and causing poverty that the Vanua was getting from the various industries with low wage rates such as the hotels etc that were utilising the Qoliqoli under the authority of Government (which has not actioned the 1881 letter of the late Queen Victoria).
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Unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you will look at the situation, two things happened;
1. the SDL proposed that the Qoliqoli be returned under the ambit of the NLTB and to be administered by Government together with the land. Certain Chiefs viewed that NLTB as a hand of Government had caused major adminstration flaws in the past such as the ALTA resulting in Fijis political problems and coups. Moreover, certain chiefs were concerned that it would still be under the Government administration and that the Qoliqoli should be returned directly to the various Vanuas that owned the Qoliqoli and to be administered under GCC. In other words, the need for the Proprietorship Rights of the i taukei to be realised based on Queen Victoria’s letter of 1881.
2. The second thing that happened that we all know was that the hotel industry pressured the Military about the Qoliqoli Bill and in the process, with other issues such as corruption, Bainimarama executed the Coup.
US AS A SILENT SUPPORTER.
Despite all that the then US Ambassador Larry Dinger reported to Washington as we have witnessed in the earlier thread, the US top Military officials saw it fit to continue to meet with Bainimarama in Sinai and then again in Fiji (for the development of the Blackrock Camp in Nadi) after the Coup in 2006.
My theory is that it is all about money, power and control and that the US was a silent supporter of the 2006 Coup because the return of the Qoliqoli in Fiji could affect the interest of the Multi billionaire financiers of the US government due to the possibility of setting such a multi million dollar lawsuit precedents for the native American Indians in the US coastal mining areas as well as with indigenous people around the world that would affect these Multi billionaire companies and financiers. However, it should be noted that this fear is baseless because the legal entrenchment in relation to the qoliqoli and land claim is unique only to the i taukei in Fiji.
However, Khaiyum has seen the whole picture and is now playing in between the interest of the US, China, the Muslim Nations and the Capitalist world at large at the expense of us the i taukei.
Further, I would like to take us through the following observation notes to tie the loose ends of my blogging stance towards the US.
OBSERVATION NOTES.
Note 1-Going back to the South African Company findings, a few weeks ago, Fiji had reciprocated that South African diplomacy in 2005-2006 by opening an Embassy in South Africa by sending Mr Ben Salacakau to be Fiji’s First Ambassador to South Africa.
Note 2-A few weeks ago as well, a high level government delegation from the US was visiting the Pacific on a US Naval Ship and were visiting to hear the “concerns on Fiji by the rest of the Pacific nations” and “trying to secure business interests of the US investors in the Pacific .
Note 3-Indonesian Embassy opened in Fiji in 2002-2006?? and Fiji is opening one in Jakarta a few months back. (Note that Indonesia is identified in the Triangle in the SOPAC Report.Meanwhile, Khaiyum is trying to manipulate the Muslim/Asian connection in Indonesia to advance his cause instead)
Note 4-A Chinese Naval Ship is at the Wharf with high IT capability to monitor internet and communication of foreign and internal plans for destabilisation of the current administration. Anyway, I do not care and I will keep on blogging away to tell the truth.
Note 5- PNG, Solomons and Tonga are part of the Triangle in the SOPAC Report. Note their different stance towards Fiji depending on the two super powers (China and USA) giving aid to them. The more control of the triangle, the more mining area for the corporate backup financiers of these two superpowers will be.
Note 6- The multi million dollar loans from China is based on the $$ potential of the mineral findings in Fiji in the SOPAC Report and other confidential reports.
Note 7- Khaiyum’s Sunset Clause Theisis was in line with this political and financial domination plan but it has been diverted for the Muslim and Asian/Chinese cause . Everyone to be called Fijians and the “fundamental” restructure of the land (note the NZ TV 1 Interview) so that everyone has accesibility to land for the sake of ‘development’ ie tourism, mining etc
Note 8- Khaiyum and Aunty Noor Bano restructuring the NLTB under Ministry of Lands instead of GCC.
Note 9-No GCC and control Methodist Church meetings to tone down the proprietorship rights interest. Taint the i taukei as racists instead if they pursue the issue.
Note 10- Payouts to landowners as mining royalties amounting to just a few hundred thousand dollars in Bauxite mining in Bua and Namosi Copper Mine compared to the millions that they will take out. The i taukei landowners are not aware that the valuation of the mineral potential from their own land is submitted as a loan application to the Bank from which their payment funds were derived from in order for a 99 year mining lease to be approved. The various impacts such as environment degradation, the poverty etc that follows are not considered.
Note 11- The GCC was told by Bainimarama “to go and drink homebrew under the mango tree”. Despite this degradatory comment apart from the Dinger Report to Washigton, the US officials met with Bainimarama after the Coup in Sinai and in Fiji.
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CURRENT STATUS.
Now, it has backfired on the US the way that Khaiyum and Bainimarama are aligning themselves with China and the Muslim nations.
Based on the above facts, I hope that you will now understand why I was blogging like that in regards to the US.
The US, China, Muslim nations or whatever external force must correct the wrong it has created. Let the Vanua have joint ventures (JV) with the Mining Corporations, the Hotels etc for the future sustainability of Fiji. Give Caesar (Vanua) what is Caesar’s and give God what is God’s. Give the Vanua and the VKB members copies of the SOPAC Report and other related findings so that they are aware of the value of their Vanua. Stop this condecending attitude of studying and discussing the SOPAC findings in Sydney while Marika and Luke etc are unsuspecting drinking yaqona in their village in Fiji.
Fiji is a Pluralist Society now but it is still a Homogenous Proprietorship Rights Society. I hate to see Fiji as another Gaza episode. What is happening in Fiji is more than meets the eye!!
Me sa rauta na noda vakayagataki kei na vakalolomataki. E sa vaka na polo ni rakavi o Viti, e ra sa qitotaki keda ka veicaqetaki keda vaka veitalia o ira mai vanua tani me rawa ni nodra kina na qaqa. O koya ga e taura na polo (Viti) based on the Reports and Facts) e sikoa.
I know that with all the intel of these two countries, they can take me out anytime with all the information that I have divulged, but I do not care!!
Sa koya tiko beka ga oya ka vosota ni sa rui balavu na tali magimagi.
Loloma.
God bless Fiji!!
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