Sunday, May 17, 2015

Unfinished Business – Return of iTaukei Qoliqoli (Fishing rights)

It is every itaukei Fijians’ duty to see its return, similar to our native lands!
Roko Tui Lau, Enele Ma’afu addressing the Great Council of Chiefs Meeting at Mualevu village,Vanuabalavu in November 1879:
“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 … We beg of your Majesty (Governor Sir Arthur Gordon) that they may be registered with our lands … that the rights of owners may be fixed on a clear basis…”
Chiefs were clear that sale of land to Europeans did not include their fisheries as reminded by Roko Tui Bua at the same Great Council of Chiefs Meeting when Fijians were prevented from landing on islands purchased by Europeans to seek shelter and provision during bad weather:
“No one who sold land in those past days ever supposed he was selling all vakavanua rights and privileges with what he sold. Whoever thought he was selling his reefs, or the water? Yet all are prohibited by white men when they are not of good mind. We are prohibited from landing on their shores. Supposing that we prohibited them, what a noise there would be about it! … If this kind of thing is to continue, we shall indeed be in a pitiable condition.”
The intention to return the fisheries to itaukei Fijians similar to land, was confirmed at the Great Council of Chiefs meeting in Nailaga, Ba on 14 April 1881, by the new Governor, William Desvouex, when he said:
“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 is unfinished business and must be addressed if Fiji and its people are to live in peace and security into the future.
Indeed, this was the objective of the Qoliqoli Bill introduced into the Fiji Parliament in 2006 by the Qarase government.
It is every itaukei Fijians’ duty to see its return, similar to our native lands!

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