The Fiji Police Force is reminding Fijians not to allow their emotions cloud their judgment when making comments on the Bill to amend the iTaukei Land Trust Act.
Acting Police Commissioner Rusiate Tudravu says they are concerned about the increasing number of hate speech and threats of unrest being made on social media.
Tudravu says they acknowledge that land is a sensitive subject for many Fijians, however, freedom of speech and expression comes with responsibilities and people need to be cautious about comments that are aimed at inciting civil unrest because it will be investigated.
He says they are pleading with Fijians to allow the process of the tabling of the Bill to be carried out.
The Acting Police Commissioner says there are also legal channels to be followed if one wishes to have their grievances addressed and threats of violence will only result in arrest.
Tudravu adds we are already facing a difficult and challenging period in battling COVID-19 and any move to gather in numbers will aggravate current efforts.
According to the Bill, Section 12 of the iTaukei Land Trust Act states that it is unlawful for a lessee under the Act to alienate or deal with the land comprised in the lease, whether by sale, transfer or sublease or in any other manner without the consent of the iTaukei Land Trust Board.
The iTaukei Land Trust (Budget Amendment) Bill 2021 seeks to amend the Act to remove the requirement of obtaining the consent of the iTaukei Land Trust Board for any mortgage, charge, pledge or caveat on a lease under the Act or for any such lease to be dealt with by any court of law or under the process of any court of law.
If passed by Parliament, the amending legislation will come into force on 1st August 2021.
The Act comes under the responsibility of the Minister responsible for iTaukei Affairs. SODELPA Leader, Viliame Gavoka has confirmed they are gathering signatures for a petition to be presented in Parliament tomorrow for the Prime Minister to withdraw the Bill.
Gavoka says there is nothing racist about their call and it has nothing to do with the AG.
He says this is a significant reduction in the power of the TLTB; an erosion of the guardianship role of TLTB and in effect, significantly reduces the power of landowners to have their rights, interests and wishes protected by the Board once their land has been leased out by TLTB.
Gavoka says basically, once the tenants take the lease, then, so long as the tenant is not in breach of any law, the tenant can effectively do most, if not all, the things that a commercial lessee (and a non-commercial lessee) wishes without having to consider, through TLTB’s discretion, any rights, interests, or wishes of the landowners.
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama says the amendment to the iTaukei Land Trust Act is administrative in nature and does away with needless bureaucracy that too often holds up development on leased iTaukei land, like connecting water and electricity.
Bainimarama says the fear of the ‘Kaidia’ is being used by this urban elite, and the Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum is being targeted as someone who is trying to cheat the iTaukei of their land and culture.
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