SODELPA is now demanding that the FijiFirst Government withdraw Bill No.17 of 2021 which seeks to amend the iTaukei Land Trust Act 1940.
SODELPA Leader, Viliame Gavoka says the proposed law is being tabled as a consequential bill and the Government wants it to be debated in less than an hour of parliamentary time.
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.
Gavoka says Section 12 covers a very critical area of the Act governing iTaukei land, in that it requires the consent of the iTaukei Land Trust Board for any dealings related to the lease given to tenants.
The SODELPA Leader says most court cases involve Section 12 and the courts have always ruled in favour of the iTaukei Land Trust Board whenever any dealings contravene Section 12 and emphasize that anything done without the prior consent of TLTB is a nullity and void of any effect and impact to the landowner’s paramount interest.
Gavoka says what the Government is doing is introducing a new subsection (1A) which will amend the law consequentially not requiring the consent of the TLTB for any mortgage, charge, pledge, caveat or for any such lease to be dealt with by any court of law or under the process of any court of law.
Gavoka says it is known that most dealings in relation to iTaukei land will be encompassed under these heads. 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.
He 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.
Gavoka believes the original intent of the Act, a tripartite forum of lessee, landowner, and the guardian TLTB of mutuality, respect and transparency is now being watered down by the Government under the guise of present predicaments we all face as a nation.
He says this bill should not be tagged to the budget as a consequential bill under the infamous Standing Order 51, and at a time we are barely coping with COVID-19.
Gavoka says in no uncertain term, the Prime Minister as Chairman of the TLTB, must personally see to the withdrawal of the bill in his role as the guardian of the landowner’s interest.
We have sent questions to the Prime Minister and the Attorney General on the bill and SODELPA’s call to remove it.
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