$45m for 47,000 landowners ‘a victory for equality’

Women of Macuata sing a song during the Macuata Provincial Council meeting at Vunivutu Village, Labasa. Picture: FIJIAN GOVERNMENT

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama says the fact that 47,000 iTaukei landowners under the age of 18 years have $45 million in lease money was something to be celebrated and not ridiculed by naysayers.

While opening the Macuata Provincial Council meeting at Vunivutu Village, Labasa, yesterday, he said the issue had been raised in Parliament “by people who clearly have no understanding of how iTaukei land is valued in Fiji”.

“Never mind them because here is yet another truth — because of our policies there are young iTaukei who will receive an invaluable financial head start in life, a nest egg that they can use to start a business,” the PM said.

Mr Bainimarama said funds kept with the iTaukei Lands Trust Board until they turned 18, that used to only go to chiefs were directly received by young landowners who could use it to buy a house or a car.

“This is a victory for the cause of equality and what kind of person would ever dismiss, misinterpret or ridicule a system that is so manifestly fair and so truly within our Fijian traditions?”

Mr Bainimarama said the Government has ensured that everyone listed under a landowning unit in the Vola ni Kawa Bula received equal shares of lease money.

“That has made a huge difference in the lives of real people and it corrects an injustice of many years standing.

“Not only have we protected your land, but we are finding ways to increase its value and ensure that all community members enjoy an equitable share of benefits of land leasing, including women and young people.”

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