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I-taukei Affairs Ministry says Fiji Times article causes anxiety

January 11, 2022 4:17 pm

A news article published by the Fiji Times on December 24, 2021, according to the Ministry of i-Taukei Affairs is misleading.

The article titled “Lawyers with traditional links to parties to appear in hearings” relates to the i-Taukei Lands (Appeals Tribunal) Regulations 2021 which Cabinet had endorsed last year.

The Ministry says the framing of the article is causing anxiety amongst some i-Taukei.

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It says that the article does not explain why only lawyers with traditional links to parties involved in a dispute, especially concerning chiefly and customary titles, can appear before the Appeal Tribunal.

The Ministry clarifies that there are two redress mechanisms for the i-Taukei under the i-Taukei Lands Act 1905 on disputes relating to chiefly & customary titles and land ownership: the i-Taukei Lands Commission (Veitarogivanua) established under section 4 of the Act, and the i-Taukei Lands Appeal Tribunal (Tribunal) established under section 7 of the Act.

It further explains that the “Veitarogivanua” arbitrates, disputes, and makes its ruling.

According to the Ministry, if a party to the dispute is not satisfied with the Veitarogivanua’s ruling, it can lodge an appeal with the Tribunal.

It says this has been the tradition and practice with both, since the Act was promulgated, to allow only those who are registered in the Vola ni Kawa Bula of the disputing parties to make representation.

The Ministry stresses that while the Regulation reinforces this tradition and practice, it now allows lawyers to represent a disputing party provided they are registered in the VKB of that party.

In i-Taukei culture and tradition, only a Yavusa, Mataqali, and Tokatoka member registered in its VKB can speak on its matters because they are the only ones familiar with it.

The Ministry of Itaukei Affairs says the final arbiter will be the Veitarogivanua and the Tribunal based on the records kept with the Veitarogivanua.

If a party is still aggrieved after the Tribunal makes its ruling, it can take its case to a Court of Law.

In this regard, any lawyer can represent the aggrieved party.

The Ministry of i-Taukei Affairs reassures all i-Taukei that there is nothing sinister about the Regulation.

FBC has sent questions to The Fiji Times regarding the article in question.

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