MP Gavoka wary of Bill

Social Democratic Liberal Party leader Viliame Gavoka speaking in Parliament on July 26, 2021. Picture: PARLIAMENT OF FIJI

The amendment to the iTaukei Land Trust Act or Bill No.17 will result in leased iTaukei land being mortgaged to the hilt by banks, and banks controlling the land.

This was the stern warning by Social Democratic Liberal Party leader Viliame Gavoka during the debate on the Bill in Parliament yesterday.

He said he had been asked if there was any way to determine how much land was under mortgage by banks.

“This is a concern that has been raised to us,” Mr Gavoka said.

“When you talk about 99 years, that is a lifetime.

“And way back in 1999, a USP paper had indicated that two-thirds of the land are already under lease, so two-thirds of our land will be easily mortgaged these days and more to come now that we’ve opened the floodgates.

“We will be a people with ownership of land, who own the land, but our land are all owned by the banks.

“We don’t want it that way, we don’t want our land to be in the hands of the banks.

“The honourable Attorney-General says that what we are showing is a basic ignorance of land lease issues – isn’t it for that reason that we should have consultation, if he believes that we are ignorant so let’s have consultation.”

In his contribution to the debate, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said leased iTaukei land that was subject to mortgage would always remain iTaukei land and all terms and conditions of the lease remained intact.

“The next point to Bill 17 with respect to the removal of consent for mortgages is that the removal of consent does not in any way affect the rights or interests of the iTaukei landowners,” he said.

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