Authors of a petition against the Government’s proposals to regulate Rotuman affairs are misguided and politically motivated, says Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations Jioji Konrote. He was responding to a petition submitted by Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa in Parliament last week, signed supposedly by 577 Rotumans, protesting the proposed Rotuma Bill and Rotuma Land Bill
1. The Honourable Mr Voreqe Bainimarama, Prime Minister and Minister Responsible for Rotuma;
2. The Honourable Mr Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Attorney General and Minister for Justice;
3. The Honourable Members of the Government side of the House of Representatives; and
4. The Honourable Members of the Opposition.
THIS PETITION of the undersigned Rotumans and Friends of Rotumans, HUMBLY ASKS you to STOP AND DEFER the tabling, reading or further reading and the PASSING INTO LAW of the two current Bills before the Parliament with respect to Rotuma and Rotumans, namely, ROTUMA BILL 2015 (Bill no. 6 of 2015) and ROTUMA LANDS BILL 2O15 (Bill no. 7 of 2015),
UNTIL these Bills have been fully and widely discussed by and amongst the Rotumans in Rotuma, Fiji and elsewhere,
SO THAT they can give their FULL AND INFORMED CONSENT TO BE GOVERNED BY THESE LAWS as IT IS THEIR RIGHT under your CONSTITUTION and INTERNATIONAL LAW and THEIR OBLIGATIONS TO ALL ROTUMANS NOW AND IN THE FUTURE,
FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS:
WE are concerned that:
(A) In respect of the ROTUMA BILL 2015 (Bill no. 6 of 2015):
1. The definition of Rotuma now differs from the current law in that the new definition does not include “its dependencies, rocks, reefs and fisheries lying between the twelfth degree and the fifteenth degree of south latitude and between the one hundred and seventy-fifth degree and the one hundred and eightieth degree of east longitude from the meridian of Greenwich”;
2. The administration and governance of Rotuma differs from the current law in that the new law proposes administration and governance by a new body called the FORUM OF THE ROTUMAN PEOPLE and a differently constituted Council of Rotuma;
3. The appointment and dismissal of Rotuman Chiefs in the proposed law does not accord with Rotuman customs and traditions and differs significantly from the current law;
4. A Review Committee was appointed to review the existing Act but the appointment of the members of that Committee and its deliberations have not been publicised; and
(B) In respect of the ROTUMA LANDS BILL 2015 (Bill no. 7 of 2015):
1. The provisions of s 26 dealing with the transmission of land rights on the birth or death of Rotumans in respect of hanua ne kainaga (clan owned lands) do not accord with Rotuman customs and traditions, discriminates against Rotuman women, do not comply with your Constitution or International Law and are arbitrary;
2. The other provisions dealing with the transmission of land rights in respect of other types of land tenure in Rotuma do not accord with Rotuman customs and traditions, are discriminatory and arbitrary;
3. The provisions of s 31 denying the lawful rights of legally adopted children are discriminatory, unconstitutional and arbitrary; and
4. A Review Committee was appointed to review the existing Act but the appointment of the members of that Committee and its deliberations have not been publicised,
AS THESE PROPOSED LAWS have far reaching cultural, social, economic and legal implications to us and our future generations.
SO WE HUMBLY PRAY.
DATED THIS..............................day of......................................2015
He was responding to a petition submitted by Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa in Parliament last week, signed supposedly by 577 Rotumans, protesting the proposed Rotuma Bill and Rotuma Land Bill.
The petitions demands more time for consultation with Rotumans in Fiji and abroad before any laws concerning their community are passed by Parliament.
According to Mr Konrote, the proposed legislation will provide much-needed guidelines for arbitration on chiefly and land disputes and streamline administrative processes concerning Rotumans.
“All those talking against this legislation, should go to the island and see what is being done on the island by this current Government. No other Government has done so much for Rotuma and even the Prime Minister has visited the island twice and personally overseen the development of projects on the island,” Mr Konrote said.
Mr Konrote has a home on the island and spent a considerable amount of time and effort there over the past few years on community development projects.
He questioned whether the instigators of the petition had done anything for the welfare of Rotumans during their lifetime.
Some of the features of the proposed Rotuma Bill 2015 include:
– the establishment of the Council of Rotuma that will among other things, ‘consider matters that effect or likely to affect Rotuma customs, including issues relating to traditional protocols, traditional processes of resolving disputes within the Rotuman community and general matters relating to the role of traditional leaders.’
– the establishment of the Forum of the Rotuman People to help administer the Rotuma Development Fund and assist the Council of Rotuma with its business
-A framework for the election of district chiefs on Rotuma and provisions for the appointment of a Tribunal to settle disputes over chiefly titles
– Provisions for disciplinary measures against district chiefs, including removal from their position, ‘for any action that has brought disrepute to the position of district chief or other acts of impropriety.”
Mr Konrote said the legislation would provided much needed clarity in dealing with disputes, financial management and traditional leadership and that would lead to social cohesion and development of the Rotuman community.
One of the authors of the petition, lawyer Rosie Langi, was in Parliament last week to hear Ro Teimumu present the petition that was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Affairs.
The main author of the petition is believed to be former High Court judge Sosefo Inoke, who now resides in Brisbane and has been vocal on social media sites protesting the presentation of the Bill before Parliament. Source: Fiji Times