9 Aug 2006

Fiji lands minister labels qoliqoli opponents extremists

7:10 pm on 9 August 2006

Fiji's lands minister says hoteliers opposing the government's Qoliqoli or Traditional Fishing Grounds Bill are extremists.

Radio Legend says Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu has told parliament he is concerned that some hoteliers do not want members of the public and Qoliqoli owners to have access to their traditional fishing grounds because it might disturb hotel operations.

Ratu Naiqama says this attitude and practice challenges the very basic right of landowners and the general public.

He says total restrictions on Qoliqoli owners is not Fijian and not in the national interest.

The lands minister says if some hoteliers cannot respect Fiji's laws and the way Fijians feel about their cultures and traditions, then Fiji is not the place for them to invest and live in.

Ratu Naiqama says the onus is on hoteliers and the fishing ground owners to negotiate and reach agreement on the terms and conditions including compensation for the use of the fishing grounds.

He says "extremist" hoteliers should know that the Qoliqoli Bill covers all the foreshores in Fiji and not only the 14% used by the tourism industry.

Once passed, the Qoliqoli Bill will transfer the ownership of all traditional fishing grounds from the state to their customary owners