2 Nov 2006

Fiji Law Society says Qoliqoli bill is unconstitutional

2:54 pm on 2 November 2006

The Fiji Law Society says the government's Qoliqoli Bill, which is at the centre of its impasse with the military, is unconstitutional.

The chairman of the society's Qoliqoli Bill sub-committee, Suva lawyer Isireli Fa, has given this assessment in a submission to the parliamentary sub-committee hearing public views on the Bill.

The society says it opposes the Bill on the grounds that it is unconstitutional, it infringes the Native Lands Trust Act and it has the potential to create conflict among the Qoliqoli owners.

It says the Bill does not state why it is necessary to transfer the ownership of Qoliqoli areas from the state and it is necessary to examine the facts and the law surrounding this issue.

The Law Society says the objectives of the Bill are misconceived and flawed.

It says by transferring to the landowners the Qoliqoli right as defined in the Bill, the state will in fact be transferring to them the state's rights of sovereignty within these areas.

The Law Society says the effect of this would be that the Qoliqoli could became autonomous areas where the owners of the Qoliqoli could implement their own rules outside the regulation and control of the state.

As well, the society says the transfer of Qoliqoli areas to owners over and above their customary rights to a preference on the grounds of ethnicity and race amounts to discrimination.