Fiji Police cautions against comments made on proposed Land Bill

The Fiji Police have called on people to refrain from making ‘hate speech” regarding the proposed Land Bill saying that there are legal channels to follow to voice one’s concerns.

There have been a host of comments posted on social media platforms particularly from the indigenous community who have voiced their reservations about the Bill and the impact they fear it would have on their rights and ownership of the land. In some factions, the consensus has been that proper consultation should be carried out to address concerns first.

However, the Fiji Police said such comments have the potential to incite civil unrest and place additional and unnecessary strain on people who are already struggling with the impacts of COVID19.

Presented on the day of the 2021/2022 national budget announcement two weeks ago, Bill No 17 of 2021, proposes to amend section 12 of the iTaukei Land Trust Act 1940.

Section 12 of the Act deems it illegal for a lessee under the Act to alienate or deal with the land comprised in the lease, whether by sale, transfer or sublease or in any other manner without the consent of the iTaukei Land Trust Board.  Bill 17 of 2021 seeks to amend the section by removing that requirement of acquiring the consent of TLTB “for any mortgage, charge, pledge or caveat on a lease under the Act or for any such lease to be dealt with by any court of law or under the process of any court of law.”

“The Fiji Police Force is reminding Fijians not to allow their emotions cloud their judgement when making comments on the proposed iTaukei Land Trust (Budget Amendment) Bill 2021. We are concerned about the increasing number of hate speech and threats of unrest being made on social media. We acknowledge that land is a sensitive subject for many Fijians, however, we reiterate that freedom of speech and expression comes with responsibilities and people need to be cautious about comments that are aimed at inciting civil unrest as it will be investigated.

“We are already facing a difficult and challenging period in battling COVID-19 and any move to gather in numbers will aggravate current efforts.”

The bill in question will be discussed during the Budget debate which starts tomorrow. If passed, it will be effective 1 August 2021.

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