Saturday, May 19, 2018

Fiji landowners to receive 80% of mining royalties

They will, for the first time, get royalties from mineral mining – 80% and Govt retains 20%

All landowners will, for the first time, be able to access a fair share of royalties from mineral mining.

This comes after the Fi­jiFirst Government man­aged to get the Fare Share of Mineral Royalties Bill passed and enacted in Par­liament last night.

Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General Ai­yaz Sayed-Khaiyum said under the new Act land­owners would receive 80 per cent of all the royal­ties while the State would retain only 20 per cent.

He said once the Act came into place, the first pay­ment of royalty of around $1m would be made from the Trust to the landown­ers.

The landowners referred to were owners of freehold land, iTaukei landowners, Rotuman and Rabi Island landowners, he said.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said it had always been known that all minerals belonged to the State and surface land belonged to the landowners. He said through the provision of the 2013 Constitution there was a require­ment for a fair share of royalties.

He said a fair share of royalties would be given to the landowners.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum revealed that a similar provision, not exactly the same as this, ex­isted in the 1997 Constitution (section 186), stating that Parliament must make provi­sions granting to the owners of land or reg­istered custom fishing rights an equitable share of royalties.

He said the Sitiveni Rabuka SVT govern­ment and the Laisenia Qarase SDL Govern­ment failed to bring about any law to give ef­fect to the 1997 provision on section 186.

He said similarly there was a provision in the 1990 Constitution put in place by the Rabuka Government.

He said from 1997 to 2006, the Rabuka and Qarase Governments had the opportunity to make the law but they didn’t.

“Nine years and they are complaining to us about three years, let’s put things into per­spective, appreciate what the Bill is doing and stop playing politics.”

He said the FijiFirst Government had now put in place the law for the share of royalty.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum further revealed that even though by law the minerals belonged to the state, the landowners through this Act would receive 80 per cent of all the royalties while the state would retain only 20 per cent.

He said from Independence, from the Ratu Mara Government, they had the opportuni­ty to change the percentage of royalties but none of them did.

He said SODELPA MP Ratu Naiqama Lala­balavu was the Minister for Lands and Min­eral Resources in the Qarase Government and why they did not do it then?

Minister for Productivity, Employment and Industrial Relations Jone Usamate sup­ported the Bill and said this was a historic moment.

He said a lot had been said about the shar­ing of royalties in the past.

He also reiterated similar sentiments as Mr Sayed-Khaiyum’s that the similar provi­sions were there in previous constitutions.

But nothing was done by previous Govern­ment

“So many times there were sentiments from the other side that the Government does not seem to care about the landowners, but then why was it, that those previous governments did not do anything about this.”

Losirene Lacanivalu | Fiji Sun | 17 May 2018

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