Fiji’s Ministry of Lands is awaiting permission from its permanent secretary before releasing FJ$600,000 (US$283,614) in royalties from bauxite mining activities to relevant landowners.
Local media inquired as to the status of such funds with deputy secretary Malakai Nalawa after they say they had been given conflicting statements regarding the timetable for release of the funds in question. Nalawa told the media that clearance was necessary prior to disbursing the funds. The newspaper indicated that the ministry told its reporters in the past that such funds were to be held in trust by the government for posterity.
A representative for landowners named Vilikesa Kaidawa informed the newspaper that she had been told by the ministry in a meeting last month that such funds were to be released presently. Kaidawa indicated that Naicobo was slated to receive FJ$500,000 (US$236,345) in royalties.
“The mataqali Nalutu will receive FJ$70,000 (US$33,088) for the use of their land in stockpiling bauxite,” he explained. “A total of FJ$30,000 (US$14,181) will be given to the mataqali Noro for the lease of their land by the Land Bank Unit for access roads that run on their land. In a meeting in November we were told by personnel from the Land Bank we would be receiving the money in our accounts soon.”
He went on to say that the ministry instructed him to identify trustees from the units so that the government could register them as such.
“We were told once this is done we will be able to receive the funds,” Kaidawa said.
“The three mataqali are ready to work closely with the unit for the selection of trustees so we can receive the money soon. We have already selected our trustees and their names are with the Land Bank Unit,” he went on.
However, this runs contrary to statements made to the media by former lands minister Mereseini Vuniwaqa. He claimed that the money would not be disbursed at the present time, and would be held for future generations of landowners.