24 Sep 2003

Fiji cabinet to set up Indigenous Claims Tribunal

9:39 am on 24 September 2003

Fiji's cabinet has approved the setting up of an Indigenous Claims Tribunal to address the grievances of indigenous Fijians.

Radio Fiji reports that the tribunal will be set up under new legislation and will be empowered to inquire into and make recommendations on indigenous claims and grievances and other areas of discontent.

The tribunal will make appropriate recommendations based, at least in part, on the Deed of Cession - the agreement under which control over Fiji was handed over to Britain in 1874.

The cabinet has approved the drafting of the new legislation under section 186 of the 1997 Constitution which deals with the application of customary laws and dsipute resolution in accordance with traditional Fijian processes.

A government statement says the new law will allow the indigenous people to protect their rights and interests within the context of the Deed of Cession, especially in relation to their claims on land, without infringing the rights of others.

The tribunal's work will also deal with indigenous rights to traditional fishing grounds and the operations of hotel and resort owners in the tourism industry on the use of these waters.