Draft vil­lage by­laws

Fiji Sun - - Comment - Alisi Dau­rewa, Feed­back: jy­otip@fi­jisun.com.fj

The iTaukei Af­fairs Board must be com­mended for this cul­mi­na­tion of a series of work­shops which I un­der­stand has be­gun in two of the 14 prov­inces. At a quick glance though, the draft by­law re­minds me of Fiji’s 19th Cen­tury in­di­rect colo­nial rule. And when the iTaukei were fi­nally freed from bondage, in 1967 and ur­ban­i­sa­tion boomed. I won­der, given the re­duc­tion at 49 per cent oc­cu­pa­tion in our ru­ral ar­eas, and if what ap­pears to be a dra­co­nian draft vil­lage by­law was to be for­malised with­out a thor­ough con­sul­ta­tion with those who will be af­fected by it whether di­rectly or in­di­rectly. Our vil­lages might sud­denly be­come empty. Fur­ther­more, what of the so­cial and eco­nomic im­pli­ca­tions? The fol­low­ing are some loud thoughts: 1. Aside from en­sur­ing chil­dren to go to school, the draft is silent on chil­dren’s pro­tec­tion against any form of abuse in­clud­ing child labour. The Min­istry of Women, Chil­dren and Poverty Al­le­vi­a­tion’s re­cent an­nounce­ment that 683 cases of child abuse have been recorded thus far in 2016 is a stark re­minder that the wel­fare of the child should be para­mount in vil­lage gov­er­nance; 2. There is no pro­tec­tion against dom­i­nant voices of cer­tain Chris­tian de­nom­i­na­tion which bur­den the peo­ple (in­clud­ing re­cip­i­ents of So­cial Wel­fare pro­tec­tion), with obli­ga­tions that are not Christ-like;

3. There is no pro­tec­tion for the voice­less against de­ci­sions made by vil­lages, dis­tricts and provin­cial coun­cils which threaten fam­ily well-be­ing

4. While keep­ing the vil­lage wealth is listed as a role of the turaga ni koro (vil­lage head), the draft is silent on the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the cus­tom­ary own­ers of the land and the sea in­clud­ing the iqoliqoli; 5. While I am not say­ing that witch­craft is only preva­lent in ru­ral ar­eas, where it is con­tain­able how­ever, witch­craft, a push fac­tor for ru­ral to ur­ban drift, and a root cause for fam­ily and vil­lage con­flict, should be ad­dressed. And where are the main­stream churches? Hav­ing said the above, my over­all ques­tion is, what is so wrong with the vil­lages de­vel­op­ing their own by­laws in con­sul­ta­tion with Po­lice, other rel­e­vant govern­ment agen­cies and civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions, should they wish to? It is al­ready hap­pen­ing in some vil­lages and work­ing quite well.

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