Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase put forward a motion regarding Sugar Industry Reform along with a motion on land issues in the Parliamentary Sitting on 27 April. The first motion called for the establishment of an Ad Hoc Select committee on Sugar Industry Reform while the second motion called to establish a Joint Parliamentary Select Committee on Land.
The motions received support from both sides of the House. Fiji Labour Party parliamentary leader said in his parliamentary speech, ” I was pleased to second the motion because what we see here today is the product of detailed discussions and consensus”. These motions were brought forward as a result of the consensus reached between Mr Qarase and FLP Leader at the Talanoa talk on April 14 th and 15 th.
The 15 Member Ad Hoc Select Committee on Sugar Industry Reform committee will comprise of eight Government members, the Leader of the Opposition and six members of the Fiji Labour Party.
The 17 member Joint Parliamentary Select Committee on Land will consist of eight Government Members, the Leader of the Opposition, six Members of the Fiji Labour Party and two nominees of the Bose Levu Vakaturaga in the Senate.
The Ad Hoc Select Committee on Sugar Industry Reform will consider the Sugar Technology Mission, Government of India, Report of March 2004 for the reform of the Sugar industry and other associated issues, and will widely consult with all stakeholders to report back to the Parliamentary sitting as soon as possible with recommendations, including proposed legislative changes, to implement these recommendations. The Select Committee will consider the Report in detail, and report back to the Parliamentary Sitting, which will start on 7 June 2004.
The FLP Leader emphasised that the Select Committee is required to hold wide consultations with all stakeholders in the industry.
Mr Chaudhry expressed concern on two of the recommendations present in the Report, namely transport and quality assurance systems. He urged the Select Committee to look at transport carefully, both from the point of view of road safety, as well as environmental concerns. He said quality assurance would receive attention in the Parliamentary Select Committee discussions.
Mr Chaudhry said that in order to enhance the income of farmers the recommendations must be implemented and the Government should provide adequate resources for such implementations.
While referring to the task of the Select Committee, the FLP Leader said ” I do sincerely hope that we will approach this task in a thorough manner and in spirit of cooperation”.
The Joint Parliamentary Select Committee on Land will make recommendations with specific reference to: open – minded approach of the Talanoa talks with a sense of urgency to arrive at the most satisfactory outcome for all; scrutinise and consider the important aspects of the issues on land relating to-tenure, rental, rental fixing mechanisms, rental assessment mechanisms, premium considerations, compensation on improvements, arbitration on disputes, good husbandry and any other related matters; ascertain the practicality and suitability of ALTA or NLTA with possible amendments; ensure that either option adopted incorporates the needs of landowners and tenants as currently safeguarded in ALTA and NLTA, and also satisfies the values and fulfils the vision stated in the guiding principles. The Committee has to submit their full report and recommendations by September 2004.
The sugar industry reform and land issues are interrelated. One cannot be solved without due consideration to the other. The FLP Leader so rightfully said “…that it is extremely urgent to conclude a satisfactory agreement on agricultural land leases if we are to save our sugar industry and forge ahead with acceptable levels of growth in our economy.”