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New twist in refugee claims

THOSE who left their Muainaweni homes in May this year were enticed by those behind the establishment of the so called refugee camp in Lautoka.

In fact those who left were not at all terrorised by a gang of villagers on May 19 and the next few days. According to Farouk Khan the Advisory Councillor of Muainaweni, the 187 people who left for Lautoka went after being promised to be resettled overseas. Mr Khan said he has visited the displaced people twice. First when they were at the Lautoka Sanatan College in Natokowaqa and later when they moved to the Girmit Centre.

He revealed that some people have been taking advantage of the crisis by manipulating vulnerable people who were already desperate for help. "On my second visit I met a lady who was wearing an expensive sari who told me she was waiting for a boat that would take them overseas. "It is the sad side of things in there and it has created false hope," Mr Khan said.

He shared this piece of information while having a bowl of grog with his farmers Raven Kisun and Maan Bhorak and shopkeeper Shiri Ram at the Muainaweni Shopping Centre. The three are part of those families who did not flee from their homes during the height of terrorism activities in this Naitasiri farming area.

Mr Kisun's family slept in the bush for three nights but he decided not to move to Lautoka. "Majority of those in Lautoka were sleeping in the comfort of their homes in May. "In 1987 I stayed, in May this year my wife and my daughter slept in the bush but we did not leave because this is our home, we were born here, our friends are here and we will die here," he said. Mr Ram's story is a peculiar one.

He went with his wife and daughter to the Girmit Centre in June. They arrived at 3pm but were told to leave two hours later without being given a reason. Mr Khan clarified those at the camp are not refugees but are what he understands are internally displaced people. He said it is ironic that before the movement only one house was burnt and when people left for Lautoka four more homes were razed. Mr Bhorak believes some people went around from house to house in the dark triggering the exodus to Lautoka.

Mr Farouk said 11 families have returned to Muainaweni and he hopes more will do so because life in the area is back to normal. "Our children are back at school, we the farmers have been working in our farms. I hope those in Lautoka realise that they are losing out on a lot as their farms are empty," he said. He also urged those in Lautoka to return and re-start their lives with a stronger will. The Qaranivalu, Ratu Inoke Takiveikata, Ilaitia Tuisese the Minister for regional development and his assistant George Shiu Raj have visited the villagers in the area in last month.

There has been no incidents of unrest apart from the occasional theft of taro from Indian owned farms. Mr Farouk said the farmers were assured by the ministers that a compensation package will be arranged to help people rebuild their lives.

Today 11 policemen from the Mobile Unit are based in the newly established Muainaweni Police Post which is manned by 15 policemen. Next week Mr Khan will accompany the District Officer Vunidawa, the Turaga ni Koros of Gusuisavu village and Namuamua and an officer from the Commissioner Central's office to meet Naitasiri chiefs at the Naqali government station.

Mr Khan believes those behind the establishment of the camp have to come clear because it is time to tell the world the truth. "Nothing is better than the truth. "I am a bit surprised about the media being not allowed to enter the camp.

"What are they hiding? If they need overseas help then show the world the truth," he said.

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