Issue No: 130; 18 October 2000
The plight of farmers in Vanua Levu is desperate, says the People's Coalition member of Parliament representing the Macuata East Open Constituency, Hon Krishna Dutt.
Hon. Dutt issued the following report of his visit to Vanua Levu last week.
UNCERTAINTY IN LABASA
There is considerable uncertainty in the rural areas. People are sadly awaiting a gloomy Diwali. A number of people have been issued with notices to vacate land on expiry of their leases. The National Farmers Union is keeping a record of those who have been asked to leave and the number of people affected in each family.
Those who have made applications to have their leases extended are being given letters which is asking them for two premiums. One for a residential and another for the farm.
I have cited a number of such correspondences. One Jag Prasad on Sect. I Lot 2 B, Daku , for an area of 0.2797 hectare, is asked to pay $21,571.60 including $285.00 in rent and other charges. One item reads "consideration for improvements" - $20,000 plus $400 vat. "Consideration for improvements" should be paid to the tenant, but instead the tenant is being charged.
The same farmer is being asked to pay another $18,142 vat inclusive for 9.0281 hectares for his farmland. Both amounts are required to be paid within 4 weeks. The farmers do not have this kind of money.
Their plight is very desperate. The Mataqali is very willing to let them have the land on rental. The NLTB is continuing to press for a settlement which will effectively push all the farmers out of their lands.
The National Farmers Union has made arrangements with a generous landlord who has assisted in providing land for temporary accommodation to landless and evicted farmers to build a temporary home there. When I visited the area, some 15 evicted farmers were there to mark out their land. Another twenty were expected to mark their plots by today.
The Interim Administration should move to help these farmers and renew the grants that were to be paid to the farmers so that they can choose to settle wherever they please.
Labasa people were at an edge with propaganda rife that there is to be another coup.
The Interim Administration should ensure that such rumours do not destabilise routine work and deal a psychological blow to the entire population. All this contributes to a feeling of insecurity and uncertainty. A number of schools had low turnout on such days.
The dry weather has been kind to roads but pot holes still abound the road grading work should be in full swing before the rainy season starts. This is not happening on a scale Labasa deserves.
FARMERS LOANS AND BUSINESS
Farmers are still having difficulty in securing Bank loans. Despite Diwali approaching business is at a standstill.
18 October 2000