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Dakuvula Predicts 6000 Plus Landless By New Year

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SUVA: Deposed Fiji Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry has been made a scapegoat of nationalist Fijian hysteria and the country faces an extra 6000 landless people by the new year, warns political commentator Jone Dakuvula.

Writing in his weekly column in the Fiji Sun today, Dakuvula blamed Canadian academic Professor John Davies and a "sinister interpretation" of the purpose of the coalition government's proposed Land Commission in the campaign to have Chaudhry removed and "politically exiled".

He also blamed hostage taker George Speight's campaign among Fijian mahogany plantation owners against the Chaudhry government's choice of the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) to develop the resource.

The "sinister interpretation" was strengthened, especially among nationalists in the National Land Trust Board (NLTB) and educated indigenous Fijians who had lost the 1999 election, by articles written by Prof Davies circulated on the internet and published in Fiji newspapers.

"One such article concluded that Fijian landowners had been receiving extremely low rent income (compared to land rent in other countries) and that the continuation of the Agricultural Land Tenure Act (ALTA) was not in the landowners' interest because it prevented NLTB from charging fair market rent," wrote Dakuvula.

He is a researcher for the independent lobby group Citizens' Constitutional Forum, but also an outspoken dissident member of the SVT political party founded by former coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka which was defeated in the 1999 election.

"Professor Davies said Fijian landowners had lost over $1 billion in potential income from land rent in the last 30 years because of the restrictions of ALTA," wrote Dakuvula.

"This was grist for the mill for nationalist campaigners against Chaudhry, such as Navitalai Naisoro, Mere Samisoni, Emosi Toga, Maika Qarikau, Isireli Korovulavula and the like.

"Instead of blaming the NLTB and Fijian leadership for the last 40 years, Mr Chaudhry was blamed as the Indian exploiter incarnate who was scheming to maintain this 'exploitative legislative scheme' to continue the marginalisation of indigenous Fijians.

"I doubt if Mahendra Chaudhry had ever read Prof Daviies' academic articles. But never mind, he had to be the scapegoat that should be removed and politically exiled, according to the hysterical articles of Mere Samisoni published in the Daily Post.

"There was no place in her mind, or Qarikau's mind, for the bipartisan approach to finding practical and gradualist solutions to this position of injustice that they believed.

"It had to be resolved quickly by illegal means outside of the parliamentary process."

The damage has been done, believes Dakuvula.

"The desire of the indigenous nationalists to punish and take revenge against the Indians who voted for the People's Coalition is being implemented by [Agriculture Minister] Apisai Tora and the NLTB," he wrote.

"Tora had his own personal score to settle against Chaudhry for the loss of his constituency and leadership of PANU."

Dakuvula spells out a bleak future over the land crisis, and claims that nationalist policies are creating another "girmit" - indentured labour contact.

"More than 1500 cane farmers will have been evicted by Christmas, most without any savings to start a new life.

"Than can mean at least 6000 additional landless people living in poverty by the new year.

"Tens of thousands of cane farms are very likely to revert to bush in the next three years because there aren't any experienced or committed potential Fijians farmers to carry on from the evicted Indian farmers.

"Many nationalists say they would prefer the land to revert to bush, rather than have them farmed by Indo-Fijians again."

Dakuvula warned that indigenous nationalism would not increase the tax revenue to fund the "blueprint for Fijian development".

"Let us move on. We must abandon George Speight's agenda because it will kill this country."


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