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No Land, No Home, No Income, No Job, No Security

No Land, No Home, No Income, No Job, No Security - Farmers Tell Envoy

Issue No: 407 23 January 2001

Cane farmers in the Western Division in Viti Levu today poured their heart out to the Commonwealth Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Fiji, Justice Pius Langa.

At a special gathering organised by the National Farmers Union in Nadi this evening, Justice Langa heard the plight of farmers who are being evicted from land by the Native Lands Trust Board.

Numerous farmers spoke outlining their personal plights. Many more waited for their turn to speak as the clock ticked by and Justice Langa announced that he had got the message of the farmers.

The message was typical, and well expressed by a Ba farmer who stated in Hindi that his family, and others like him who were evicted, had no land, no home to stay in, no savings, no income, no job, and no security. The message was repeated by farmer after farmer, most of who have now sought shelter temporarily with relatives.

One farmer stated that he is the only farmer left to be evicted in his entire village, and that the villagers who have now taken over the land constantly harass him with demands for money, food, and other items. "This is unbearable as I am of small means. I want to leave the area as soon as I get a chance. I work hard. I have little income, and the demands of the villagers are never ending", he stated. He also warned that farmers accepting residential leases will face similar problems, not to speak of the regular demand by the landowners and the NLTB for premiums and heavy rentals. The breakdown in law and order, and the reluctance of the police to contain the problem of harassment of farmers was also highlighted by the farmers.

The farmers also informed Justice Langa that since the state had refused to assist the people being dispossessed, it was now the responsibility of the international community, notably the UK, Australia, and India to find a lasting solution to the problem. The farmers stated that they do not want temporary solutions. "We have seen this happen in 1966. Now the same people who were evicted in 1966, and who broke virgin land to make a living, are being evicted to go to other remoter areas to develop new land. This can not happen generation after generation", stated one farmer.

The National Farmers Union presented Justice Langa a comprehensive report on the land situation in Fiji. Justice Langa, in his brief statement, said that he was here to collect information, and that no problem was impossible to solve.


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