'Come clean' over land
'Come clean' over land
2 February 2001
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'COME CLEAN' OVER LAND, NLTB TOLD
* See Pasifik Nius item 3185
SUVA (Pasifik Nius): A development economist has
appealed to Fiji's
Native Land Trust Board to "come clean" on its real motives if a
long-lasting solution to the land problem is to be found for the
Condemning some landowners and the NLTB
over "exploitation and
intimidation" of mainly Indo-Fijian tenant farmers, University of the
South Pacific's Dr Mahendra Reddy said the girmit era of indentured
labour may return to Fiji.
Writing in the
Daily Post today, Dr Reddy said: "While tenant
remain the descendants of the indentured labourers, the masters are no
longer the whites, but the indigenous community aided by their trustees
Exploitation by landowners and the NLTB had taken
various forms and he
cited examples such as:
* Raising rent levels without a proper rent-fixing formula or mechanism.
* Asking for "exorbitant premiums", ranging
from F$6000 to $15,000 a
lease upon renewal of leases under the term "consideration for new
the tenant to get a consent form signed where the tenant
"deliberately exposed for exploitation" by landowners.
* Writing intimidating letters of non-renewal
of leases and asking for
compensation to be paid to the NLTB for "dilapidation, deterioration or
damages" for an amount of $1000 an acre.
Dr Reddy wrote that as the NLTB
had a monopoly power over land, the
"vulnerable community" could be exploited to its maximum, particularly
when other institutions such as the state were turning a blind eye to
"It is in the
national interest that Indo-Fijian farmers
agricultural land and this just cannot happen overnight," said Dr Reddy.
"Rather, it is a gradual process and it requires a transition period.
best solution is to permanently resettle the tenant
on freehold land. However, this may be possible for only a small
proportion of the farmers.
best solution is to provide separate residential
Residential leases should be offered for 99 years, Dr Reddy wrote.
As farmers became
ready to leave agriculture, they would not have
dismantle their home and become homeless.
only have to give up agricultural leases which would
returned to their rightful owners.
"To arrive at a
solution that is acceptable to all, we will have
remove our political hat and open our eyes to issues that concern all
the stakeholders, the nation, indigenous Fijians and the tenant
community," Dr Reddy said.
"Can we begin with the NLTB?"