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Commonwealth Sanctions Fiji

Commonwealth Sanctions Fiji; NZ Wants Parliament Convened
Issue No: 613 21 March 2001

The Commonwealth of Nations has agreed to keep Fiji out of the Commonwealth committees.

In the meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) yesterday, the group decided that Fiji's suspension from Commonwealth councils will remain in force for the time being.

The Commonwealth's Secretary General Don McKinnon told the media after the end of the CMAG meeting that the suspension will continue "pending the restoration of democracy". In a statement, the CMAG said it would "closely monitor" the situation in Fiji. It expressed "the hope that by the time the CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) is held in October, 2001 Fiji will have a democratically elected government and will return to the Commonwealth as a full member."

Fiji was suspended from the councils of the Commonwealth last year after terrorists took over the Parliament Complex and the security forces in Fiji failed to release the hostages.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand government had informed the Commonwealth that it will keep its sanctions in place. NZ's Foreign Affairs Minister wrote to the CMAG saying that the country was not ready to lift sanctions against Fiji. He stated: "Suspension of the sanctions will need to await clear evidence of early elections and an unequivocal commitment by the caretaker government to a democratic outcome at the ballot box". He also stated that the President Ratu Josefa Iloilo only gave lip service to the Court of Appeal ruling and at best it is on the outer edges of constitutionality. He stated: "New Zealand is concerned that the former interim administration declared illegal by the Court of Appeal had effectively been legitimised and appointed as a caretaker government. The most constitutional approach would have been the reconvening of Parliament and letting it decide who should govern until elections are held".


NLTB frustrated with landowners Issue No: 612 21 March 2001

The Native lands Trust Board now wants to renew agricultural leases to existing tenants.

Today's Daily Post reports that the NLTB has found it difficult to get ethnic Fijian landowners to cultivate land and pay the NLTB the necessary rent. The paper quotes NLTB's Western Division head as saying:

"Our concern is that the land should be available for maximum use with all concerned parties reaping the benefits. We have come to see that a number of landowners who came in as incoming farmers hardly do any work on their farm and the farm is left redundant. If this trend continues then firstly the landowners will be affected, the sugar industry will be very badly affected as well as the NLTB".

The paper also quoted the official as saying that the "incoming farmers have to prove themselves otherwise the NLTB will terminate their leases and the contract".

The NLTB had grand plans to take over the land farmed by largely the ethnic Indian smallholder tenants, give the tenants quarter acre residential leases for the same total rent as the agricultural leases, amalgamate the small farms into larger farms, give the larger farms to ethnic Fijian landowners who will utilise the largely ethnic Indians as labourers on the farms. It was expected that in this way, the ethnic Indians will be converted into farm labourers, the NLTB will continue to get the necessary rental, and the ethnic Fijians will prosper commercially. It was also expected that this move will see the ethnic Indians becoming politically subservient, and ethnic Fijians continue to back the SVT regime. The plan was drawn in the mid 1990's by Maika Qarikau, who now is the General Manager of the NLTB. Qarikau is related to the former SVT PM Sitiveni Rabuka, and is a prominent supporter of terrorist George Speight.

The plan has backfired. First, most tenants have refused to accept residential leases. This is despite the Fiji Cane Growers Association, an arm of the National Federation Party (which was in coalition with the SVT), advising the tenants to accept residential leases. Second, many landowners do not want to give residential leases because after constant promise of material wealth by the NLTB, they wish to take over the existing residences of the tenants rather than the agricultural land. In the cases which NLTB has seen so far, invariably the landlords have started occupying the residences of the tenants and have left the farms to wilderness.

But the NLTB is continuing with its plan and advising the landowners to issue residential leases to the tenants and take over the farming land. The Post quotes the NLTB officer as saying: "Our advice to the landowners is twofold. Fist, they can use the tenants as labourers on the farm and second is they will receive rent from them."


German Foundation moves out of Fiji Issue No: 611; 21 March 2001

The German foundation, The Hans Seidel Foundation has closed its office in Fiji.

The Foundation has been involved with Fiji's ethnic Fijian development for the past 22 years. Yesterday a newspaper carried a supplement of the Foundation which showed the nature of the programs which it was running.

Today's Fiji Times quotes the Foundation as saying that the closure of the office was due to financial constraints.

Meanwhile it has been claimed by some that the Foundation's Fiji Office had come under scrutiny some years back for failure to abide by the financial regulations set by the Foundation. The Foundation then was led by Ratu Tuakitau Cakanauto, who now is a member of the Qarase regime, and who had offered to be a part of the Speight cabinet a day after Speight took over the Parliament Complex.


Major water problems for cities Issue No: 610; 21 March 2001

After the marked improvement in the water supply system in the country under the People's Coalition Government, the nation is reverting to the days of perennial water problems of the SVT days.

Over the past few weeks, the media has highlighted problems of water supply in the greater Suva area as well as in Lautoka City. Complete cut-off of supply, often without notice, and irregular and muddy water through taps are now again the order of the day in the country.

In 1998, Suva City suffered a huge water supply problem with most households not getting regular water for months. The same was true for Lautoka. But within months of taking office, the water problems were addressed with substantial improvement in both the cities. The government had placed water supply as a top priority for its budgetary allocation.

Today, the Public Works Department has issued a warning of a repeat of the 1998 problems in Suva because of the Qarase regime's non-allocation of funds to the department to activate its plans. The PWD also stated that the development of infrastructure is lagging behind the growth of urban areas. It was this very status which had led the People's Coalition Government to place infrastructure development as a top priority for financial allocation. All this has been reversed by the Qarase regime. The regime has also announced that it may reverse the People's Coalition decision to not to privatise state owned enterprises. Whether the decision applies to the water supply department is not known.

Meanwhile, the major beneficiary of the water problems is the local trucking industry, many owned by the ethnic Indians. Large trucking companies are hired by the government to cart water to residents when the water system breaks down. It was made known to the People's Coalition Government that a few such companies had a more than professional relationship with some of the Public Works workers. In one case, it was confirmed that a vehicle belonging to a major transport company was often parked overnight and weekend at the home of a government employee working in the works ministry. The same company is also on a list circulating in the country of businessmen who funded the terrorists.


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