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13 More Schools Face NLTB Incited Closure

Issue No: 669 10 April 2001

13 more schools face possible closure because of demands for money by landowners.

Today's Daily Post reports that 12 primary and secondary schools on Viti Levu and one in Vanua Levu face similar conditions as the Sabeto Indian Primary School faced two weeks ago.

The school was forcibly entered by people claiming to be landowners and closed down. The landowners demanded $60,000. Within a week, the demand rose to $70,000. When the Native Lands Trust Board stepped in, the demand rose to $91,000. The school had resolved to meet the high chief of the area. But as this resolution was publicised, the NLTB met the chief earlier and asked him not to meet the school reps. The school is now taking the matter to the court.

The NLTB has declined to name the 13 schools which face the prospect of massive financial demands by landowners.

The teachers unions have called on the state to intervene and take over the school leases. The Qarase regime has not responded to these calls. Most of the schools involved cater for ethnic Indian students.


USP slates current leaders, civil servants Issue No: 668 10 April 2001

The University of the South Pacific has condemned the current leaders of Fiji and the civil servants.

Speaking at the launch of the ESCAP's Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2001 report, USP's Vice-Chancellor, Savenaca Siwatibau, who headed the ESCAP before joining USP, stated that Fiji is headed to a major disaster if the leaders do not put in place "sound social, economic and political policies".

Siwatibau is quoted by the media as saying that the batch of leaders Fiji has do not display the qualities to address our problems.

Problems include a lack of investor confidence, uncertainty over aid donations, lack of capital development, and continuing economic, social and political problems.

Siwatibau also stated that Fiji lacked the "qualities of good governance". He said: "The standard of our civil service and the calibre of our leaders just prove that Fiji is far form running under the principles of good governance".

He blamed bad governance for the current state of affairs and the deterioration in the quality of services provided by the public sector. He said: "I think some of these leaders are aiding and abetting it because I haven't heard any one leader since independence in Fiji telling us that we need to work harder".

Meanwhile, former Attorney General Sir Vijay R Singh has today slated the view that only ethnic Fijians can rule Fiji.

Writing in his column in today's Fiji Times, Sir Vijay stated that the government, as the largest enterprise in the nation, requires good managers and administrators. He posed the question: "Why is it that when it comes to preserving our liberty or life, each of us prefers the best lawyer or doctor or surgeon we can afford, regardless of his or her race, and yet, strangely, when it comes to the life and health of the State and welfare of all, some should prescribe an ethnocentric formulation as the magic cure?" He also stated: "The historical record militates against the current conventional wisdom that for an ethnic group to progress in a multicultural society, it must dominate the government and its policies".

Sir Vijay was a part of the government led by Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara. Fiji has been ruled by ethnic Fijian leaders for all but one of its 30 year post-independent history. The Chaudhry Government had brought in major policy changes which laid the foundation to good governance and transparency. It had tabled a bill on Code of Conduct for politicians and civil servants. It had also tabled a bill on freedom of information. And it had put in place policy measures which would have seen an end to corruption and tax evasion.

Siwatibau's and Singh's statements serve as serious indictments of the Qarase regime and of the politicians and civil servants who believe in ethnic Fijian supremacy.


NLTB Conditions condemned Issue No: 667 10 April 2001

The demand by the Native Lands Trust Board that tenants on native land can not belong to unions or political parties has been widely condemned.

The demand, which is contained in letters which the NLTB has been sending tenants, has been defended by the NLTB. A media report states that the NLTB claims that "[ethnic] Fijian land was used to hold the country to ransom despite the fact that the lease was issued for the sole purpose of agricultural development". The NLTB also stated: "Political wannabes have continuously used indigenous land that are subject to agricultural leases to wreak havoc on the country's economy".

The demands have been condemned by the Fiji Labour Party, the Fiji Trades Union Congress, and the media.

Today the Fiji Times gave a biting rebuke to the demands by the NLTB. It stated:

"The latest demand by the Native Land Trust Board is ridiculous. In what is nothing short of holding farmers to ransom, the board wants an undertaking that they will not participate in political activities. For this promise the farmers will be allowed new leases and a secure future."

The paper said that the demand "places restrictions on the farmers' constitutional right to take part in protests or political activities. Because the demand is not specific it remains open to interpretation. And this is where the problem lies. A landowner can run crying to the board over trumped up allegations that the tenant is involved in destabilising activities. Such activities could range from attending a political meeting or hosting discussions about the next harvest. This can not be allowed to happen. As a responsible tenant the farmer must ensure that his lease is paid on time and the land is properly maintained. That, really, us where his responsibility ends."

The paper also writes: "The [NLTB] does not appear to have demanded that the landowners refrain from disturbing the tenants. It has not compelled villagers to stay of leased land, refrain from inciting violence and tension that could cause ill-feelings and address all grievances to the board. The Native Land Trust Board has the responsibility of ensuring that the interests of the landowners are protected."

The Times echoed the views of most people in Fiji who believe that the NLTB has become politicised. The paper stated that the NLTB's role has "become increasingly politicised since May last year. This latest demand is evidence of that fact. The board must move away from politics. If it continues down the present track it is the landowners who will suffer."

The NLTB is led by ethnic Fijians who were active supporters of the terrorists last year.

Meanwhile, neither the National Federation Party nor the Fiji Cane Growers Association have commented on the NLTB demands. Observers believe that these two organizations are in league with the NLTB because they see the demands as sufficient to destroy the support base of the Fiji Labour Party and the People's Coalition Government.


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