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Regime Wants To Close Refugee Camps

Issue No: 80; 4 October 2000

The interim regime wants to close all refugee camps in Fiji.

Today's Daily Post reported the interim regime Home Affairs minister, Ratu Talemo Rakatale as saying that the regime is formulating regulations to stop the establishment of refugee camps. He said: "I believe that we have to regulate the setting up of camps", and that "the interim Prime Minister himself is taking the initiative to look into the refugee camps". Talemo further stated: "Now that Fiji has two so-called refugee camps, it becomes the Administration's duty to evaluate the situation and work out ways to prevent it from spreading".

The residents in the first camp, in Lautoka, are farmers who were terrorised after the terrorists took over the Parliament. Those at the second camp, in Valelawa Vanua Levu, are farmers who have been evicted from their lands by the Native Lands Trust Board. There are about 800 such farmers whose leases were not renewed from 1997 to 2000.

Meanwhile a landowner in Ba has criticised the Native Lands Trust Board for evicting farmers from his mataqali land despite them giving the consent to extend the leases. Viliame Rauvi of mataqali Naduruwaqa of Luvuci in Ba told today's Fiji Times that a majority of the members of his mataqali wanted the leases to be renewed but a small minority wanted to take over the land and the houses which the tenants had built for their ownselves. NLTB accepted the view of the minority.

The Peoples Coalition Government had given the farmers whose leases were not renewed the option of either resettlement at state expense or an equivalent resettlement grant, which came to $28,000 per family. The Qarase regime has shelved both the schemes with the consequence that evicted farmers are now staying in refugee camps.

END

PEOPLES COALITION GOVERNMENT, FIJI

Issue No: 79 ; 4 October 2000

Regime-SVT grumble over new election; Opposition to new constitution move mounts

The interim regime and the SVT have come with different plans for a new election.

Initially, the regime announced that a new Constitution would be ready and elections held within 2 years from July. Then it stated it would take between 2 to 3 years. Today, the regime's Information Minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola stated that the new constitution would be ready by August 2001 and a new election held between March and September 2002.

The SVT, on the other hand, whose leader is Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, called for elections within 6 months. Coming from the SVT Secretary, Jone Banuve, the call attracted a response from SVT leader and Information Minister Kubuabola who said that the SVT fully supported the interim regime's plans for elections within 2 years.

The Nationalist Party has also called for fresh elections within 6 months. Both, the SVT and the Nationalists initially supported the interim regime. It is believed that the SVT rank and file as well as officials want an early election because the only beneficiary from the current arrangement is Kubuabola.

In the meantime, the regime has been finding it very difficult to find four credible ethnic Indians and one credible general elector to be on the Constitution Commission. All major political parties except SVT, and all ethnic Indian cultural organisations have decided not to nominate members to the Commission. The Hindu religious organisations have stated that they will dissassociate from any member of theirs who accepts the regime's offer. The Arya Pratinidhi Sabha's President Pundit Kamlesh Arya said: "No self-respecting Indian would want to be a part of the Constitution team". Shri Sanatan Dharam's National President and former Leader of Opposition, Harish Sharma said that like the 1990 constitution exercise, there would be some shameless ethnic Indian who would join the panel, but such individuals would be disassociated from the organisation. The Muslim League has also stated that no prominent member of the muslim community has been approached to join the team.

END

4 October 2000.


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