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Landowners Extract Ransom From Regime

Issue No: 230; 27 November 2000

Landowners of land on which the government owned Ratu Kadavulevu Secondary School sits have managed to get almost $200,000 as goodwill money by threatening to close down the school at the start of the Fiji Junior examinations today.

According to this evening's TV news, the regime agreed to pay $196,000 to the landowners by Friday. This was after a meeting today between the landowners, the Native Lands Trust Board and the regime's Lands Ministry. The landowners had last week threatened to close the school today if a good will payment of $0.5m was made by today.

The Ratu Kadavulevu School caters predominantly for the indigenous Fijian students. Today's Daily Post wrote a stinging editorial on the landowner threats to close the school, which caters largely for the indigenous students.

There are numerous other demands for `goodwill' payments by landowners throughout the country. Only recently, the Fiji Electricity Authority agreed to pay almost $60m to landowners who had closed the Authority's power station in Monasavu. Last week the electricity authority announced that its unit cost of power production through diesel was more than the sale price. Observers believe that the electricity authority is preparing a case for raising electricity rates. This is expected to occur before the end of the year. The People's Coalition Government had reduced electricity tariff by 7% in 1999 and was intending to reduce it by another 7% from 1 August this year. Its statement on the year 2001 budget stated that it had aimed at " achieving a rate of 17c/unit by 2004, a total reduction of 25% or 6c per unit" (see People's Coalition Government budget statement: http://www.pcgov.org.fj/docs_c/pcg_budget_2001.htm)

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