21 Aug 2002

Additional money for affirmative action programme in Fiji spent in two months

1:39 pm on 21 August 2002

A report from Fiji says an additional one point four million US dollars set aside to assist indigenous Fijian farmers under the government's affirmative action programme has been exhausted in just two months.

The Fiji Times says the scheme was re-introduced this year despite reports of its earlier abuse in a 13 million US dollar scam.

Four senior agricultural officials were suspended over the affair which they say was endorsed and supported by the then interim Qarase administration and used as a vote-buying ploy.

The director of the Land Resettlement Unit, Saimoni Tuilaucala, says over 2 thousand eight hundred applications were received but they were only able to assist 300 in May to July.

He says the other applicants will have to wait until next year's budget provision.

The shortage came to light when unsuccessful indigenous landowners complained they were unable to access funds to plant on land which was growing grass after their leases expired and the tenants had left.