3 Dec 2002

Fiji Labour party says seizure of lands systematic attempt to create unrest

4:43 pm on 3 December 2002

The Fiji Labour party says the seizure of land from farmers over the last couple of years is an organised, systematic attempt to create unrest in the country.

Finance spokesperson, Dr Ganesh Chand, says the people who have taken over the farm of fellow MP, Vijay Singh, entered illegally and the police should evict them for their criminal act.

He says it's not an isolated, independent act and often the seizure of land has nothing to do with the landowners themselves.

Dr Chand says the Labour party is investigating who's behind the occupations which occur at about the time that leases are due to expire.

"We are, at the moment of a very firm opinion that these things are organised rather than spontaneous, organised by people who are dissidents and their objective seems to be to not only to terrorise the tenants, the original tenants but also to create political upheaval in the country."

Dr Chand says hundreds of farms on Viti Levu and Vanua Levu have been affected.

And, he says the Native Lands Trust Board, which manages the leases, is doing little to help.

Dr Chand says when there's a dispute, the NLTB indicates that leases will be renewed but at the last moment, they aren't.

In other instances, a group of landowners has blocked the entrance to Saweni beach near Lautoka and started charging fees for entry while for nearly two years, tenants at Nabitu have been forced to pay to use a road to get in and out of their settlement.