16 May 2002

Fiji opposition leader calls for early resolution of land lease problems

9:11 am on 16 May 2002

Fiji's opposition leader, Prem Singh, has called on the government to work for a quick solution to the problem of expiring farm leases.

His call comes amid fresh reports of evictions in the Labasa area as tenants are ordered to leave their farms with their posessions but not to dismantle their homes.

Mr Singh says he believes efforts to resolve the lease issue would be greatly assisted if the government directed the Native Land Trust Board to impose a moratorium on the eviction and displacement of tenant farmers, especially cane farmers.

Mr Singh says there is conflict on the lease issue because the government wants the Native Land Act to govern the issuing of leases while the farmers want the current Agricultural Landlord and Tenant Act which they say gives them greater security of tenure.

He says while indigenous land does not belong to the government, it has a moral obligation to facilitate a solution.

The Fiji opposition leader says since this is a sensitive issue the Great Council of Chiefs and all stakeholders should be consulted.

More than three thousand leases have expired in recent times with very few being renewed.