13 Jun 2002

Landowners in Fiji's Bau province threaten Pine Commission officials

10:18 am on 13 June 2002

A group of landowners on Fiji's second island, Vanua Levu, have threatened to take officials of the Fiji Pine Commission hostage if they are stopped from logging a plantation on their land.

The Fiji Times reports that the threat has been made by the Naita landowning unit of Votua village in the province of Bau.

Their spokesman, Tevita Raiova, says they re-possessed 600 hectares of land from two Indian tenants on the expiry of its lease and found 32 hectares of mature pines on it.

They secured two contractors to log the pine and have now harvested 40 truckloads.

Mr Raiova says his group is the first to take over what he calls the Pine Commission's illegal pine plantations and the rest of the province wants to do the same.

He says over the years they have been cheated by the Pine Commission and it is payback time.

They have threatened to take commission officials hostage and seize their vehicles if the harvest is stopped.