17 Jul 2002

Fiji landowners want 44 million US dollars compensation for mahogany land

6:49 am on 17 July 2002

A group of indigenous landowners in Fiji is claiming more than 44 million US dollars in compensation for land on which the state has planted mahogany forests.

The spokesman for the landowners, Suva lawyer Isireli Fa, says the writ against the government and the state-owned Fiji Hardwood Corporation was filed in Suva yesterday.

The landowners, who are from Vugalei, are claiming 41-point-3 million dollars for the destruction of indigenous native forests on nearly 7-thousand hectares of their land.

They are claiming lesser amounts for damage caused to their land, a sum from the Native Land Trust Board and the return of rights to the mahogany forests on their land.

The paramount chief of Vugalei, Ratu Osea Roqica, says if the outcome of the case is not to their satisfaction, they would never allow any logging to take place.

He has also warned the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, to be careful of the curse of the land and the anger of the people.

It's understood another six landowning units will be filing separate writs against the government on the mahogany issue.

Fiji has the largest mahogany plantation in the world and the number of disputes is increasing as the trees reach maturity and can earn hundreds of millions of dollars.