FIJI PRIME MINISTER RABUKA CRITICIZED OVER LAND DEAL

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (January 4, 1999 - PACNEWS)---Fiji's Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, has drawn criticism for an offer by the government to buy a freehold estate belonging to him.

Rabuka's 2,000 acre estate is on Fiji's second largest island, Vanua Levu.

According to newspaper reports, the Ministry of Agriculture approached him last year to buy the land for agricultural experiments.

Opposition Leader Jai Ram Reddy has described the government offer as a bad idea. He said such a transaction would naturally attract public skepticism and there would always be doubts about whether it is an arms length transaction.

The opposition Fijian Association Party wants the government to justify its interest in the PM's property when there are other freehold estates available in the area.

The party has called for an independent valuation and a full feasibility study presented to Parliament.

The Ministry has offered the Prime Minister F$ 2,500 dollars an acre.

Rabuka said he could sell for a lower price, but he would not sell the entire 2,000 acres if he decides to sell the land.

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