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SUVA. Fiji Islands (April 16, 1999 - PACNEWS/Fiji Times)---Indigenous landowners fighting for retention of the land title to the country’s international airport in Nadi want $FJD48 million ($US24.5 million) in compensation.

The landowners are from the Nadrau landowning unit in Saunaka village, in the western part of the main island of Viti Levu.

Spokesman Viliame Niumataiwalu said the compensation requested is for improvements made to the airport buildings, roads and runways that were built on what they claim is their land.

He said landowners are pushing for compensation because the land had been transferred to a private company.

Last week they threatened to close the airport before the new company, Airports Fiji, Ltd. (AFL) took over operations from Civil Aviation of Fiji. Last Friday, however, a Government delegation led by Fiji’s Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka averted the closure of the airport after a meeting with Saunaka landowners.

In another development, Airports Fiji, Ltd. Chief Executive Alan Lodge has refuted claims by the Union that AFL is operating unlawfully.

The Public Service Association alleged the former Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji, now replaced by Airports Fiji, Ltd., had been unable to put all necessary industry regulations in place.

Lodge also assured the public that flying in and out of Fiji is safe despite threats by the Union to muster support from overseas affiliates to warn members to be careful about Fiji flights.

Five hundred airport workers claim they were locked-out by the new management when they reported to work on Monday.

Airports Fiji, Ltd. Reported that it will not recruit more people as replacements.

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