FIJI LANDOWNERS TO DISCUSS ALTA

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (Sept. 13, 1999 – Fiji Broadcasting Commission)---Several disgruntled landowners and chiefs are expected to meet in Suva on Wednesday to discuss the issue of expiring land leases under ALTA (Agricultural Landowner and Tenant Act).

Organization of the meeting is being spearheaded by the Matabose ni Taukei ni Vanua. Chairman Ratu Tevita Bolobolo said the meeting will allow landowners the opportunity to express their views on a Government submission to the Native Land Trust Board.

Among those expected to address Wednesday's meeting are SVT Parliamentarian Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, PANU leader Apisai Tora and the Tui Ba, Adi Senimili Cagilaba.

In related news, a Senator took time during debate in the Upper House today to call for an amicable resolution to ALTA.

Lautoka businessman, Dalpat Rathod told the Senate that the resolution of the land issue is vital to the country's economy.

Rathod said that landowners need to take the issue very seriously.

"With seven percent growth predicted, we are turning around and the benefits of turning around will be felt very soon and within a year or so you will see the economy will progress fast.

"The only inhibiting factor at the moment is this resolution of (the) land problem.

"And there is nothing anybody can do. The ball is actually in the court of landowners, my fellow senators from the Great Council of Chiefs, plus other members of the Great Council of Chiefs to take this issue very seriously without bringing in any outside factors to come and play into it.

"Think seriously for the good of this country," Rathod said.

He made the comments during debate on a bill to amend the Fiji Trade and Investment Board, which later was passed by the Senate.

Meanwhile, the Great Council of Chiefs’ Chairman, Sitiveni Rabuka, has warned the Government to come with an open mind to Thursday's GCC meeting in Suva.

Rabuka said that the Government is treading on delicate ground if it had its mind made up on the question of resolving ALTA.

He said the GCC had already stated its position on ALTA, which is the phasing out of ALTA and the upholding of the Native Land Trust Act.

"I believe Government has almost resolved to have a plan for the future of ALTA leases. It would be unwise for them to take a stated position and it would be advisable for them to come with an open mind because they could be disappointed as a result of these discussions in the Council of Chiefs," he said.

For additional reports from The Fiji Broadcasting Commission, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Sources/Fiji Live.

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