LAND RIGHTS MOST CRITICAL INDIGENOUS FIJIAN ISSUE

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (November 23, 1999 – Fiji’s Daily Post)---Recognition of Fijian mineral rights is the most critical issue for indigenous economic and political security, Parliament was told yesterday.

Ra parliamentarian Eloni Goneyali urged the government to seriously consider the Fijian mineral rights issue.

He said, "If I was asked to name one single thing that will provide for the economic and political security of Fijians, my answer is clear and simple. It is the recognition of mineral rights on native land."

Reverend Goneyali said Ra is the only place in Fiji where mineral water is commercially extracted from the land for export.

"This is being done by the award-winning company, Natural Waters of Viti, Ltd., at Yaqara," he said.

"Two more mineral water sources have been identified in other parts of Ra and, unlike Yaqara, these are not on freehold land.

"What does Ra get from this water?

"We do not begrudge the rewards of investors who take risks. But we request the government to look into the issue of water royalties for landowners, if these new water sources are used for export purposes."

Reverend Goneyali said the problem is caused by the Mining Act, which, under section 3, deprives indigenous Fijians of a fair return from minerals extracted from their land.

"According to the Mining Act, all minerals of every description -- including crude oil in or under all lands in Fiji, of whatever ownership, tenure, or possession -- is deemed always to be the property of the State," he said.

"This is an unfair law, left over from the colonial era. It should be reviewed immediately in the new millennium, I suggest.

For additional reports from Fiji’s Daily Post, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/Fiji Live.

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