WARNING ON FIJI LAND: RESETTLEMENT LEASES TO EXPIRE

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By Matelita Ragogo

SUVA, Fiji Islands (January 4, 2000 – Fiji Times)---The government was warned yesterday that the lease on its proposed resettlement land in Ba would expire in seven years.

Tui Ba, Adi Senimili Cagilaba, has no intention of renewing the lease of Vulavula (known to Indian farmers in Ba as Bulabula).

Adi Senimili said this meant that those who were resettled on that land would suffer.

Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry has said the land in question does not belong to Adi Senimili but to former and late Sugar Cane Growers Council Chief Executive Officer Ratu Josua Cavalevu.

After the land was seized by Asset Management Bank, Tui Bulu Ratu Sairusi Nagagavoka's company successfully tendered for it.

The company, however, did not come up with the money. And the bank refused Chaudhry's request for an extension. The government intends to subdivide the land for the resettlement of farmers whose expired leases are not expected to be renewed.

But Adi Senimili said regardless of who used to lease the land or who successfully tendered for it, she only had to wait for seven years.

"I am the head of this landowning unit and my people have expressed their wishes to move on to that land when the current lease expires,'' she said. "I have no intention of renewing the lease. And although I know my boundaries and land, I still clarified the matter with the Native Land Trust Board, which confirmed that it is under my jurisdiction. At the end of the day, the farmers to be resettled will be the ones to suffer because they are the ones who will have to move again.''

Last year, the former head of the disbanded Land Development and Resettlement Unit, Luke Ratuvuki, explained in a meeting in Ba with Ratu Sairusi that the land was under Adi Senimili's jurisdiction.

The unit had also recommended against resettlement on the land because it was arid.

Reacting to reports that Ratu Sairusi intended to take her to court over the title of Tui Ba, Adi Senimili said she was not worried.

She said as far as she was concerned, Ratu Sairusi's family had always used the title of Tui Momo, one supposedly given to them by Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna when the latter's grandfather had approached the Fijian administration then to ask that they be given the title of Tui Ba.

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times.

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