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SUVA, Fiji Islands (April 30, 2001 – Radio Australia)---Fiji's National Farmers Union says indigenous landowners are imposing new leases on sugar cane growers, banning any political protests and returning ethnic Indians to the status of indentured workers.

The union's general secretary and deposed prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry says as land leases expire, ethnic Indians are being asked to forfeit their rights and abide by what the landowners are telling them.

He says the union is advising farmers not to agree to the new lease conditions.

Mr. Chaudhry said the conditions were illegal and against basic human rights.

More and more land leases have been expiring during the past several years, driving thousands of ethnic Indians off the land and threatening the future of the sugar industry.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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