FIJI MUST STAND FIRM AGAINST GREEDY LANDOWNERS

Editorial

FijiSUN

SUVA, Fiji (Apr. 1) – The $700,000 (US$406,840) payment demanded by the owners of the land occupied by the Sigatoka Hospital is immoral, immature and illegal.

Once again, we see naked greed overcoming the common sense of people who ought to know better. The hospital serves a wide-ranging population – which includes the people who want it removed – that should not be put at risk by the greed of some landowners who see only gain for themselves without examining the cost to others.

Indeed, were the cost of their action properly explained to them, they would understand that the figure of $700,000 is impossible if not ludicrous and – in the highly unlikely event that it was awarded – their "take" after legal costs would far less than that.

But the Government must stand firm here.

Even the slightest sign of vacillation will bring more and more greedy landowners into the courts backed by ambitious lawyers willing to take their cases for a piece of the action.

The cost to the public would be enormous and quite unaffordable.

The Government and the Native Lands Trust Board have repeatedly pointed out that the law makes no provision for goodwill, upfront, ex gratia or any other kind of payments to facilitate the renewal of a lease.

Yet such claims are from time to time entertained, often in the interest of political expedience.

That is no doubt one of the major reasons why such claims persist.

The individuals and groups making the claims should be made to understand that while they do own the land, they do not own the law or the Government. They also need to understand that they will not be permitted to hold whole communities to ransom in the pursuit of their private monetary gain.

If reports that the NLTB offered $200,000 as a goodwill payment are correct, the offer should be withdrawn.

The Government, the NLTB and the landowners should abide by the law.

The public expects nothing less.

April 1, 2004

FijiSUN: http://www.sun.com.fj/

 

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