FIJI PROBES ILLEGAL SHIPMENTS OF DIRT TO KIRIBATI

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By Otilly Rabuku

SUVA, Fiji (FijiSUN, July 20) - A private contractor is sending Fiji soil to a foreign country without proper authorization.

The FijiSUN has been informed that Gecko Trucking, a branch of Construction Equipment Ltd. based at Vuda outside Lautoka, has been exporting rich alluvial soil to Kiribati.

The Native Lands Trust Board (NLTB) yesterday said it would come down hard on those involved, saying it was a breach of the country’s laws.

Complaints from residents in the area have opened an investigation by the NLTB.

The company is said to have carted three barge-loads of soil to Kiribati.

Owned by Wella Pillay, the company is leasing the land from the ‘mataqali’ (local division of Fijian society) Sawaieke of Viseisei Village, Vuda.

Nearby residents said that bulldozing and cartage of the soil was only done under the cover of darkness.

"We usually notice men from the company and big 10-ton trucks working very late at night on the area bulldozing and carting the soil on to the trucks before heading off to the Lautoka Wharf," said a resident, who did not wish to be named for fear of victimization by a landowner.

Workers at the Lautoka Ports Authority wharf confirmed that 10-ton trucks carted the soil to the wharf to load onto the barge.

Pillay yesterday said his company had the approval of Fiji’s Ambassador to Japan and mataqali elder, Tevita Momoedonu.

July 21, 2004

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

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