TOP FIJI CHIEF CALLS FOR HIGHER LAND RETURNS

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Nov. 30) – The head of the Fiji Great Council of Chiefs has called for higher returns on native land, after hearing that every three in 10 indigenous Fijians live below the poverty line.

Great Council of Chiefs’ chairman Ratu Ovini Bokini told the council's final meeting of the year yesterday that despite owning 90 per cent of land resources in the country, Fijians were still living in poverty. He called for chiefs and the Native Land Trust Board to push for higher returns on native land.

"I believe that now is the time for the landowners, as well as resources owners, to wake up and try to earn a fair return similar to the earnings of those who are using these resources," he said in Fijian. But, Ratu Ovini said, other races should not be blamed for the poverty levels of the Fijian people. He said this was up to Fijians themselves and the decisions they made for their future.

He warned chiefs to guard against selling out Fijian interests for paltry returns.

"The reason I have brought this issue up is because we, as chiefs, should be concerned because Fijians own nearly 90 per cent of the land and now the fisheries ownership rights is being brought back to us and yet the Fijians have nothing," he said.

"There is a challenge before us now because Fijians should not be called poor people because they own many things and have their families." Ratu Ovini told chiefs that the Income Household Survey revealed that 29.5 per cent of the total Fijian population lived below the poverty line.

He urged chiefs to fight for fair returns for use of resources.

December 1, 2005

Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com.

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