FIJI LANDOWNERS SHUT WATER SUPPLY TO SCHOOL

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By Maika Nagalu

SUVA, Fiji (FijiSUN, June 29) - Landowners angered by the non-renewal of lease yesterday shut off water supply to a State-owned boarding school with 900 students. Members of three-landowning units -- Mataqali Naitaka, Nabati and Rara in Nananu Village, Tailevu -- set up the roadblock and demanded the Government renew the lease on which Ratu Kadavulevu School sits.

And they also requested that the school hire men from the village to work as casual laborers. Spokesman Joeli Matanisigadrau said this was part of their agreement, which the Government had failed to abide by. He said they had completely erected a fence on their reserved land that comprises of six teachers quarters and the Public Works Department water treatment plant that supplies water to the school and its communities.

Teachers staying in those quarters, he said, were allowed to carry on their usual work and the PWD workers were not allowed to carry out their duties.

"The lease for this land expired in 1997 and we are still waiting for the government even after we had met four times with the Ministry of Education and the Native Land Trust Board and we had put forward our demand," said Matanisigadrau. "We want the Government to lease the land and, at the same time, sign the memorandum of understanding with the landowners."

Matanisigadrau said the agreement signed between the landowners and the Government covered this.

"As in the case of all government schools, recruitment for employment from among the landowners is usually considered for those in the casual laborer category and unestablished staff," he said.

Matanisigadrau said some recruitment by the principal, George Tabua, failed to honor that agreement.

"This is unlike other previous principals at the school who had maintained a healthy relationship with the landowners," Matanisigadrau said. "We won't remove our fence and open the water to the school until the ministry listens. We want the ministry to renew the lease, sign the MOE and do something to better the relationship with the school principal as it is deteriorating," said Matanisigadrau.

Tabua could not be contacted for comment yesterday.

June 30, 2006

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

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