21 Aug 2002

Former Fiji Cabinet Minister calls for enquiry into former manager of NLTB

6:01 pm on 21 August 2002

Fiji's deposed Minister for women and senior Labour Party executive, Lavenia Padarath, has called on the Native Land Trust Board to appoint an independent inquiry into its operations during the term of its former general manager, Maika Qarikau.

Mrs Padarath, an indigenous Fijian, says the inquiry should be held because it is possible that land problems and the eviction of farmers may not have been the will of all landowners.

She says it may have been Mr Qarikau's hidden agenda to use land as a weapon of oppression and suppression of the tenant community.

Mrs Padarath says this agenda may have worked against landowners from whose land tenants were evicted, after which the farms were lying unworked and the landowners lost their regular income.

Her call comes after this week's revelation that Mr Qarikau gave over one million US dollars of NLTB money to the Hilton Resort and Spa project without the board's approval.

Mrs Padarath says this was a total disregard for good governance, transparency and accountability.

Earlier this month, the NLTB renewed 600 expiring cane leases at Seaqaqa with its northern manager saying the earlier refusal to renew was Mr Qarikau's personal interpretation of the Agricultural Landlord and Tenant Act, or ALTA.