7 May 2003

Fiji call on Australia to help displaced Indian sugar farmers

6:25 am on 7 May 2003

The Fiji-based Movement for Justice and Freedom has called on the Australian government to come to aid of thousand of Indo-Fijian farmers displaced by expiring land leases.

The Movement's general secretary, Dildar Shah, says 60-thousand Fiji Indians suffered the most brutal servitude in the country's history to finance developments in Australia.

He was referring to Indians brought from India to plant sugar cane in conditions of near slavery for the Australian-owned Colonial Sugar Refining Company which ran the sugar industry for nearly a hundred years.

Mr Shah says today these same Indians cannot feed, house and educate their children.

He says the Australian government should be there at the hour of their need because it has benefitted from their blood, sweat and toil.

Mr Shah says it is the responsibility of Australia to resettle displaced Indian farmers.

His call comes as the Australian secretary of foreign affairs, Ashton Calvert, is in Fiji for official talks with the government.