27 May 2003

Fiji police arrest landowners in Vanua Levu protest

6:45 am on 27 May 2003

About 500 workers of a Fiji sawmill and veneer board factory are expected to return to work today after police arrested some protesting landowners and remove others.

The landowners forcefully seized the premises of Valebasoga Tropik Boards Limited near Labasa on the island of Vanua Levu on Sunday.

They claimed the company had not been paying them royalty for timber logged on their land since it went into receivership two years ago.

Radio Fiji reports that police have arrested 22 of the protestors and charged them with unlawful assembly and forcible entry.

They will appear in the Labasa magistrate's court today.

Police say landowners should follow the law when they want their grievances addressed.

The receiver of the company, Ilaitia Boila of Price Waterhouse Coopers, says they are confused about the nature of the landowners' claims and he is meeting prominent Vanua Levu chiefs to determine what the landowners' grievances are.