26 May 2003

Sawmill seized by disgruntled landowners in Fiji

3:53 pm on 26 May 2003

Indigenous landowners in Fiji's second island, Vanua Levu, hae seized a sawmill demanding payment for the logging of their forests.

The Fiji Times reports that more than 100 workers were sent home from the Valebasoga Tropik Boards sawmill near Labasa as villagers from two landowning groups forced their way in through the gates.

A spokesman for the landowners, Penisito Bolanakoula, said since the sawmill went into receivership two years ago, they had not received any premiums for the logging of their lands.

He said they used to receive premiums from the owner of the mill, Bahadur Ali, but nothing since it went into receivership and has been managed by Price WaterHouse Coopers.

He said they would continue to hold the mill hostage until their demands are met.

Sawmill receiver and administrator, Ilaitia Boila, says he was confused by the landowners claim because the company is not logging their forests.

A report this afternoon said some landowners had been arrested.

Meanwhile, another group of landowners has blocked the road to a sawmill owned by Fenning Pacific Limited about 50 kilometres west of Suva near Pacific Harbour.

They are demanding money for the use of the road which they say is built on land stolen from them by relocating boundary pegs.