14 Apr 2004

New land lease law row looms in Fiji

7:17 am on 14 April 2004

A major confrontation is reported to be looming between Fiji's Prime Minister and the chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, on land lease issues.

Fiji TV reports that this follows a recent public address by Ratu Epeli saying that the current land lease law, known as the Agricultural Landlord and Tenant Act, should be retained.

Ratu Epeli said ALTA was a testimony to goodwill and built on negotiations and he intended to honour that commitment.

But the government, which has committed itself to abolishing ALTA in favour of the Native Lands Trust Act, has expressed surprise.

The Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, says he does not know whether Ratu Epeli's views are his own, or those of the Council.

But he says they are at odds with the position of the Great Council, which wanted ALTA abolished.

He said Ratu Epeli should have secured a mandate from the Council if he was speaking on their behalf.