21 May 2004

Fiji's Native Lands Trust Board backtracks on farm leases

10:49 am on 21 May 2004

Fiji's Native Lands Trust Board has reversed its previous policy of not renewing farm leases.

The Fiji Times reports that the board is now encouraging former tenants of sugar cane farms which are lying idle to return.

The NLTB spokesman, Nimilote Naivalumaira, says this is part of the rehabilitation programme between the board and various government departments.

Mr Naivalumaira says when they saw nothing was being done with the vacant farms, they asked the indigenous landowners if they wanted their former tenants back.

He says they are trying to move these former tenants to land that is lying idle.

Fiji's former president and former chairman of the NLTB, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, had blamed the previous manager of the board, Maika Qarikau, for the non-renewal of land leases.

In a TV interview recorded before his recent death but broadcast afterwards, Ratu Mara said Mr Qarikau had gone out of control and by the time the board found out, it was too late.