28 Feb 2005

Fiji government says it cannot stop the sale of Mago Island to a Hollywood star

9:38 am on 28 February 2005

Fiji's prime minister says his government will not stop the sale of a privately owned island to Hollywood star Mel Gibson.

The Fiji Times reports that Laisenia Qarase gave the reply when villagers from Namalata asked him to stop the sale of Mago Island under its affirmative action programme.

Mel Gibson bought the island for 15-million US dollars last December.

Mr Qarase is quoted as saying the sale was between a willing buyer and a willing seller and the government could do nothing.

The Namalata Development Committee chairman, Timoci Waqalevu, said the villagers were cheated when the island was sold in the 19th century and its inhabitants chased away to Vanuabalavu Island.

Under the Qarase government's affirmative action programme, the state helps landowners buy back ancestral land.

The Fiji Times says since 2003 when the programme was initiated, 18 freehold properties have been bought.