1 Nov 2005

Fiji electricity told to pay dam landowners US$31.5m

8:24 am on 1 November 2005

The Suva High Court has ordered the state-owned Fiji Electricity Authority to pay indigenous landowners of the Monasavu hydro dam and catchment area US$31.5 million.

Of the amount US$3 million is to be paid before the end of this month and the balance in installments.

Justice Gerard Winter has also ordered the payment of US$2.6 million in accumulated interest.

He said the money should be paid to the court until the landowners' lawyer, Tevita Fa, files details of a trust fund to be set up to administer the funds.

The compensation claim was first negotiated during the 2000 coup when landowners seized the hydro site, shut it down and caused severe power disruptions for two months.

Its payment was held up when the Native Lands Trust Board said all money for landowners should be channeled through the Board which takes a percentage and not directly to landowners.

Hundreds of men and women from the landowning units who had gathered outside the Suva High Court burst into an ecstatic victory song when Justice Winter announced the ruling.