This Story Needs to be Told Over and Over Again
Macuata has suffered more than most provinces from the politically motivated non-renewal of land leases backed by extreme ethno-nationalists during the Qarase SDL time in government when there were so many stories of Native Land Trust Board officials urging iTaukei landowners not to renew leases to Indo-Fijians farmers, and promising government would compensate them for the loss of lease money.
Now, Macuata chief Ratu Aisea Katonivere is calling for new legislation on land use and land leases to "create an enabling environment for land use development."
Speaking on his submission to the Constitution Commission in Labasa earlier in the week, he acknowledged the contribution of the Indo-Fijian farmers, the effects of their forced relocation, and the vital role of agricultural ventures like sugarcane farming which he said was "the lifeblood in the North as it had been in the past decades."
One does not need to look any further to see the disastrous effects of politically-motivated racism on the Fiji economy.
Chief Acknowledges Indo-Fijian Contribution to the North
Ratu Aisea said most of the Indo-Fijian cane farmers were second, third or even fourth generation farmers who had tilled the land and supplied cane for the sugar industry and when their leases expired, they were left in limbo as debate took place in the political circles.
"Because the displaced farmers urgently needed sources of livelihood, they opted to relocate to other parts of the country and also ventured into other forms of farming. Their departure is a great loss
to the Northern economy as these are generations of cane farming families who have built our roads, fund raised for the establishment of some schools, erected businesses and provided employment opportunities to name a few. They were the ones who have worked to improve the way of life in their communities."
He requested the legislation that covered land leases be dealt with on a case by case basis whereby records of the community contribution of individual farmers or families were evaluated and acknowledged.
"What better way to acknowledge their hard work than to renew their leases and allow them to do what they do best — cane farming, otherwise large patches of land that used to be productive will be left idle," he said.
Ratu Aisea is a paramount chief, Tui Macuata, and Chairman of the Macuata Provincial Council. He stood for the SDL party in 2001 but was beaten by the extremist CAMV party that came to exercise increased influence in the Qarase administration. He was one of 14 chiefs in the Senate nominated by the Great Council of Chiefs. More recently, he has been associated with conservation measures to protect the world's third largest coral reef that lies off the Macuata coast.