The Fiji Labour Party is questioning the issuance of a development lease on State land in Suva to the China Railway Engineering Group in breach of established procedures.
SCC staff say it is a very sensitive matter
because the orders are coming from the top
FLP wants the authorities to explain why proper procedures were not followed and why the lease given to China Railway is so secretive.
The normal procedure for the issuance of development leases on state land is to advertise details and invite expressions of interest from interested parties. This is a requirement to ensure transparency in such dealings.
This procedure was not followed in this case and a lease was secretly issued to China Railway.
The land concerned involves an area of 7612 sq.m. in Sawau Road, Bay View Heights in Suva, currently zoned for civic development but China Railway has been carrying out commercial development on the site for over a year now.
This development appears to be illegal and unlawful from the information we have gathered. It is fraught with irregularities and reeks of corrupt practice.
First, the lease was issued surreptitiously and in breach of established procedures.
Second, approval for rezoning the land for commercial use has not been granted. Residents of the area objected strongly to its rezoning when a survey was undertaken by the Suva City Council (SCC) in 2010.
Third, building plans for the substantial structures that are under construction, have not been approved by the SCC. Inquiries have confirmed that approval has not been granted for the building and engineering plans submitted by China Railway Engineering Group for the construction works being carried out by it.
Council staff are saying it’s a very sensitive matter because the orders are coming from the top.
Fourth, a notice just outside the subject land says it is military land.
We have established that the land was initially allocated to RFMF along with three other adjacent lots. How and why it has now been leased to China Railway without appropriate procedures being followed remains to be satisfactorily explained by the authorities.
FLP has written to the Director of Lands and has called on FICAC to investigate the matter.
Since the rezoning and the building plans have yet to be approved, the current ongoing works are illegal and so, it would seem, is the issuance of the development lease.
We have requested the Director of Lands to provide the following additional information:
1. How and from when was this land leased out?
2. How much is it leased out for and whether any premium payment was required?
3. How was this development allowed to proceed without proper approvals beingobtained from the relevant authorities?”
It need not be said that thousands of our citizens have been waiting for years for proper leases to be issued to them for land they occupy in squatter settlements. They have been told they cannot get leases because they are illegal occupants of State land.
Yet here, we have a classic case of a foreign owned company engaging in illegal and unlawful land development activity with the full backing of the authorities while our citizens languish in squalid conditions in the numerous squatter settlements throughout the country.