Neither the Director of Lands
nor FICAC has responded to queries from the Fiji Labour Party
regarding the illegal development being carried out by China Railway Engineering Group on State land at Bayview Heights in Suva.
The site is currently zoned for civic development but China Railways is clearly constructing commercial and residential structures on it.
FLP has sighted documents which show that this prime land was leased to China Railway for a song at an annual rental of $100! And that the approval for the development works was issued directly from the Prime Minister’s office.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the authorities are unwilling to comment on this latest regime scam.
An FLP article questioning the illegal development at the site appeared in this column on June 7th. The lease for the land was issued without proper procedures being followed.
Furthermore, the development is taking place despite the fact that the Suva City Council has not approved application for re-zoning of the land. Nor has the Council granted approval for the building and engineering plans submitted for the site.
FLP wrote to the Lands Department on June 3 seeking explanations why a development lease had been issued to China Railway on a site clearly marked for civic development. In its letter to the Director of Lands, Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry said:
“As you are aware, any state land intended to be leased out for residential, commercial or industrial development, needs to be advertised to call for expressions of interest from members of the public.
This is to ensure transparency in such matters. Was this exercise carried out, in this instance? Our information is that it was not and a development lease was issued arbitrarily to China Railway Engineering Group.”
There has been no reply from the Lands Department. A letter to FICAC calling for an investigation into this illegal development, has not been acknowledged.
FLP also wrote to the Suva City Council to put a stop work notice on the illegal construction and development work going on at the site. SCC Special Administrator Chandu Umaria sent an initial letter to say that the Council was “looking into the matter” and a response would be issued once “our due process relating to this development” was completed.
A follow-up letter from FLP to the Council on 13th June, remains unanswered. Meanwhile, the illegal construction work continues.
The entire issue is clearly scandalous and Fiji voters have a right to an explanation from the Lands Ministry, the Suva City Council and FICAC on the matter. The questions are clear:
- How can such a prime piece of State land earmarked for civic developmentbe given away to a foreign-owned company for an annual nominal rental of $100?
- Why was State land leased for development without proper procedures being followed?
- Why is Suva City Council not putting a stop work order on the development knowing that approval for re-zoning has not been given nor has an approval been granted for the building and engineering designs submitted by China Railway?
- Why is FICAC not investigating the matter despite the fact that corrupt practice is on full display in this case.
- Why are State agencies silent when all laws relating to leasing and development of land are being openly flouted?
Is this not a clear case of corruption?