The FLP has called on government to take immediate steps to address the mounting squatter problem in Suva.
In a statement issued today, Leader of the Opposition, Mahendra Chaudhry said that the steady mushrooming of squatter settlements was a damning indictment on the SDL government’s inability to provide housing for the poor people.
Mr Chaudhry said that according to the UNHCR, having a secure place to live was one of the fundamental elements for human dignity, physical and mental health and overall quality of life, which enables one’s development.
“Our own constitution under section 44 (1) (b) makes reference for the provision of land and housing for disadvantaged persons. The government’s inability to act on this matter is a breach of this section of the constitution,” said Mr Chaudhry.
Mr Chaudhry said that each day squatter settlements were becoming more visible and under squalid conditions, with poor sanitation and overcrowding, adding such conditions were a threat to the health of citizens residing in and around Suva. He said according to government’s own figures, Fijian families constitute some 5300 of the 8700 or 61%, who now live as squatters in the Suva-Nausori corridor and that of the 90, 000 squatter settlers nationally, 60% were Fijians. According to Mr Chaudhry these figures were a clear reflection of the magnitude of the squatter problem.
“The government seems to have forgotten these people and is clearly not interested in helping them by identifying and resettling them on land which has been suitably reticulated and has the services to sustain proper housing development.
“The tragedy also is that many young children in such settlements are deprived of proper learning opportunities at home because their improvised homes lack electricity and piped water.
This was also highlighted in the 2003 Asian Development Bank assessment which highlighted the real hardships within these settlements,” said Mr Chaudhry.
The Opposition Leader said that one of the first things a Labour government would do after the next elections would be to identify and develop land to settle these squatters and provide them with incentives to move to more appropriate residential areas. He added that the government had a constitutional obligation to do more than just provide lip service to the plight of these forgotten peoples.