Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry has categorically denied claims by Laisenia Qarase that he was opposing the increase in land rent to 10% of the UCV.
“Mr Qarase is talking rubbish. It was the People’s Coalition Government that first proposed increasing rent under ALTA to 10% of the UCV (Unimproved Capital Value) in September 1999 in its submission to the NLTB in a bid to resolving the land issue,” Mr Chaudhry said.
“This was to meet concerns from landowners that they were not getting a fair return on their land. How can I then be accused of opposing something that I myself had initiated? Or of ignoring the interests of landowners? It is preposterous!
“Laisenia Qarase habitually plays the race card to try and incite the indigenous Fijian people against me whereas I have always endeavoured to promote the interests of Fijian resource owners as well as the ordinary Fijian,” Mr Chaudhry said.
He said Labour had rejected the SDL government’s Land Bills in December 2005 because they were aimed at scrapping ALTA and replacing it with NLTA which did not provide sufficient guarantees to the tenant community.
Under the proposed legislation there was no guaranteed 50 year leases, nor was there a guaranteed right of renewal. Leases were to be granted on a rolling basis ranging from 20 to 50 years to be reviewed every five years, subject to determination by the NLTB.
“Such provisions did not offer any kind of security to tenants. Any changes to the legislation had to be fair to both parties. We had proposed further dialogue through the Talanoa process,” Mr Chaudhry said.