The extension by 5 years of Namosi Joint Venture Company’s (NJVC) special prospecting licence by government against the will of the landowners is tantamount to usurpation of their proprietory rights, supposedly guaranteed under the 2013 constitution.
Over many years, the landowners have made it abundantly clear that they value the preservation of their land in its pristine state and do not wish it to be mined by foreigners whose only concern is the commercial gain they can extract from it.
Despite such strong landowner sentiments, the Minister for Lands states that due diligence was carried out before the licence was extended.
We ask: Due diligence for what? The landowners have made their point. They want NJVC out of their land and that’s all that matters. Why are they being forced to put up with the status quo for another 5 years?
Landowners’ representative Ms Ana Vulakoto has put the sentiments of her people succinctly in the Fiji Times of August 28. She says:
“Our people have been living with the impact of prospective mining companies in our land for over 40 years. Our daily experience has taught us that the land of our forefathers is what that gives us life, not mining. The forest, the soil, the waterways, the air we breathe, provide for our people every day.
“All we are asking Government for is not to stress our environment. We have reached a stage we have become tired, disillusioned and frustrated with its plans to destroy our land.”
A stronger statement could not have been made.
We have not forgotten the Bauxite mining saga in the province of Bua where landowners were taken for a ride by a foreign company which extracted ship loads of raw earth and sent it to China, leaving behind gaping holes on their land which may never be restored to its original state. This venture too was actively backed, supported and protected by the Bainimarama regime.
But just a few months ago, we were told the earth is needed no more as the demand for bauxite had disappeared because of the slow-down of the Chinese economy. The financial return to the landowners from this despicable degradation of their land was a mere pittance!
The people of Namosi may be apprehensive of a similar fate befalling them unless they stand firm on the issue.
All who genuinely love Fiji and its virtually unspoilt environmental beauty must support the landowners of Namosi.