January 01, 2012

Michael Field: Fijians protest against miners, despite martial law and censorship

Michael Field

These pictures are astonishing - people are finally protesting in Fiji.

They are ignoring martial law and the brave journalist who got them to the outside world, has broken Fiji's tight censorship.  This is the message that came with the photos - the author can reveal him/herself if they wish, I will not:

"Something you won't see in Fiji's mainstream media ... On December 14, 2011, the people of Namosi staged a quiet protest against the proposed mining project on their land at Waisoi. Representatives from Namosi Joint Venture (NJV) turned up for a meeting with the villagers in the area where the landowners are worried about the potential environmental effects and the loss of mataquali (landowning unit) lands. 
"The project is in the wish environment impact assessment stage. 
"While the men sat in the hall with representatives of NJV, the women and children sat outside holding banners calling for their land to be left alone. Witnesses say some women were crying as they sat outside. The villagers appear to want the developers to slow down and not make hasty decisions regarding the project, but the regime is keen for companies to start mining. Reports and photographs on the December 14 meeting have been censored."


Word of what has happened is known in high places, and the regime controlled i-Taukei Land Trust Board (it used to be the Native Land Trust Board) is now saying they are powerless in land issues involving mining.

Board manager Alipate Qetaki told military controlled Fiji Broadcasting that they are not involved in mining negotiations and that the interests of land owners are protected by the Mineral Resources Department.

He admitted Naitasiri landowners are wondering why the board is not involved in the mining negotiations underway there.

What is more striking is that military dictator Voreqe Bainimarama, who is pushing the mining, has completely overlooked what happened to his Melanesian Spearhead brotherhood in PNG when mining was pushed through against the wishes of the traditional landowners: it was the Bougainville civil war.

30 December 2011

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