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EDITORIAL:New Lease Of Life For Omkar Residents

EDITORIAL:New Lease Of Life For Omkar Residents
Acting Prime Minister and Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum with Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism Faiyaz Koya and residents of Omkar settlement during the issuance of registered land leases on September 13, 2017.Photo:Vilimoni Vaganalau.
September 15
10:57 2017

Residents of Omkar squatter settlement are justifiably happy after they were handed documents that allow them to obtain 99-year leases for the State land they are occupying.

Some of them have been waiting for decades, between 40 and 50 years, to realize their dreams of having a legal plot of land. Others, unfortunately, have died waiting.

From here onwards, the beneficiaries of this Government initiative, have new opportunities waiting for them. The lease does not only give them security as their status changes from squatters to legal occupiers of the land.

The sleepless nights have ended. The fear of an uncertain future has been lifted. These have been replaced by confidence and a positive outlook for the future.

The lease can be used as collateral to obtain finance from financial institutions for the purpose of development. They can build new homes and start a business. There are opportunities galore to take advantage of.

This assistance for informal settlers or squatters on State land is one of the big initiatives of the FijiFirst Government. The squatter problem has existed for several decades but previous governments have given it lip service. Politicians would go to the squatter settlements before an election and make all sorts of promises, but would never be seen again.

Omkar community leader, former Republic of Fiji Military Forces officer, Major Samuela Tupou, said previous governments had made false promises to them over the years.

This had made them disillusioned. Even last year, when they approached Parveen Bala, Minister for Local Government, Housing and Environment, Infrastructure and Transport, they were afraid this would be another false promise.

Mr Bala took their plight seriously and the rest is history.

Those who received their documents that ended their squatter status on Wednesday night from Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum could not hide their joy.

And you can’t blame them for it. This was their moment, a life-changing moment. They will savour it for a long time to come.

The Government must be recognised for it’s political courage in addressing a problem that had been neglected for a long time.

At the same time processes must be put in place to discourage people from thinking that if they want a piece of land, all they need to do is build a house illegally on State land.

It may mean carrying  out surveillance on vacant State land regularly and ordering the new move-ins to vacate the land. If we fail to do it then we could be seeing an influx of squatters into vacant State land.

This is a human issue and needs to be addressed in a humane way.

But the best thing that has happened to squatters is this scheme. It literally gives them a new lease of life.

The 99-year lease is as good as a freehold land because of its long term and the economic benefits they can derive from it.

 

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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