NEWS

$7 MILLION PAYOUT

  Josaia Driso could not hold back his emotions yesterday after he was taken in his wheelchair to receive the bonus payment from the Fiji Pine Group on behalf of
01 May 2018 10:00
$7 MILLION PAYOUT
TEARFUL MOMENT: Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama hands over a lease bonus payment to wheelchair-bound landowner Josaia Driso in Drasa on April 30, 2018. Photo: DEPTFO News

 

Josaia Driso could not hold back his emotions yesterday after he was taken in his wheelchair to receive the bonus payment from the Fiji Pine Group on behalf of his landowning unit.

“I never dreamt this day would come, especially since I am on a wheel­chair, where I am holding such a large amount of money for the people of my clan,” he said.

The 63-year-old head of the Tokatoka Tobuniga, of the Mataqali Mota and Yavusa Nasolo from Nail­aga in Ba received their cheque of $91, 816, as com­pared to $12,107 last year.

The payment was part of an unprecedented $7 million payout to the pine landowners, as compared to $1.5 million last year.

While addressing the landowners at Tropik Woods Drasa Complex in Lautoka the Prime Prime Minister Voreqe Baini­marama said the payment was quite a long way from that first $350,000 pay­ment made back in 2013.

“My fellow Fijians, today marks Fiji Pine’s biggest victory yet, and for our landowners, that victory is your victory more than anything,” Mr Bainimarama said.

“As you are walking away with a bonus payment that at one time in history would have seemed like a complete fantasy.

“It is the real result of the seven-year turnaround of this industry and of the real leadership and vision my Government has brought to the Fiji Pine Group.”

He said the pine industry was close to insolvency.

“Back in those years, this Industry was stuck in a culture of indebtedness and corruption, leaving our landowners with next to nothing,” he said.

He cited the massive bonus payment and the recovery of the industry as real progress, which he said spoke far louder than any politician could hope for.

“This record bonus payment is a clear sign of progress as any, and I know it’s going to make a big difference in your lives and the lives of your loved ones,” the Prime Minister said.

For Mr Driso, he said what Mr Bainimarama had done for the industry and the lives of his people would be something they would never forget.

“I praise God that we have a leader like Mr Bainimarama and he kept his word after telling us in 2006 that he would turn this industry around,” Mr Driso said.

The biggest payout went to the Mataqali Ketenaratu of the Yavusa Nasolo from Vitogo, Lautoka. They received $375,913.67, compared to $40,000 last year.

Mataqali leader Semesa Pio Bolobolo said they had around 5020 acres under pine cultivation.

He has urged all indigenous landowners to give their land for pine cultivation.

“I am just so happy and with what Mr Bainimarama has done for the industry. He is just what our country needs – someone who leads and looks out for the people.”

Edited by Percy Kean

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