I have travelled to villages and have seen the overall living standards of the i-Taukei community deteriorate in the last 15 years under the current government.
This was highlighted by the leader of Fiji Labour Party Mahendra Chaudhry while responding to the Prime Minister's address at the recent Tailevu and Cakaudrove Provincial Council Meetings.
Chaudhry says this is evident from the recent Fiji Bureau of Statistics report that shows the status of the iTaukei.
He says this shows in the rising numbers in the informal settlements in cities and towns throughout the country.
He says the iTaukei have the highest youth unemployment numbers and constitute a substantial majority amongst the recipients of welfare payments.
Chaudhry says iTaukei children have also fallen behind in tertiary and vocational education because of the changes made by the Bainimarama Government to the award of scholarships.
He says the Prime Minister had said that no other government had done anything to bring about equity in the payment of land lease monies and royalties to the landowners.
He says while this may be true, many landowners were claiming that they were not being paid fairly by those extracting sand and gravel and those mining and exploring for minerals on their land.
The FLP leader says the landowners claim that their grievances on the exploitation of their resources by certain local and foreign companies were not receiving due attention by the authorities. Chaudhry says the almost total exclusion of the landowners from equitably sharing the benefits of Fiji's Mahogany industry speaks volumes about the Bainimarama Government's lack of concern for them.
He says as for the Prime Minister's reference to the profits generated by Fiji's Pine industry, the landowners can remember that those profits actually resulted from the savings made from the discontinuation of the pine replanting program since 2012.
Chaudhry says there is a situation now where the pine forests are depleting fast without being renewed.
We have sent further questions to the Prime Minister and are awaiting his response.
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