As the evicted families from Veiraisi Settlement in Nadera call for the government to assist, FijiFirst General Secretary, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says there are many people like the residents of Veiraisi Settlement, and they can apply to the Public Rental Board for housing.
Sayed-Khaiyum was responding to us in the FijiFirst press conference when Legend FM News questioned him if the Government will assist these families because they have said they have nowhere else to go.
The residents of Veiraisi Settlement have even more to worry about now apart from their houses getting dismantled and their belongings getting wet in the rain, and that is youths stealing their items at night.
Eseta Rokoniu and her family had their house dismantled last Wednesday and since then her husband has covered their house materials with a tarpaulin under which he has stayed to guard their belongings every night.
She says this is because after one of their community meetings the other night, they found out that some youths were asking other residents at the other end of the settlement if they wanted to buy roofing iron and wood that they would sell to them for cheap.
Rokoniu has moved her seven children and some of their belongings to her uncle’s place nearby but she says the reality is they have nowhere to go after they received the court eviction order.
Inise Rinasau who is Eseta’s sister says that some of the residents of Veiraisi Settlement are not going to work right now because they are worried about their houses being demolished and their belongings getting wet.
The 21 families of Veiraisi Settlement who were included in the court order to have their houses taken down are asking the government of the day and the Nasinu Land Purchase and Housing Co-operative Society Limited, where they can move to.
Nasinu Land Purchase is saying that it is in the court’s hands and it will not make any further comments.
In a statement released by the Government, they stated the land in Veiraisi that has become the subject of recent news reporting is not under the Ministry of Housing and Community Development’s lease as it is freehold land that is owned by Nasinu Land Purchase.
They say the recent eviction notices served by the freehold landowner to individuals in Veiraisi were lawfully issued in line with a court order.
The statement says this was after certain individuals residing on the land in question had opted not to move to an alternative arrangement proposed by the landowner.
The Government says the Nasinu Land and Purchase first offered all settlers in Veiraisi the opportunity to move to an alternative area in 2018 and most families accepted this offer to relocate.
They say since that time, the matter has been heard in court and the owner of the freehold land was entitled to evict any individuals residing on the land in question, as per the recently issued court order.
To buy additional time, the Ministry then negotiated another six months with the landowner to allow the individuals residing on the land to move.
They say legally, the government can only serve as a mediator between squatters and freehold landowners.
Director Housing Ronit Sen says they had several meetings with the landowner and the representatives of the affected families since the court order was issued and have secured as much additional time as possible for them to find alternative housing.
Sen says during that time, government conducted a survey and considered temporary accommodation in Public Rental Board flats, however, some families reported exceedingly large household sizes that could not fit into PRB flats.
He says it has been clear for more than four years that the families would have to eventually move out as this is a freehold land.
He says after they secured an additional six-month window for alternative arrangements to be made, the court order now must be respected.
They say there are over 250 informal settlements around Fiji and the Ministry is working with both Ministry of Lands and iTaukei Land Trust Board to acquire and upgrade these settlements over time to provide secured land tenure to the settlers.
The Ministry currently has 46 development leases under its upgrade Programme and three are now upgraded and ready for formalization.
Another 12 settlements are ready to commence upgrade works in this financial year with close to $10 million allocated in the 2022-23 National Budget for these works.
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