Editorial comment – Clamping down on yaqona thieves

Farmers Donu Raiwalui, left wih Epeli Banicakau at Marakaba in Navonu, the hotspot area for grog theft. Picture: SERAFINA SILAITOGA

THE revelation that there appears to be a surge in yaqona theft in parts of Cakaudrove on Vanua Levu is definitely a concern.

In fact it should raise the anger of every right thinking person.

It must! If you consider the time and effort put in by farmers to grow yaqona, then it must prick raw nerves.

Lives depend on it.

Plans were put in place factoring the number of yaqona plants in the ground, years for them to grow, and such things as education, upgrade in lifestyle and other essential needs.

So it does become a rather frustrating fact of life for the average yaqona farmer.

If thieves are raiding farms with apparent impunity, then it falls to reason then that the law must come down hard on them.

It is a shocking reality of life in parts of Cakaudrove. Why should farmers like Emosi Biraki be forced to give up farming yaqona for instance?

For a farmer who used to plant yaqona in Navonu, he insists becoming a supplier has been the best decision he made. But listen to his reasoning.

“We don’t have to worry about people stealing yaqona because we buy and I also make sure I know the farmers I buy yaqona from,” he said.

“At least we can sleep at night and don’t have to worry about our farms getting raided by thieves at night.”

His right to farm yaqona has been curbed by thieves! Another farmer, Joe Vuetiyaroi, has continued farming but on a smaller scale and around his house.

“It’s safer for us because thieves won’t dare come around your house to steal yaqona.

Uprooting yaqona takes a lot of time so they wouldn’t dare come around your house,” he said.

“I feel sorry for farmers who have become victims of this situation because they lose out on a lot of money.”

The Cakaudrove Provincial Council believes the introduction of village bylaws will curb yaqona theft.

Council chairman Ratu Jekesoni Yavalanavanua said the situation was worrying as attempts to curb the crime had failed to address the issue.

Ratu Jekesoni urged traditional leaders to work closely with their people to stop the increasing reports of yaqona theft.

It also isn’t something that has just popped out of the woodworks either.

The surge in price of yaqona in the wake of Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston in February 2016 hasn’t done anything to slow it down either.

Understandably it isn’t easy patrolling the countryside in remote areas of Cakaudrove.

However, as a community, we can make a difference. The challenge is finding ways that will place thieves under great pressure at the point of sale.

That is easier said though, than done.

There obviously is a demand they are facilitating.

Clearly the police have their work cut out.

They will, however, need our support to weed out selfish and ruthless thieves who raid farms at night, killing the hopes and aspirations of many hardworking farmers and their families.

It is a pretty sad predicament for these farmers.

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