Editorial comment – Stop those yaqona thieves

Green yaqona. Picture: FT FILE

IT IS good to know that no leniency will be shown to green yaqona thieves and buyers on Taveuni.

Perpetrators will now be charged with theft.

Responding to claims from farmers on the island that the rise in green yaqona theft had been fuelled by the lack of regulations in place for perpetrators, Northern divisional police commander Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Eparama Waqa said police could now test soil samples from stolen plants.

The campaign is now on to fight this part of the kava market.

SSP Waqa said confiscated stolen plants would be sent to their forensic units for testing before charges were laid against perpetrators.

“We are warning thieves and those thinking of stealing green plants to think twice before proceeding to carry out their dirty work because they will be found and taken to task,” he said.

“Taveuni is the only station in the North currently with a police canine unit and I have spoken to our men to use them in assisting with their investigations.

“The ban on the buying and selling of green yaqona on Taveuni is currently in place and we are asking people to adhere to the ban.”

The kava industry is making a difference in the lives of rural dwellers.

It is especially making a difference in the lives of farmers and their families.

It has a bright future and will continue to have an impact in how rural dwellers live their lives well into the future.

A challenge though for all stakeholders is how to control the sale of green yaqona.

Thieves are ruining the lives of farmers who make huge sacrifices on the field.

These thieves are living off the sweat of dedicated farmers who are trying to improve their lives.

In fact farmers on Taveuni are calling for a national ban on the sale of green yaqona to discourage the increasing cases of yaqona theft on the island.

After a meeting with the district officer on the island and police, farmers have raised concerns on the increase in yaqona theft on the island.

Qila farmers representative Nitesh Swamy claimed cases of theft had been aggravated by the green yaqona trade which was an easy money maker for thieves.

SSP Waqa suggested a national ban would need to be imposed by the relevant authorities.

He said, they were only responsible for taking perpetrators to task.

Clearly there is a market out there.

It is the reason thieves are prepared to risk their freedom and evade the long arm of the law.

Any effort to fight this will obviously also have to take into account the need to address this segment of the community, and offer options that are viable.

Otherwise we risk this bad habit developing into other aspects of economic activity in our rural areas.

We are glad though that something is being done.

That is a start.

The challenge is to see how consistent we can be.

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