‘A happy ending for clan’

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama with the land title given to members of the yavusa Nasuva in Welagi Village. Picture Serafina Silaitoga

SINCE 1989, the yavusa Nasuva of Welagi Village on Taveuni have been contending for a land that their chiefs of the colonial era gave away for very little value to foreigners.

Finally this week, after decades of waiting, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama handed over the land title to four mataqali of yavusa Nasuva.

In handing over the title, Mr Bainimarama told the landowners that no one could change the past.

“When it comes to the history of this land, the story begins long before any of us were ever born. But, thankfully, it is a story with a happy ending — an ending we can proudly celebrate,” he said.

“Sadly, the time of European settlement and the colonial government in Fiji were afflicted by a number of bad land deals, where landowning units were taken advantage of and manipulated.

“We had large tracts of iTaukei land in Fiji sold off or exchanged for amounts far below their true value. This was a tactic used by European settlers and colonial powers all over the world during this time, and Fiji was not spared.”

Mr Bainimarama said there were a lot of reasons iTaukei land was sold off at such dramatically undervalued rates.

“In some cases, the true worth of prime real estate, such as arable farmland, was unknown to Fijian communities. Companies and individuals from Western powers saw an opportunity to exploit our people, and they took it,” he said.

“But we also must bear in mind that these land sales occurred under an older system. A system where the voices of the many were outweighed by the voices of a few.

“A system where certain chiefs made every big decision, including giving away iTaukei land, without any consent from those who would be most affected.

“As we’ve seen those decisions could hold consequences for generations.

“Consider your own situation, had this land not been bought back, the young people of yavusa Nasuva would have never known this land as their own.”

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