Bua chief recalls days of convincing landowners

WHEN management of Fiji Pine Ltd failed to convince landowners to lease their land for pine farming in the 1970s, the task was left to Bua chief Ratu Suliasi Matavesi.

Ratu Suliasi, 82, who holds the title of Tui Bua, was an effective mediator who got landowners of Bua and Macuata to lease their land for pine farming which remains standing in the two provinces today.

The retired Fiji Pine employee, who now lives at Votua Village, Lekutu in Bua, described those days as the most difficult and shared his story when he met Minister for Forestry Osea Naiqamu at Votua Village this week.

Knowing his link to the chiefly title of Cakaunitabua, Ratu Suliasi took on the duty because he wanted his people to earn a good income one day.

That day, he said, he had witnessed today with bonus payout and other payments made to pine landowners.

“Every time the management of Fiji Pine travelled from Lautoka to convince landowners to sign up leases for pine farms, they would always fail because landowners didn’t want to lease,” he said.

“So they would then ask me to take over their duties in convincing landowners and it was the most difficult job because I suffered medically. I used to get big boils on my back and stomach and it is known as soso to us iTaukei but I never gave up.

“I never allowed it to get me down because I wanted the people of Bua to benefit from the pine project one day. I always tell them during our meetings that the vacant land in their villages would one day become the ‘green gold’ of Bua. It has happened.”

In hindsight, he has never regretted helping Fiji Pine Ltd secure leases for pine farming projects.

“Sometimes I visit a landowning unit five times just to get them to agree to lease conditions and I always manage to win their hearts and only God is to be praised and glorified,” Ratu Suliasi said.

“I travelled to Macuata as well and their attitude was the same. Mr Naiqamu had just joined then and it’s so good to see him again.”

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