Call for revision of Fiji’s laws on protection of historical heritage sites

Tourists gather around the landmark clock at the Suva Botanical Gardens just outside the Fiji Museum. Picture: JOVESA NAISUA/FILE

THE director of the Fiji Museum, Nemani Sipiriano, has called for a revision of Fiji’s laws on the protection of its historical heritage sites.

He said some of the laws – like the POAPE Act (Preservation of Objects of Archaeological and Ethnological Act) – has been in existence since the 1940s.

He said certain clauses and elements needed revision.

“Right now the Fiji Museum Board of Trustees has endorsed that we review the POAPE Act and also in board deliberations they will look into the implementation of certain clauses,” he said.

Under the Act, any site that was more than 50 years old deserved protection. It also states that any person who wanted to excavate in an area needed a permit from the Board of Trustees of the Fiji Museum, and the Minister may declare any object to be of archaeological or palaeotological interest and gazette it.

However, to date only the gun site at Battery Hill, Nasonini, used during World War II was declared a monument on November 23, 2005 by Laisenia Qarase, the then Minister for Fijian Affairs, Culture and Heritage.

It’s understood that provisions under the National Trust for Fiji Act 1970 allowed the National Trust to purchase and manage monuments.

To date there is no monument listed that it manages.

It is also understood there are a portfolio of monuments but these are not gazetted. Mr Sipiriano said they hoped an archeological impact assessment would be carried out on the site proposed for leasing to the Indian Government for the construction of a chancery before any development took place.

“We hope for the better. “The Government has been very supportive of the Fiji Museum with our work, we are working according to the legislation that covers our work and which we have to pursue should any such incident or matter arise given we are responsible to our people, to our nation and our government.”

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