Park chief backs Colo-i-Suva rule for lo­cals, tourists

Fiji Sun - - Front Page - Edited by Ranoba Baoa MON­ICA AGUILAR SUVA Feed­back: mon­ica.aguilar@fi­

I would like to re­quest Fiji Sun to put this in the pa­per, the same pro­ce­dure through­out. When­ever there is a cruise liner in port, we will give pri­or­ity first to the tourists.

Lasarusa Turaga

Head of the Colo-i- Suva For­est Park

Lasarusa Turaga, head of the Colo-i-Suva For­est Park, has de­fended the park rule re­strict­ing en­try of lo­cals dur­ing peak tourist times.

Last night, he dis­missed crit­i­cisms on so­cial me­dia that the rule was dis­crim­i­na­tory.

He said the rule to ban lo­cals when the tourists were swim­ming in the pool was de­signed to pro­tect tourists be­cause of past bad ex­pe­ri­ences. “We are not com­pletely clos­ing it to lo­cals. It only hap­pens when the tourists are there be­cause it is for the pro­tec­tion of the tourists,” Mr Turaga said.

“It is not dis­crim­i­na­tory. We are try­ing to en­sure the safety and the se­cu­rity of tourists and that is para­mount right now.” Mr Turaga said re­cently a tourist had lost her ex­pen­sive be­long­ings while swim­ming at the pool. There were a few lo­cal girls sneak­ing around the area, he added. He said there had been in­ci­dents where tourists’ be­long­ings were stolen by lo­cals who were with them in the pool.

“Tourists’ items go miss­ing be­cause the lo­cals are also in the pool with them and that is a bad im­pres­sion to us and will have a cost to Fiji as a whole,” he said.

He said the ini­tia­tive was in collaboration with the Nas­inu and Valelevu Po­lice. “When lo­cals come in, it’s an added bur­den to us, rather than us con­cen­trat­ing solely on tourists, es­pe­cially the youths. That is why we col­lab­o­rated with the Po­lice force. “At times the wa­ter­ways are dis­turbed be­cause the lo­cals es­pe­cially the youths dis­turb the wa­ter­ways and so it is all milky and muddy which does not give a good im­pres­sion to our tourists,” he added. He said the rule would ap­ply only for the hours that the tourists were within the premises and “will open the park to the lo­cals once the tourists have left.” He said the rule had been there since last year. But the park’s team had be­gun putting up no­tices only last week as the park has been re­ceiv­ing more tourists, Mr Turaga said. He said the park had re­ceived 600 tourists on Sun­day and had re­ceived around 300 tourists yes­ter­day.

“I would like to re­quest Fiji Sun to put this in the pa­per, the same pro­ce­dure through­out. When­ever there is a cruise liner in port, we will give pri­or­ity first to the tourists.

“Be­cause it is the only piece of Fiji that they would like to take back as the park is ad­ver­tised on­board the ship,” he said. He said un­for­tu­nately there were only seven for­est rangers em­ployed to look after the 92 hectare for­est. He said it was dif­fi­cult to mon­i­tor the vis­i­tors and lo­cals at the same time. “We are work­ing with the Po­lice force and they come in at their own tim­ing on an ad hoc ba­sis. “Most times when the tourists ar­rive, the Po­lice are also here but when the tourists come to the park, they go to all places and it is un­for­tu­nate as we can’t keep up with them in the large area of park that we have.” Mean­while, Ana Naisoro, Po­lice Spokesper­son, said there were of­fi­cers sent to the park from the Tourist Po­lice Unit and they were of­ten de­ployed when there were vis­i­tors from a cruise liner to Suva. “We were not in­volved to the ex­tent as to stop peo­ple from en­ter­ing be­cause of the no­tice that was seen but while tour­ing with the tourists some had tried to gain en­try via the many short­cuts to the swim­ming ar­eas to which our of­fi­cers ad­vised them to use the proper en­trance. “It must be noted that we were not there to en­force what is writ­ten in the no­tice!” said Ms Naisoro.

Photo: Roneel Karthik

Lasarusa Turaga at Colo-i-Suva Park yes­ter­day.

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