Yavusa Gets Land Back

Govt Buy-Back Scheme re­turns land sold for an axe, clothes and pipes

Fiji Sun - - FRONT PAGE - ROSI DOVIVERATA Edited by Ivamere Nataro

Af­ter be­ing alien­ated from their own land, re­lo­cated at least three times, had their vil­lage burnt down twice the tribe or yavusa Waidau of Navu­loa Vil­lage on Ovalau is the epit­ome of sur­vival and re­silience.

Their 473-acre land was bought with an axe, some clothes and pipes dur­ing the colo­nial era. The land was of­fi­cially re­turned to the yavusa yes­ter­day by Prime Min­is­ter Voreqe Bain­i­marama through his Govern­ment’s Free­hold Buy-back Scheme. Mr Bain­i­marama told yavusa Waidau: “This land had once been alien­ated by our colonis­ers, but now it is yours again, and by law it can­not be alien­ated again.” The yavusa Waidau is one of the four suc­cess­ful landown­ing units to re­ceive full free­hold ti­tle un­der the Free­hold Buy-back Scheme that the Bain­i­marama Govern­ment in­sti­tuted. He said they were an in­spi­ra­tion to other com­mu­ni­ties, who wanted to take full pos­ses­sion of their free­hold land ti­tles, in­clud­ing Fi­jians who had big am­bi­tions and were will­ing to work hard to achieve them. Work­ing along­side Govern­ment, the yavusa Waidau al­ready has plans for the fu­ture. This in­cludes yaqona farm­ing and re­plant­ing of na­tive trees.

Since the be­gin­ning of the year, they’ve set aside the sec­ond week of ev­ery month to fast and ab­stain from yaqona drink­ing and smok­ing.

This was ev­i­dent yes­ter­day — apart from the tra­di­tional wel­com­ing cer­e­mony, no yaqona was served dur­ing the ta­lanoa ses­sion and there­after.

Young men from each house­hold are en­cour­aged to plant 600 yaqona plants by the end of the year, 100 of which will be di­rected to the church.

Tui Waidau, Malakai Masilino said the wait was well worth it.

He is hope­ful that one day he will wit­ness the re­lo­ca­tion of the yavusa to their yavutu

(orig­i­nal foun­da­tion) at Waidau, close to the Bure­sala jetty.

He was grate­ful to the late Turaga Tui

Makubu, who ac­cepted the sad fate of his yavusa and of­fered them to re­side at their cur­rent lo­ca­tion at Navu­loa Vil­lage. “We want to re­turn to our yavu, I hope to see that hap­pen be­fore I die,” said Mr Masilino, 72.

He re­called that the ini­tia­tive to try and get back their land started in the 1970s.

“It started dur­ing the Al­liance Govern­ment, then the So­qosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei and then the So­qosoqo Dua­vata ni Leweni­vanua led by the late Laise­nia Qarase.

“There were al­ways dif­fi­cul­ties along the way.”

Per­haps what also helped ne­go­ti­a­tions this time was Mr Masilino’s close re­la­tions with Ernest Dou­glas, the landowner, be­fore it was bought back by the yavusa.

Mr Dou­glas’s father had bought the land from the pineap­ple fac­tory owner who op­er­ated out of Levuka in the 1960s.

“Ernest and I were brought up to­gether. He still lives on an­other part of the yavusa land which we hope to get back in the fu­ture. I help out at his sheep, cat­tle and pig farms as he is two years older than me,” Mr Masilino said.

There will be no more liv­ing in makeshift build­ings for board­ers at Levuka Pub­lic High School on Ovalau.

This fol­lows the open­ing of a $1.8 mil­lion up­grade, renovation, re­build­ing project by Prime Min­is­ter Voreqe Bainia­ma­rama yes­ter­day.

Mr Bain­i­marama is on his of­fi­cial tour of the is­land, which ends today.

The dor­mi­tory was dam­aged by a fire in 2012 where tim­ber struc­ture had to be de­mol­ished and re­built us­ing concrete block.

“We are do­ing more than ded­i­cat­ing a build­ing. We are cel­e­brat­ing the last chap­ter in Levuka Pub­lic High School’s phys­i­cal mod­erni­sa­tion. With the com­ple­tion of the Boys’ Hos­tel, we have com­pleted the renovation of Levuka Pub­lic High School,” he said. Mr Bain­i­marama said the dor­mi­to­ries were crit­i­cal to ed­u­ca­tion in Fiji be­cause it was the only way to guar­an­tee an ed­u­ca­tion to stu­dents who lived far from their schools.

He said his Govern­ment made a com­mit­ment to guar­an­tee free ed­u­ca­tion, free text­books and sub­sidised trans­porta­tion to school for Fi­jian stu­dents.

“Not all stu­dents need to live at school, but we can­not have equal ed­u­ca­tion for all stu­dents if we do not pro­vide that op­tion for those who do need it,” he said. Two boats with en­gines were also given by Mr Bain­i­marama to serve the peo­ple of Ovalau and the other islands of Lo­maiv­iti.

Two young en­trepreneur­s and a youth or­gan­i­sa­tion in the Levuka com­mu­nity were also recog­nised.

Isireli Saro of Nuku­to­cia Vil­lage on the Is­land of Ovalau and Te­vita Vu­nileba of Mudu Vil­lage on Koro were given recog­ni­tion as young en­trepreneur­s while the Lovu Youth Club was an out­stand­ing youth or­gan­i­sa­tion. Mean­while, Mr Bain­i­marama was ac­corded a full tra­di­tional cer­e­mony pre­sented by se­nior stu­dents of Levuka Pub­lic School.

Mem­bers of Yavusa Waidau take a selfie with Prime Min­is­ter Voreqe Bain­i­marama on July 14, 2020, at Navu­loa Vil­lage in Ovalau, as they cel­e­brate get­ting their land back. Photo: Kel­era So­vasiga

Photo: Kel­era So­vasiga

Levuka Pub­lic School hos­tel boys in­side their new dor­mi­tory that was opened by Prime Min­is­ter Voreqe Bain­i­marama on July 14, 2020.

Photo: Kel­era So­vasiga

Tui Waidau, Malakai Masilino.

Photo: Kel­era So­vasiga

Levuka Pub­lic School se­nior stu­dents per­form the tra­di­tional wel­come for the Prime Min­is­ter Voreqe Bain­i­marama on July 14, 2020.

Kel­era So­vasiga

Prime Min­is­ter Voreqe Bain­i­marama with the board­ers of Levuka Pub­lic School af­ter the com­mis­sion­ing of the new Levuka Pub­lic School Boys Hos­tel on July 14, 2020. Photo:

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