Yavusa Gets Land Back
Govt Buy-Back Scheme returns land sold for an axe, clothes and pipes
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
Levuka Public School hostel boys inside their new dormitory that was opened by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama on July 14, 2020.
Tui Waidau, Malakai Masilino.
Levuka Public School senior students perform the traditional welcome for the Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama on July 14, 2020.
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: