Park Chief Backs Colo-i-Suva Rule For Locals, Tourists
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.
Edited by Ranoba Baoa