It’s Time Mataqali Vatuwaqa Gets Ancestral Land Registered

This is an edited version of Nemani Delaibatiki’s My Say for the FBC TV programme ‘4 The Record’ last night.   In My Say yesterday I spoke on a group
17 Sep 2018 14:24
It’s Time Mataqali Vatuwaqa Gets Ancestral Land Registered
The view of the ANZ National Stadium from the top of Mataqali Vatuwaqa’s ancestral land at Flagstaff in Suva on September 11, 2018. Photo: Simione Haravanua

This is an edited version of Nemani Delaibatiki’s My Say for the FBC TV programme ‘4 The Record’ last night.


In My Say yesterday I spoke on a group of iTaukei landowners who have been struggling for at least two decades to be recognised as legitimate owners of their ancestral land.

The landowners I am referred to are members of the Mataqali Vatuwaqa of the Yavusa Vatuwaqa of the Vanua of Suva (Suvavou).

What I cannot understand is that when all the facts are there for all to see, what is delaying the final act to grant the landowners ownership of two parcels of land called Nacovu and Vaturu at Flagstaff in Suva.

The iTaukei Land Trust Board is saying that all the mataqali in Yavusa Vatuwaqa need to sit and agree that the land rightly belongs to Mataqali Vatuwaqa and get it registered.

When this happens, there’s bound to be disputes and new claimants to the land.

There is enough evidence there for the relevant authorities to act.

Why they are pushing the Yavusa line is unclear when the High Court had rejected land claims over the Suva peninsula from the three Yavusa, including the Yavusa Vatuwaqa.  Mataqali Vatuwaqa was not part of that land claim.

In fact the then Native Lands and Fisheries Commissioner, Ilaitia Caginavua, after listening to sworn testimonies during a solemn and high-powered meeting of stakeholders in 1992, ruled that the land in question should be returned to Mataqali Vatuwaqa.

But when the board papers were prepared for the TLTB the word Mataqali was substituted by Yavusa.

This was a simple anomaly that could have been easily rectified. It wasn’t and despite complaints from Mataqali Vatuwaqa members, the TLTB continued to push for the Yavusa line.

Dealings about the land in question were occurring well before the institution of the Native Lands Commission and the Wilkinson Commission, outside the jurisdiction of the then Native Land Trust Board and section 18 of the Native Land Trust Act.

The land was registered under the Lands Department and acquired for public use which has expired.

Under Section 8 of the Crown Land Act. The State is empowered to return the land to its customary landowners, Mataqali Vatuwaqa.

It was confirmed by the then Native Land Reserve Commissioner.

On November 17, 2005, a meeting of the Yavusa Vatuwaqa declared that Mataqali Vatuwaqa was the rightful owner of Nacovu and Vaturua.

It was also confirmed by the Native Land Reserve Commissioner in 1991.

In 2007, in a memo to the Solictor-General from Director of Lands it said yavusa should be amended to read mataqali.

The Solicitor-General also acknowledged that it should be mataqali not yavusa.

In 2008, during a meeting of the members of Mataqali Vatuwaqa and Yavusa Vatuwaqa it was agreed that Mataqali Vatuwaqa was the rightful owners of the land and it should be returned to them. The resolution was in a letter that was written by V. M. Tagivetaua, the chairman of the then Native Lands and Fisheries Commission.

But in 2009 the Mataqalis in Yavusa Vatuwaqa changed their mind in a letter to the Permanent Secretary for iTaukei Affairs.

That put the spanner in the works so to speak.

But the overwhelming evidence is enough to prove that the land in question rightly belongs to Mataqali Vatuwaqa. Justice will be done when the clan members can one day rightfully plant a stake on the land and say: This is our land.

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj



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