NATION

Yavusa Waidau Gets Land Back

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.”
15 Jul 2020 09:45
Yavusa Waidau Gets Land Back
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama joins a selfie group photo with Navuloa villagers in Levuka, Ovalau on July 14, 2020. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

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.

Tui Waidau, Malakai Masilino. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

Tui Waidau, Malakai Masilino. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

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.

Edited by Ivamere Nataro

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