Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Suva City Claim by Fijian Landowners

Suva worth more than $1billion
www.fijilive.com - Tuesday January 30, 2007

A High Court has heard that the value of the total land area in the Suva Peninsula, which is home to Fiji’s capital, is worth $1,402,450,000.

Former chief valuer in the Lands Ministry Josefa Dulakiverata, said this was the average cost of the 4007-acre land at $296,000 per acre last year.

Dulakiverata was testifying in the trial of Suvavou landowners, who are claiming that the land taken on October 10, 1874, was done unlawfully.

The court heard that in 1999, the peninsula was worth $1,186,072,000. The value increased in 2000, as the same piece of land was worth $1,402,450,000 at $322,000 per acre.

Dulakiverata said the figures were based on the average market value and they were instructed to value the land as if it was not developed.

"The whole area is subdivided into residential, commercial and industrial class but we just looked at the whole area.

"We looked at the potential of the land," he said.

Landowners also claim that land belonging to the three yavusa - Nayavumata, Nauluvatu and Vatuwaqa - was converted to private freehold land from 1882 to date.

The landowners are claiming compensation for about 675, 653 acres of their ancestral land which they say are now mostly in private hands.

Court hears $1.2bn claim

More than a billion dollars is owed to landowners of the Suva peninsula area, an economist told the High Court yesterday. Economist and lecturer Jese Verebalavu took the witness box before High Court judge, Justice Devendra Pathik and read out information regarding the real landowners of the land that the capital city occupies.

Ms Verebalavu said Suvavou landowners were deprived of their rights to the land of their ancestors and did not receive the benefits enjoyed by other landowners. Ms Verebalavu based her arguments on research saying for the last 114 years the Suvavou people had been alienated from what was rightfully theirs.

Referring to the Suvavou people as ‘kai suva’, she said land was sold by the colonial administration at $750 pounds, which was the fixed exchange rent established between 1886 and August, 2000. She said 4007 hectares belonged to the kai suva and estimated the money owing to them at $1.2 billion.

Suva peninsula includes the junction of the Tamavua River and creek ascending to the course on the hill Na Ului Roko Leka, thence to the hilltop Namadai descending to the junction Waisomo and Waiqarati thence downstream to the junction of the creek Nabuni and Wai Ko Nasamabula - down to the sea around the sea coast past the old European town of Suva to the mouth of the Tamavua River. Ms Verebalavu said that compared to landowners of the Fijian Resort and Warwrick Hotel, the kai suva has lost their ancestral home ground, lost traditional roles, rights to protect their own social destiny and property rights.

“The rightful owners of the Suva land do not have any more space for expansion of their village in Lami,” she said Suvavou people were asked to move by Ratu Seru Cakobau when the capital of Fiji was being decided. The village people were requested to move to Kiuva in Tailevu but this request was later refused because they opted to stay in Samabula. However the crown had plans to develop the area and Suvavou people were finally moved to Lami where they stay today.

Ms Verebalavu said Ratu Seru Cakabau was not the King of Fiji when he sold most to the land to Polynesians and the colonial administration, after abolishing the deal by Ratu Cakobau did not give land back to the proper owners. Questioned by Justice Pathik on how she knew that the land belonged to the Suvavou people, Ms Verebalavu said she based her findings on facts of research.