Friday, November 26, 2010

Villagers unite to Protect their Qoliqoli

by Paula Tagivetaua

FIJI TIMES - Friday, November 26, 2010
THE village of Nakorokula in the tikina of Wai in Nadroga is fighting a lone battle to save their qoliqoli.
The sad thing about it is that they are determined to protect their qoliqoli from people who are their kin in the other villages in the tikina of Wai in Nadroga including Lomawai, Kubuna and Tau by the coast and Bavu inland.
These people are related in one way or another but it seems the dollar sign and promises of wealth by hotel developers and their agents have clouded the minds of some yavusa heads.
I was invited to Nakorokula with Monifa Fiu of WWF.
They wanted Monifa to explain to them what was WWF's stand and WWF could do to help their cause. They invited me because they knew I was from the media.
The invitation was done mainly by Apisai Botevou, a man from Daku in Tailevu who had grown roots at Nakorokula and called it home.
Monifa explained to the villagers gathered in their new community hall that WWF could not stop the hotel developer with his hotel project or the government if it had given the go-ahead to the developer.
"What we can do is support your concerns over your qoliqoli with a letter stating how such development will destroy your qoliqoli forever," she said.
Men and women gathered in the hall that night including a small kid.
I felt for them because their plight connected to one which almost destroyed our qoliqoli at Nasarawaqa in Lekeutu, Bua years ago.
In my case, we went against the idea for a wharf to be built at Sasake near Nasarawaqa.
Our argument was that our qoliqoli would be destroyed for ever and if we had no qoliqoli, we would not have a place of feeding for our future generations.
Against promises that electricity would be connected to our villages and the main road tarsealed, we remained adamant that we did not want the wharf built at Sasake and the wharf was built at Wairiki near Nabouwalu.
As we were about to enter the community hall at Nakorokula, I noticed that a board with the name Nakorotubu House was nailed to the main enrance.
It was funny because Nakorotubu was in Ra and Nadroga and Ra are tauvu.
How come?
I made a point of asking and they said the foreman in charge of the builders who built the hall was from Nakorotubu.
"After the hall was built, he got the board, wrote Nakorotubu on it and nailed it to the front.
"Take it down and rename your hall," I told them as a tau of Ra people but on second thought, we are all traditionally related and better to have a name of a relative than of someone not related.
I could feel that the concern from the elders came from the heart.
"Everyone knows that when there is a function for the tikina o Wai, they always tells us Nakorokula, your contribution to the function is the fish to feed the guests and the people at the function which is normally held at Lomawai," said one elder.
"In the plans to build the new hotel, they are saying they will make a marina by clearing much of the coral reef around the area.
"They can build a hotel in tikina o Wai but they have to build it inland."
They cited the example of the failed hotel project near the Seashell @ Momi resort - the Marriot which was now black and rusty from exposure to the elements and had become "nodra i mocemoce na belo" as they said - a roost for herons and seabirds. With the Marriot, the developer had to build out to sea and the villagers of Nakorokula said the seafront around the Marriot was now devoid of marine life.
They said the hall we were in that night was a goodwill from the owners of the Marriot.
They had promised all the vilages in tikina o Wai a new community hall each in return for them to build the Marriot on their land.
"We were lucky in a way that they had built only two halls when the government stopped the hotel project," the elder said.
Nakorokula people said the other villages in tikina o Wai had been given money by the new hotel developer which had kind of bound them to give their qoliqoli to be turned into a hotel.
Only Nakorokula refused the monetary advance from the hotel developer.
"That is why we are fighting this case until we win.
There is no other way because we have seen what development on qoliqoli have caused and we do not want our sons and daughters to be eating tinned fish from the shop when they can always go to sea and catch fish from our qoliqoli which was given to us by God.
"We know that once our qoliqoli is destroyed it will never come back, not in a lifetime."
Such words spoken from the heart is full of emotion and the villagers of Nakorokula have vowed to go to the highest level with their petition and concern if they have to, to save their qoliqoli.
They asked me how I could help them and I told my dreu the best I could do was highlight their plight.
I told them they could follow the traditional path and take their case to the the minister of land who was their vasu from the village of Kubuna.
Nakorokula people came from Kubuna a long time ago. As it is, the case of Nakorokula villagers wanting to save their qoliqoli must be supported in full for many reasons.

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