FIJI COURT TO SORT OUT DISPUTE OVER CHIEF

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SUVA. Fiji (Fiji Times, July 16) – A faction disputing the installation of a new chief in its village will await the decision of a judicial review on who is the rightful holder of the title.

A faction of the Naisogoliku clan in Vitawa Village, outside Rakiraki, had sought legal opinion on who is the rightful holder of the Tu Navatu title.

[PIR editor’s note: Rakiraki is located adjacent to the Kings Road on the north coast of Viti Levu, about 120 kilometers from Fiji’s capital, Nadi. ]

Lawyer Sevuloni Valenitabua said he had written to all the parties concerned, including the Native Lands Commission, the commission tribunal, police and the other faction to hold the installation until a judicial review gave its decision.

"But the installation went ahead, so we discussed that they would do what they did yesterday but it had to be done within the law," he said.

Mr Valenitabua said after his clients agreed on that, police were asked to be at the village to monitor the situation.

"So now we will just have to wait for the judicial review," he said. The matter is before Justice Daniel Finnegan of the High Court.

The villagers of Vitawa staged a protest at the village entrance as one faction installed another chief as Tu Navatu.

The protest was to stop anyone except those registered in the Vola ni Kawa Bula as members of the Mataqali Naisogoliku to enter the village to witness the installation.

Clan spokesman and Sauturaga of Naisogoliku Timoci Nabogi said they had sought legal opinion on the issue.

"We are taking this matter to court and will see that justice prevails," he said.

Mr Nabogi said had a stay order been issued by the High Court on time, the installation could not have gone ahead.

"We asked our lawyer to apply for a stay order to allow for a judicial review to go ahead and then see who is the rightful holder of the title," he said. "But the stay order had not been issued then, so we decided to go ahead with a protest," he said.

Mr Nabogi said the problem was there were two decisions one by the Native Lands Commission and the other by the commission tribunal.

"The two decisions have divided the vanua of Navatu," he said.

He said it was heartbreaking to see one clan divided over the quest for leadership.

Tension was high in the village on Friday as most of those who were invited to the installation were stopped from going in.

More than a 100 people who were invited including a busload from Lautoka were turned away as a faction tried to calm the situation.

West deputy divisional commander Waisea Somisucu said a reinforcement team was in the village to monitor the situation.

Lands Minister Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu said he aware of the conflict but said that the villagers must solve it among themselves.

July 17, 2006

Fiji Times: http://www.fijitimes.com/

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