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SUVA, Fiji (FijiSUN, Nov. 6) – The sale of Naitauba Island in Fiji was an exception, says former Minister for Home Affairs Militoni Leweniqila. He said that when he visited the island back in the 1980s, the sale of freehold islands in Lau was prohibited at the time.

However the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara allowed special approval for the sale of Naitauba to actor Raymond Burr.

"Because of the special relationship between Ratu Mara and Burr, the sale of Naitauba Island was an exception in those days," said Mr Leweniqila.

[PIR editor’s note: Naitauba Island is located in Fiji’s Lau Group, to the east of Vanua Levu island. According to the FijiSUN, an American named Franklin Jones, known to his followers as Da Free John, or Adi Da, has been leading a religious cult on Naitauba since 1983. He reportedly bought the island from Raymond Burr. The cult reportedly was earlier based in California under the name The Johannine Dalst Communion. ]

Mr Leweniqila said he accompanied five others including the then acting Prime Minister Ratu Penaia Ganilau on a visit to the island after fears surfaced that a [religious] sect on the island was influencing locals.

"We were led by Ratu Penaia and the group included Inoke Tabua who is from Vauabalavu, Peter Howard, who was my permanent secretary, Robin Mercer and Charlie Walker," he said. "We spent a night there and were satisfied that the community there kept to themselves and there was no intention of influencing the locals," said Mr Leweniqila. I don’t believe they interfered in any way with the local society. We monitored the group, in general terms, and there was no interference at all. The people who have been employed on the island would be the best authority to speak on the presence of the community."

Mr Leweniqila said the Methodist Church would get answers to its fears and concerns from the locals employed on the island.

"We spent the night there in a bure and we saw the collection of wild orchids that they grow on the island,’’ he said. "If anything, they have not been interfering with the local society but instead they’ve been a source of employment for locals."

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