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Tui Suva Ratu claims Suva peninsula belongs to him

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, July 2, 2008) - Tui Suva Ratu Epeli Kanakana maintains that the Suva City Council cannot remove him from his Muanivatu settlement home despite an eviction notice served to him and other squatters last week.

The squatters have cleared and reclaimed mangroves near Suva Point and occupied it over the past few years. The SCC says the land is Crown Land and they are leasing it from Government.

However Ratu Epeli claims that the SCC and the Government have a lot to answer to as Muanivatu falls under his jurisdiction.

Speaking in Fijian, Ratu Epeli claims that the Government has robbed him the right to live on his own piece of land since the settlement and surrounding areas has been a traditional fishing ground for the Suvavou people for hundreds of years.

"Who exactly gave them this piece of land because as far as I am concerned all of the Suva Peninsula belongs to the people of Suvavou and this extends from Naboro to Nadawa along the coast," he said. "So everything along these shores belongs to me and my people. We know our rights."

Ratu Epeli said the people of Suvavou are the true owners of Suva.

Suvavou comes under the province of Rewa.

He said the people of Suvavou have been pushed to a corner where opportunities don’t come easily.

"We have been living at Muanivatu for so long and I please where I want to live because I know it’s my land."

He said the village of Suvavou (new Suva), where the original inhabitants of Suva were moved to make way for the capital in the late 1800s, has become so congested that people have to look elsewhere to live.

"First of all Suvavou Village does not belong to the people of Suvavou as it belongs to the people of Lami Village."

He said when the colonial government moved the capital from Levuka to Suva in 1882, Suvavou Village was relocated from Nasese to its current location.

"That’s when a mutual understanding was reached by my people and those from Lami for us to live there temporarily before a new site was found."

Ratu Epeli believes that the Suvavou people are one of the poorest tribes in Fiji even though Suva City belongs to his people.

"We get peanuts in compensation and lease payments compared to those in the Western Division and those in the interior of Viti Levu."

"So if the SCC and government think they can take away that right of ownership from us then they should think again because what’s yours will always be yours – no one can take that away from you."

The SCC has given the inhabitants of Muanivatu a month to evict their settlement or face legal action.

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