Petition Calls For Preservation Of Tongan Heritage Site

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Sia heu lupe site in Popua slated for new subdivision development

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Aug. 11, 2015) – A petition signed by 700 calling for the restoration and preservation of Tonga’s cultural heritage in the complex of sia heu lupe and related mounds in Popua that are endangered by a settlement subdivision, was submitted to Parliament on Tuesday, 11 August at Parliament Office.

The petition which gathered the signatures in a week after being circulated online was presented by Dr ‘Ana Koloto the Director of USP Tonga. It was to be signed by Lord Vaea, Tongatapu 1 Noble’s Representative for submission to parliament though the Acting Clerk of the House Dr Sione Vikilani.

Historian Dr Wendy Pond with Paul Johansson, Pasimata Vi Taunisila, Maopa Kupu and Tevita Tu’ipulotu supported the presentation of the petition.

Dr Pond said they studied the complex of at least seven sia, five of which have distinguishing central pits that indicate they were sia hei lupe or chiefly pigeon snaring mounds. They had surveyed this complex in terms of latitude and longitude and had appealed to the Minister of Lands to preserve it.

She said, however "it appears that this complex remains very seriously endangered and it’s very important as sia hei lupe complex of pigeon mounds is situated in conjunction with the mala’e of the Tu’i Tonga and linked to an occasion when ‘Aho’eitu founded the Tu’i Tonga lineage - so this is a landscape of immense historical importance to Tonga."

"In addition, Tongans now have a generation of PhDs who are writing Tongan history by combining the written record with knowledge that’s being held orally and passed down, while rediscovering that the western world’s written record is inaccurate and does not at all express the loving heart that Tongans hold…so unless we can preserve this complex we cannot reconstruct the history that we would want to be told in a Tongan way."

Stop the settlement

Lord Vaea said because of the historical importance of sia heu lupe this petition was to stop the subdivision for the settlement of Popua.

He had also written to the Chief Justice about this matter and was told to either charge the Ministry or review the Act for the Preservation of Archeological Objects 1982 but these actions were put on hold awaiting this petition.

"This petition is based on the settlement of Patangata and Popua as there was a Privy Council decision in the 1980s not to divide it - but it was surprising when they announced on radio last week that they will carry out the subdivision of Patangata and Popua."

Lord Vaea said his letter was based on reasons that this was not a suitable area for settlement by people because it was previously a rubbish dump, it was not safe because when the sea level rises it threatens the settlement and additionally that the Ministry of Lands had not dealt with a letter of appeal from Wendy Pond in March 2011.

This a very important historical site as it showed the high standards Tongan settlement was in the past, he said.

Dr Koloto said they are representing the voices of those who carried out various academic researches in Tonga on the importance for heritage sites to be maintained in Tonga.

The House is expected to resume next week on Monday, 17 August.

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