18 Oct 2006

Fiji High Court to rule on compensation claim by descendants of Suva's original owners

11:24 am on 18 October 2006

The Fiji High Court will rule on Friday whether it has jurisdiction to hear a land claim brought by the descendants of the original indigenous owners of the capital, Suva.

The Fijilive website reports that villagers of Suvavou settlement want the court to hear their grievances over the loss of over 250-thousand hectares of the most valuable real estate in the country.

Their lawyer, Kitione Vuataki, says the villagers now occupy a 120-hectare property on the outskirts of Suva where they were relocated when the British colonial administration made Suva the capital.

Mr Vuataki says compensation for that loss will cost the state over 600-million US dollars.

State lawyers have asked the High Court to reserve the claim for the yet-to-be established Land Claims Tribunal, legislation for which has been tabled in parliament.

The state also argues that the High Court does not have the authority to hear a native title claim.

Mr Vuetaki says the lands minister in the Rabuka government in 1998, Ratu Timoci Vesikula, had offered the Suvavou landowners 1-point-8 million US dollars "to forget the claim."