5 Jun 2007

Fiji's Rabi island claimed by original owners

3:08 pm on 5 June 2007

The original owners of Rabi Island in Fiji want it back so they can live there again.

The islanders were settled on nearby Taveuni by the British colonial administration after the Second World War when it resettled the Banaban people from Kiribati on Rabi.

The Banabans' original home on Ocean Island had been devastated by phosphate mining.

The Fijilive news website reports that the original inhabitants met the interim lands minister, Tevita Vuibau, when he visited Taveuni recently and sought his help to get Rabi Island back.

The original inhabitants' spokesman, Viliame Seru, says they have wanted their island back for a long time and have gone as far as Sydney to obtain evidence of historical records and legal advice.

An information ministry statement says the minister has told the claimants that they have two options.

One is to go to the Lands Ministry which would take the matter to the interim cabinet but the final decision would rest with the president.

The other is to take the state to court over the issue.

Rabi Island is now home to several thousand Banaban people most of whom were born in Fiji and are Fiji citizens.