Village demands $9 million compensation from government

January 5, 2024 6:45 am

Viria Water Treatment Plant

The Village of Viria in Naitasiri has outlined three critical demands, including seeking $9 million, a consistent water supply for five villages and the rehabilitation of roads.

In an exclusive interview with FBC News, the landowners expressed support for the Viria Water Treatment Plant project, shedding light on their purported accord with the FijiFirst government in 2019, subsequently reaffirmed by the Coalition government last year.

Vunivalu Ratu Joseva Malobitu claims that despite pledges made during a village consultation attended by Minister for Public Works Ro Filipe Tuisawau, Attorney-General Siromi Turaga and other government officials, the awaited government response remains elusive.

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Vunivalu Ratu Joseva Malobitu

The demands were documented by officials and coupled with promises of fulfilment, claims Ratu Joseva, emphasizing the village’s commitment to its requisites.

While acknowledging the government’s ownership of the land hosting the water treatment plant, Ratu Joseva stresses the village’s proprietary stake in the adjacent fishing grounds.

“We get our seafood from where the water treatment plant is situated, and one of the main sources is there, but it has been affected because the project is situated in the same area.”

Ratu Joseva says this aligns with the Coalition government’s rhetoric of supporting indigenous communities and ensuring equitable recompense for resource utilization.

“The government has always preached about eliminating poverty, especially for iTaukei communities. The need to safeguard our land and fishing grounds has also been emphasized, and we need the government to show action.”

The Viria chief rebuffs the government’s assertions of unresolved issues with landowners, citing clear demands and accusing the Coalition government of falling short on its commitment to support iTaukei villages.

Viria Village

Amidst these contentions, Ratu Joseva, while demanding redress for future generations, paradoxically blesses the project’s imminent completion.

“The request to build the water treatment plant has been given, and this is a very small request from the village for the government to give us royalty.”

In response, Minister Ro Filipe acknowledges the need for development frameworks and funding for indigenous resource owners like the Vanua of Viria.

However, he rebuffs any implicit agreement on compensation demands, emphasizing the complexity of the issues and the necessity for a thorough legal analysis.

As discussions persist, Ro Filipe maintains a cautious stance within established legal frameworks.