A group of 28 families of Solomon Island decent want the Fiji Government to pay their passage to the land of their forefathers if they are forcibly evicted from the land that has been their home for over a century.The families, through a spokesman, have also expressed their disappointment with the Housing Authority, which recently issued them an eviction notice to allow for a housing project on the site at Namara, Tacirua near Suva.
A representative of the head of the community Josefa Selo said they had been told to vacate the land on January 19.
"They had given us 30 days notice and our time has expired but we want to make it clear that we will not move from the land we call ours," he said.
Selo said their ancestors had been living off the land for 106 years and is now home to 28 families.
"Our ancestors were brought to Fiji in the blackbirding process. It's better to say that they were brought to Fiji as slaves and we have made this community into our homes," he said.
He stressed that the community had been paying lease to the landowners and after the expiry of the lease the landowners had verbally stated that the land belonged to the community.
"We have been trying to get in touch with the Housing Authority board members to explain our situation. We had an appointment with Fiji Human Rights Commission but the Housing Authority people did not turn up at all," he said.
Selo said the community had taken their case to FHRC and they had proven to be quite supportive.
He stressed that if the government could not help the community then they should provide a way for the community to go back to the Solomon Islands.
Descendants of Solomon Islanders have made homes around the capital and other parts of Fiji, most given land to dwell on by indigenous Fijian landowners.
In early 2007, one such community living at Tamavua-i-Wai, near the Suva foreshore received a High Court verdict in their favour following a claim by the Seventh-day Adventist Church to force the islanders to vacate the land on which they had been living for 70 years.
The blackbirding era began in Fiji in 1864 when the first New Hebridean and Solomon Island labourers arrived in Fiji to work on cotton plantations.
Wikipedia reports that cotton had become a profitable business because of the cession of supplies from the United States because of the civil war.
The thousands of European planters who flocked to Fiji sought labour from the Melanesian islands because Fijians were not interested.
Most of the Melanesians were recruited by deceit, usually being enticed abroad ships with gifts and then locked up.
Their living and working conditions in Fiji were even worse than those suffered by the later Indian indentured labourers who arrived in Fiji from 1879.
Most of the Melanesians recruited were males and after the recruitment ended, those who chose to stay in Fiji, took Fijian wives and settled in areas around Suva.
Their descents still remain a distinct community but their language and culture cannot be distinguished from native Fijians.
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