53 years of unpaid use of the land for water

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Mataqali Tibitibi member, Suliasi Bakea during an interview. Picture: SERAFINA SILAITOGA

The only form of payment received by mataqali Tibitibi for the use of their land since 1970 was $12.

This was paid in weekly wages for Suliasi Bakea, 84, the oldest member of the mataqali who worked for Public Works Department to look after the catchment which they closed last week due to unpaid lease for the past 53 years.

He was the only one employed by PWD from the mataqali.

In an interview with Mr Bakea yesterday, he said that his weekly wages was $12.

“We received no other form of lease from the PWD that time and still no lease until today from Water Authority of Fiji,” he said.

“I remember back then in the 1970s, I was at home when a truck full of workers and a European man came, they drove straight to the site where the catchment sits now and started offloading the pipes.

“From there, they came down to my house and asked me who the landowners was and I told them it was us.”

Mr Bakea then asked them why the landowners consent was not considered.

“They told me I should be happy that the water supply will feed us and the whole of Wainikoro so I left it,” he said.

“But our children now want the lease paid because things are expensive now and we also have plans for our future generation.

“So Government has to start paying for the lease because there are plans to achieve.”

Mr Bakea said they met last week and agreed to close the catchment as pleas of the past 53 years had fallen in deaf ears.

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