The Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights recently conducted public consultations in Levuka on the Heritage Bill 2021.
According to the Chairperson of the Committee, Hon. Alvick Maharaj, collecting the views of the community is an integral part of Committee work, which is part of the parliamentary process.
“Levuka is listed as a World Heritage site and we wanted to meet as many people as possible to give their views in regards to this particular Bill.”
“Once this Bill becomes an Act, the people of Levuka will be immensely affected by the changes that are going to be brought forward. We need to domesticate the Convention that we had ratified back in 1972 to make it a modern law that suits our current practice,” Hon. Maharaj said.
66-year old Mahesh, the oldest barber in Levuka town, hoped that the views shared with the Committee will be considered.
“The Committee coming all the way to Levuka is beneficial for the Levuka people. The visit was fruitful and I hope that all the submissions will be listened to,” Mr Mahesh said.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Mr Kinman Fong, a proud owner of a heritage building in Levuka.
“In 1988, I opened the first al-carte restaurant in Levuka and back then, the rules for the heritage buildings were not as serious as what we heard in the presentations today.”
“I thank the Committee for coming to Levuka and I hope that everything discussed and presented will be implemented. In the past years, it seemed to be going in circles and hope that this time around, something will happen.”
The Director of Heritage, Mr Collin Yabaki, who was also present during the public consultations, was thankful that members of the public in Levuka came in numbers to present their views on the Bill.
“The visit was a fruitful one as we were able to gauge the views of the residents of Levuka. Once this Bill is passed, it will be a win-win situation for everyone i.e. the Department, other relevant agencies and the public as a whole,” Mr Yabaki said.
The Committee also visited some heritage sites around Levuka and saw for themselves the status of the buildings, some of which were partly destroyed by the recent natural disasters.
In the coming weeks, the Committee will be visiting other heritage sites around the country and hope to hear as many views as possible before presenting their final report to Parliament.
For the members of the public that wish to submit their views, please email the Committee secretariat on the following email address – firstname.lastname@example.org
A copy of the Bill can be accessed on the Parliament website – www.parliament.gov.fj/bills (Bill No. 3 of 2021).