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Lau 'in the dark'

Avinesh Gopal
Friday, July 04, 2014

THE Lau Provincial Council is unaware of any proposal by Tonga to give Fiji the Minerva Reef in exchange for the Lau Group.

But it believes the exchange is something that is very difficult to happen if the proposal is made to Fiji by Tonga.

In an interview, Tonga's Lands Minister Lord Ma'afu told the Tonga Daily News that he will make a proposal to Fiji that Tonga gets the Lau Group in exchange for Minerva Reef.

Council spokesman Joeli Nagera yesterday said the issue surrounding Minerva Reef was being negotiated at the government level.

"We can't say anything about the transfer issue because it hasn't been discussed at our provincial council meetings," Mr Nagera said.

"It is very difficult. We have the Lau Provincial Council and if anything comes up, then it has to be through a council resolution.

"But so far, we don't know anything about it. Lord Ma'afu may have said that just off the record but the Lau Group can't be exchanged just like that."

Lord Ma'afu, the Noble of Vaini on Tongatapu, said the row between Fiji and Tonga over the ownership of Minerva Reef was not good for relations.

"We are closely related and our history dates back a long, long time. So in good faith I will propose to the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Fiji that they can have Minerva Reef and we get Lau in return," he had said.

"We have a lot of our own people with Lauan ancestry and a lot of Lauans with Tongan ancestry," said Lord Ma'afu, who is named after Ma'afu — a Tongan prince who played a key role in the early part of Fiji's history.

Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Amena Yauvoli said on Wednesday night the ministry would just have to wait for the Tongan Government's proposal.

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