Stewardship Of The Earth- Qarase's last work
BY Ilaitia Turagabeci
ONE of Laisenia Qarase’s last deed on Earth was upholding one of the principles of the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma that he served.
Fiji’s sixth prime minister was working on a conservation project in waters off Mavana Village where he was laid to rest on April 29, 2020.
Qarase, who was the chair of the church’s business arm – Lako Yani Vou – had been at Mavana about three weeks before his death in Suva on April 21, to ensure that the conservation project got under way.
He was accompanied by Conservation International, Lau Seascape chairman and conservationist, Na Turaga na Tui Dravuwalu, na Roko Sau, Josefa Cinavilakeba, to inspect the area on Sobu (Duff) Reef, where turtles come to breed from all over the Pacific.
Mr Cinavilakeba told Methodist Communications that they had done a research study of the sandy island on the reef and found hundreds of turtle nests.
“We found no male turtles but only female turtles that come to this place, making it a very unique breeding ground,” he said, adding it was part of Lau Seascape’s efforts to conserve the yaubula (natural resources) of Lau.
“We did our research and found out that the area belonged to the Tui Kobuca so we decided to take the scientific findings to him and for him to use his position as head of the vanua to make a decision.”
He said Qarase agreed wholeheartedly and gave it a spiritual angle to turn the area into a sanctuary for future generations.
“We decided that the owner would make it a taboo area that people would respect. If the taboo was done by the government, the deterrent of the law would not be as effective as a taboo placed by the vanua.”
Qarase had gone to Mavana to finalise plans before he died.
He was forced to return to Suva when the coronavirus pandemic broke out.
Roko Sau said Qarase agreed that the conservation plan would benefit the vanua more as it would be a revenue-making tourist attraction.
“it’s important that the church and the vanua work together to implement conservation,” he said.
“Qarase agreed that raising children to know their roles through the vanua and the church would make them more responsible. If they decide to go into politics late, they are built on a good foundation and that when they returns to the vanua, their environment will still be as they left it to be.”
The 12th pillar of the church is based on mankind’s role to the planet we live on.
It reads: “Mankind is part of the world we live in. The human-centeredness of our physical and economic developments have destroyed other creation (Genesis 1:26). That our rulership and dominionship over the world of creation can be handled responsibly and justly only when we, mankind, are able to conform to the image of God. The image of God is God’s law and widom in a person that transforms him or her to become responsible to the world of creation.”
“Their well-being is His responsibility given by the creation at the time of creation to be the responsible stewards of God’s creation.”
Mr Qarase’s herald, Mesake Koroi said Qarase led by example and advocated for responsible farming practices at Mavana, where he had a large farm of yams.
Mr Koroi said the fallen former prime minister, who has Jewish links through his maternal links to Avea, across from Mavana, always thought of the underpriviledged and the widows when harvesting his crop.
Roko Sau said finalisation of the conservation plan has been deferred to a later and heads of tikina across Lau had endorsed the Lau Seascape’s efforts to protect their environment and conservation plans.
“It’s important that the base of our upbringing of children is set right through the vanua and the church. When that is right, we will mould a future generation that understands the world better and is responsible towards it.”
The Roko Sau said the model of the church and the vanua in the development of the country was crucial.
He said Qarase had backed the idea of a Trust for Lau with the aim of showcasing its natural resources.