Sunday, December 18, 2016

Jaduram gives a nice history of Labasa

The town area of Labasa is flood-prone and just grew without real planning. On the other side of the river are decent hills and that land was mainly taken up by the sugar mill.  In the earlier days Vuo was the main development at Malau where Fiji Forest later established a mill. (Picture wouldn't come through.)
Today story from the Fiji Times

Jaduram recounts the establishment

Ruci Vakamino
Monday, December 19, 2016
THE first government station in Macuata was built at Vuo Village in the early 1900s.
The hospital and the agriculture office was established in the area and its old foundation with pieces of concrete blocks and steps leading to the hospital remains in the heart of the village today.
Labasa is now home to 27,949 people according to the census held in 2007 and with its town being the biggest on Vanua Levu, people ought to know how it was established or to be exact, why it was established.
For 60-year-old Vuo villager, Losevati Lutulevu, the history of the first two government establishments in Labasa are vividly remembered but she shared stories passed down to the villagers by their parents and grandparents.
"The first hospital was built here because of the port in Malau. Also because it was home to the chiefly Qomate family who used to reside here by the beach," she said.
"I believe the hospital was moved to where it is today because the town was established there.
"The original landowners of the place where part of the Labasa town now sits, from the marina and the land where Subrail Park is, asked our elders for a piece of land in Vuo for them to move to since the town was being built on their land.
"The landowner was Talica Sukuna. The piece of land where the old Labasa Hospital and the Agriculture Station once stood were given to them as well," Ms Lutulevu said.
Talica Sukuna's great-grandson, Isireli Boleibau now lives with his wife in a house that is built on top of the foundation of the old hospital.
"All our elders have been laid to rest. There are only five of us left now," Mr Boleibau said.
"At first our elders back then had no place to live when the town was being built. So they came to an agreement with the landowners of Vuo and a piece of land was given to my family," he said.
Labasa businessman, Paul Jaduram who is the grandson of the pioneers of Labasa Town recounts the establishment of the Town to this newspaper.
According to Mr Jaduram, the first European settlers landed in Malau and moved up to where Vuo Village is now. The settlers then pitched their tents there while they were developing the area and established their trade in cotton wool.
Vuo Village used to be a cotton field and the workers were from Mali Island because it was close to Vuo and during that time, America used to import cotton from the cotton fields in Vuo.
"During the Civil War in America which was from 1861 to 1865, there was no demand for cotton. So the settlers thought of exploring further inland hoping to see something where they could do their trading," Mr Jaduram said.
The settlers then found flat land in Vunivau, opposite All Saints Secondary School and also in Vunika.
"The tramline that runs through Vunivau, where the flat land is, that's where the coolie line was. This I know for a fact. That was the coolie line. That's when the girmitya came. That's where my grandmother was," Mr Jaduram said.
"The settlers chose Vaturekuka as their fort because it's perched on a hill and it allowed them the opportunity to be on the lookout in case of invasion by the natives.
"From there they could also see if the girmitya were working or not in the fields.
"Later on of course they built the post office, police station, magistrates' court, all licensing authorities. They were all up in Vaturekuka. That was in the late 1930s.
"We used to go up there with our bicycles and pay for our bicycle licence, dog licence, and radio licence," he said.
According to Mr Jaduram, when more whites started coming in, they built Morris Hedstrom in Vulovi, which is opposite All Saints Secondary School.
"They built it there because it was closer to where their trade was, in Vaturekuka, the fort," he said.
"Around the 1940s, the market used to be where the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) boiler is. They built it there because the expatriates were working at the mill and either lived at the FSC compound or in Vaturekuka. They had everything on the other side of the Labasa Bridge (Vaturekuka side).
Going back to Mr Jaduram's maternal grandparents, his grandmother, Bachoni Jagannath who was originally from Calcutta in India was brought to Fiji on the Leonidas with her parents when she was only 11 years old as girmitya.
Mr Jaduram's grandfather, Jagannath and his brother Nanhu were also brought to Fiji when they were in their teens as girmitya.
Mr Jagannath and Mrs Jagannath got married soon after when Mrs Jagannath was 13 years old.
"My grandparent moved to where the town is now, which is on the other side of Vaturekuka," Mr Jaduram said.
Mr Jaduram's grandfather bought property on the other side of the Labasa bridge around 1930s where the town is located now.
Now this is the interesting part. According to Mr Jaduram, back in the day the locals were not allowed to enter the MH Supermarket in Vulovi because it was only for the whites.
Seeing this, Mr Jaduram's grandfather, Jagannath and his brother Nanhu, felt the need to service the other race (locals) apart from the whites.
Mr Jagannath and his brother Nanhu started their company in the 1930s and named it "Jagannath, Nanhu and Company".
The first building they built was the general merchant store which is where the Bargain Box outlet (opposite RB Patel) is now. A wide variety of things were sold at the store and then they built the Majestic Theatre before expanding their company and opening up other stores and businesses some of which were in the form of shacks at the time.
"Nanhu's house was where the Amrit Arcade now sits whereas my grandfather's house was situated where RB Patel is now," Mr Jaduram said.
"My grandfather had a jetty at the back. He used to get all his goods from Suva on his boat and anchor it at the jetty and then the goods were transferred to a cart pulled by bullocks.
"That was how they serviced the other part of the community," he said.
Mr Jaduram's father, Seth Jaduram was brought to Fiji towards the end of the girmit system. He was taken to Taveuni before he moved to Labasa whereas his mother was born in Fiji.
Mr Jaduram's mother, Jagwanti Wati was the only child of Mr and Mrs Jagannath.
According to Mr Jaduram, the late Seth Jaduram and Jagwanti Wati got married somewhere between 1923-1924 and had 13 children.
Since Mr Jaduram's mother was the only child, her parents sold off most of their properties which had blossomed over the years to Indians who were coming in from India.
When Mr Jaduram's parents got married, Mr Jaduram's father who was already managing his own business, took over "Jagannath, Nanhu and Company" and renamed it "Jagannath, Nanhu & Jaduram Ltd" in 1968. He then rebuilt the old shacks into what they are now.
"We used to supply electricity to the Post Office which was in Vaturekuka. After that the buildings on the other side of town (Vaturekuka side) were moved to where the town is today."
The establishment of the Labasa Town is all thanks to the pioneers, Mr and Mrs Jagannath who saved every penny they earned while working as girmitya to service the local community.
The Jaduram family now own a lot of properties here in Labasa and elsewhere.

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