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“This is a dream finally come true” was the message to Suva from the Fijian delegation that was present in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, for the announcement that Levuka – Fiji’s original capital – has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
When the announcement was made last night, there was euphoria in the ranks of the Fijian contingent, which was led by Fiji’s Permanent Representative to UNESCO and Ambassador to Belgium, Peceli Vocea.
Also present were the Chairman of the National Trust of Fiji, Robin Yarrow, Special Administrator for Levuka, Ratu Napolioni Masirewa, and the Director and staff of the Department of National Heritage, Culture and Arts.
Ambassador Vocea said the delegation wanted to warmly thank UNESCO, the World Heritage Centre and the World Heritage Committee for doing Fiji the honour of being inscripted on the List.
“The historical port town of Levuka now ranks side-by-side with the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal and the Sydney Opera House as one of the great heritage wonders of the world. It’s a moment of great pride for the people of Levuka and for every Fijian”, the Ambassador said.
Members of the delegation highlighted the fact that the decision by the World Heritage Committee members to list Levuka had been “unanimous and unequivocal”.
The nomination to list the town was made two years ago, 22 years after Fiji ratified the 1972 “Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage” in 1990.
The nomination was spearheaded by the Department of National Heritage, Culture and Arts under the Ministry for Education and included representatives of the Fiji Museum and National Trust of Fiji.
There was also broad-based support from the rest of Government, civil society groups, NGOs, academic institutions and individuals in Fiji and overseas.
To be listed, Levuka was required to meet two fundamental criteria:
(i) Levuka Port Town “exhibits an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design”;
(ii) Levuka Port Town also exhibits “an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history”.