The future of a Seventh-day Adventist college in Fiji is uncertain after a court ruled this month that indigenous people can now deny the lease of their land.
The Suva High Court confirmed that Fulton College in Tailevu -- about 50 kilometers northeast of Fiji's capital, Suva -- is built on an indigenous reserve. Native reserve land is set aside in Fiji for exclusive use by indigenous people and can only be leased by others if first de-reserved.
The Adventist Church in Fiji has leased the 100-acre property from the Native Land Trust Board (NLTB) since Fulton College was established in 1940. The land was reclassified as a native reserve in 1983. The NLTB took the matter to court two years ago when the church's 30-year lease was up for renewal.
Now church leaders in the region are examining three options: renegotiate with the landowners for the lease of the land, relocate the college or cease operations.
Waisea Vuniwa, secretary of the Adventist Church's Trans-Pacific region in the South Pacific, says discussions are underway to ensure that Fulton College is given adequate time to decide its future and reorganize. Church leaders in Fiji anticipate that the school will be allowed to operate at its current location until a decision is finalized.
"We have confidence that God is still in control and believe that He will continue to bless and lead us in the direction we need to take for the school," Vuniwa said.
Fulton College offers high school and university level classes. About 200 students and 50 staff live on campus.
The college also leases 300 nearby acres of agricultural land that is not under dispute.