Thursday, July 12, 2007


HER face lit up with a smile and there was a slight twitch of an eyebrow as she started to relate her story.
Sitting like a royal on her throne, Mela Naidu straightened her emerald green blouse and one could tell this was a woman of perfection.
Ms Naidu, as she is commonly known in Levuka, is the first woman to be the mayor of Levuka.
To add to her royal likeness she decided that her interview be done at the one and only town hall, which was built in 1898 in honour of Queen Victoria's 50 years anniversary on the British throne.
It still houses most of Levuka's municipal offices including the mayor's.
She might not be queen of the old capital but she is respected by all who have made Levuka their home.
She is respected for her role in developing Levuka.
Ms Naidu comes from Waibasaga Village in Naitasiri but for the past 10 years has lived in Levuka.
She has been mayor for 10 months but was a town councillor before that.
"It has not been smooth sailing for us," she said.
"We have endured a lot of challenges and we have been able to tackle them with the assistance of the people of Levuka."
Even though she did not grow up in the old capital, she says she is now at home in Levuka.
She did not imagine for one bit that she would become mayor of a town, let alone Levuka on Ovalau.
She gave a smile as she recalled the time she came to Levuka on a visit with her sister.
It was on that trip that she met Manasa Naidu, the man she is now married to. It was as if destiny brought her to Levuka.
They have three children, two at school in Levuka and the oldest at FIT in Suva.
"Something about this place makes you fall in love with it. I cannot express how much I like this place because it is so laid-back and relaxing.
"The sights around town are a perfect setting of living peacefully in Fiji.
"Despite all that our country has been through, Levuka is still the same, nothing has changed.
"One thing about Levuka is that most people know each other and everyone is always ready to lend a helping hand.
"We are all related and there is always someone to fall back to when faced by a problem.
"This is something I admire about this town our race relations is something visitors from other parts of the world and even locals can only marvel at."
She said this was something people of Levuka would always be proud of.
Ms Naidu said she was humbled to be appointed mayor because her role was one that catered for all citizens of Levuka.
"I would not say it is hard but rather challenging to be able to deliver the goods to people of Levuka.
"So far, we are working together to lift the image of our town and it has improved.
"You only have to come here to see it.
"Levuka is a litter-free town.
"This was the initiative of the council and has really gone down well with the people.
"The response we received was great but this is not the end of the plans we have for our lovely town.
"We need to improve on some areas."
So the next time you happen to travel to the old capital, spare a thought for Mela Naidu, the first woman to be Levuka's first citizen, all the way from Naitasiri.