NEW village laws introduced by a group of village heads in the Northern Division restrict people from wearing shoes, women growing long hair and wearing shorts and limit freedom of clothing and leisure activities.
The 200 villagers of Nukubalavu in Savusavu have to take off their shoes when entering the village boundary and walk barefoot to their homes. This rule also applies to visitors.
Health authorities, however, have expressed concern, saying walking barefoot could expose villagers to diseases such as leptospirosis. The Cakaudrove divisional health office in Savusavu said it would act to protect villagers from exposure to health risks.
Ministry of Health permanent secretary Dr Salanieta Saketa said the ministry would investigate before making a statement on the issue.
Roko Tui Cakaudrove Ro Aca Mataitini was away in Taveuni but the provincial office said that laws decided by the villagers and their chiefs were entirely up to them and applicable only in the village boundary. On hairstyles and banishment of villagers for marijuana and homebrew breach, the office referred all queries to Ro Aca.
All women and children with long hair have cut and keep their hair short.
The decision of the village elders follows last year's Cakaudrove provincial council meeting where they were asked to protect the Fijian culture from modernisation.
Village headman Maciu Baleidaku confirmed that new rules have been put in place restricting villagers from certain freedoms of clothing and leisure activities.
Anyone caught with marijuana or drinking homebrew in the village boundary would be banished, he said.
He said Savusavu chief Tui Nasavusavu Ratu Suliano Naulu and tribal heads of the village have been engaged in meetings on the new law the past two weeks. Mr Baleidaku said the chiefs agreed to introduce the laws after the two-week meeting.
He said concerns were raised about how villagers and visitors continued to show a lack of respect for Fijian culture and traditions through disrespectful dressing and unnecessary loud noise in the villages.
Men who spend long hours drinking yaqona have been told cut down and spend time with their families.
The new laws, Mr Baleidaku said, would be put submitted to the police and the Cakaudrove provincial office in Savusavu.
Mr Baleidaku said village police officers had been chosen to make sure rules were followed. He said villagers had been informed and accepted the decision.