BY IRWIN ANGIKI
Landowners of Afio, Small Malaita, have clarified their issue published earlier this week as not being political in nature.
This is in response to public perception that their issue, published by Island Sun on Wednesday this week, was an attempt to tarnish Premier Daniel Suidani’s leadership amid Malaita province’s political turmoil.
Speaking to Island Sun yesterday, Peter Iroka, deputy chairman of TOLOA Trustboard and primary landowner of Afio land, said on the contrary they support Premier Suidani and what he is doing for Malaita province.
Iroka explains, despite the timing of their media article, they had brought this issue to the media in light of Suidani’s announcement of a planned trip to South Malaita.
Suidani had uttered this when addressing public upon his return to Auki Monday last week.
“The timing is unfortunate that we raise our issue in the media when Malaita provincial government is facing political turmoil with the non-executives.
“But, to be clear, we brought our issue to the media in response to Premier Suidani’s announcement that he would be visiting Afio soon for awareness,” Iroka says.
Iroka pointed out this would be Premier Suidani’s first-ever visit to Afio since coming into power, and would be an opportune time to meet him face to face and discuss their outstanding issue of Afio’s land title.
He adds that getting the premier’s attention has been difficult, leaving them with the media option.
“From our engagement with Premier Suidani through the media, the incumbent now knows what we the landowners of Afio will be anticipating as the main agenda should he come and meet with us.
“Regarding the politics of Malaita province, we the landowners of Afio fully support and back Premier Suidani. In fact, we wish that the MPA for ward 23 joins Premier Suidani and MARA government. And, we look forward to hearing what Premier Suidani has to say in his awareness tour to us in South Malaita.
“But that is another matter. Our concern which was published on Wednesday this week regarding our desire to have the perpetual estate land title over Afio land, is totally different from politics. Some members of public might think that we trying to tarnish Premier Suidani due to the timing of our article’s publication, but no.
“Let me make it clear now that we the landowners of Afio land support Premier Suidani. We urge our MPA of ward 23 to join MARA government.
“Our issue is we want Premier Suidani to give us the PE title, and in his planned trip to Afio, we will want to discuss this with him,” Iroka stressed.
On Wednesday this week, Island Sun published this issue in the article titled ‘LOs threaten to boycott Suidani’s trip to Afio’. In it, Iroka, on behalf of Talahanea Original Land and Resource Owners Association (TOLOA) called on Premier Suidani to hand over the PE land title over Afio land, which the province has possession of, back to the landowners.
Premier Suidani, in response, had welcomed the landowners’ concerns, explaining that any handover of the title now will not be possible.
Suidani explains that as a responsible premier, he is not sure and is yet to fully understand this issue, therefore, cannot sign off on any land title transfer document.
He told Island Sun that this issue of Afio land title is “something that is for us to discuss together and move forward with” with the landowners.
“When the Afio landowners approached me with land transfer documents to sign, I refused simply because I had no idea or understanding of that matter.
“Though I am premier, I cannot just issue or hand over properties left and right without knowledge of the Malaita provincial assembly, or the matter being well understood by all stakeholders, which includes MARA government, the people and landowners, and the provincial administration.”
Premier Suidani is planning to travel to South Malaita to hold an awareness tour there.
No date has been announced for this trip yet.
Suidani could not be reached for comments yesterday.