By EDDIE OSIFELO
THE original landowners of Lofung in the Shortland Islands plan to challenge the FAMOA Trust Board in court for selling the 20 hectares land for the Border and Patrol Boat Outpost.
Spokesperson, Alisae Laore told Island Sun yesterday this is in response to them having been left out of consultations with the national government regarding this development prospect.
Laore said the FAMOA Trust constitution states it has no right to sell or lease land to the government.
He said even the constitution of FAMOA Council of Chiefs allows provision in Part 4 and Part 6 to identify true landowners and return the land back to them.
“Why did the FAMOA Trust Board ignore its own constitution?” he asked.
As such, Laore said he will challenge the Board in court for allegation of fraud.
Furthermore, Laore said the Board’s move to sell the land to the government defies its policy to return all alienated land to the original landowners.
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Police and Correctional Services, Karen Galokale earlier said the current subject land is registered under FAMOA as legal Perpetual Estate holder and not a customary land.
“Hence, Government deals with the right title holders, that is, FAMOA Trust Board. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was executed with FAMOA last year and a provision of the MOU states that any land issues with customary land owners will be dealt directly with FAMOA,” Ms Galokale said.
She said according to FAMOA Constitution, FAMOA represents all the customary landowners through their respective chiefs hence locals are not left out as claimed and the Government expects FAMOA to deal with the communities directly.
However, Laore provides a deed of sale agreement signed by his grandfather in 1900s that they are the true owner of the land.
He said a chief’s decision of FAMOA Council of Chiefs was reached in 1988 which decided that they have the ownership right over that land.
Laore said “although the High Court does not recognise this decision, customarily we still claim ownership right over the land”.
Chairman of the FAMOA Working Committee, Pellion Buare earlier said FAMOA is not just an association.
He said FAMOA is a Trust Board, it is actually the registered owner of Lofung land, which is the site for the project.
“FAMOA, however, still stands by its commitment to meet with the concerned parties after finalising all the arrangement with SIG,” he said.
The ground breaking ceremony for the proposed development is set for Wednesday next week.
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and Australia High Commissioner are expected to attend the ceremony.
PS Galokale said tender and bidding process for the new patrol boat base is yet to be done, and work is yet to commence on the ground.
The new patrol boat outpost project will be built with support from the Government of Australia.