BY GEORGINA KEKEA
THE people of Guadalcanal has been urged to respect land that does not belong to them anymore. Paramount Chief of Ghaubata, Chief John Richard Saketala made this statement when asked by Island Sun newspaper on the issue of RIPEL lands on Guadalcanal.
Chief Saketala said whilst he understands that the priority for RIPEL is for the indigenous people of Guadalcanal, that doesn’t mean that descendants of the landowning groups that sold the land in the first place have the right to reclaim the lands by settling on them illegally.
Chief Saketala says even descendants of indigenous landowners must respect the agreement made by their ancestors in the first place.
“You cannot just come and reclaim the land as if it were your own. Our forefathers have sold the land in a manner and price that was respected during their time. During their time the decision made by our ancestors was made in good faith and what they believe was probably the best at that time. We must respect what had transpired before us and must uphold our dignity”, Chief Saketala says.
“Even for us as original landowners, if we want our land to come back to us, we must acquire it the right way and not just reclaim the lands anyhow we want”.
Chief Saketala says even as a landowner, he had bought the land (alongside eastern side of Alligator creek) which he now settles on and have the title to.
He says the lease agreement signed between the parties before our time was for the land to be returned as ‘crown land’ when the lease lapses. Therefore he says any land not sold by RIPEL before the agreement lapse should go back to the government. However he says whatever is between the Provincial Government, National government and RIPEL is none of his business.
‘I understand the Guadalcanal provincial government has been working with RIPEL and priority should be given to indigenous Guadalcanal people. Whoever from Guadalcanal has the finances to pay for a plot of land, by all means go ahead! What shouldn’t be encouraged is for us to go back and settle on these lands as if nothing has happened”, he said.
The issue of land on Guadalcanal is a sensitive one where even registered land being abandoned by holders from different provinces including Guadalcanalese during the ethnic crisis had been reclaimed by the so called customary landowners.