Malaita province land summit opens

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Premier Peter Ramohia addresses participants at the Malaita Land Summit in Auki on 13 November 2018. Photo by Tomoko Kashiwazaki/UNDP
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Premier Peter Ramohia addresses participants at the Malaita Land Summit in Auki on 13 November 2018. Photo by Tomoko Kashiwazaki/UNDP

IN an effort to examine land-related issues in Malaita province and potential solutions, nearly 300 representatives from across the province, including chiefs, women and youth, are gathered in Auki for a land reform summit.

The difficulty of registering customary land is considered a threat to sustainable peace and development in Malaita, as about 90 percent of land acquisitions for government purposes are not completed.

The three-day summit will consider how land in the province can be allocated for development and managed to ensure that communal ownership of customary land is recognised.

Alienated land, resettlement of Malaitans affected by climate change and attracting foreign investment are other key topics.

Peter Ramohia, Malaita Province Premier, said the summit is a step towards addressing longstanding land issues in the province.

“The introduced law of land alienation continues to permanently take away our customary land, and such dispossession remains as a fundamental cause for land dispute and disagreement, disunity and corruption in our beloved nation.

“This country must fix these fundamental causes — therefore, I look forward to a detailed and fruitful discussion.”

The land summit, organised by the Malaita provincial government and the Ministry of National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace in partnership with the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (UNPBF) project, is expected to culminate in a communique that outlines resolutions on various land issues.

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Participants listen to opening remarks at the Malaita Land Summit in Auki on 13 November 2018. Photos by Merinda Valley/UNDP

The communique will be presented to the provincial government for consideration by the Malaita Provincial Assembly and Malaita members of Parliament.

A draft project proposal outlining a strategy and timeframe for implementing resolutions will follow.

In her remarks at the opening today, UNDP Solomon Islands Country Manager Azusa Kubota emphasised the importance of land in accelerating economic growth.

“History has taught us that peace cannot be achieved without development. Similarly, development cannot be attained without peace,” Ms Kubota said.

“So how do we ensure development takes place while fully respecting people’s rights to land and customs?”

Kubota encouraged participants to tackle those types of questions to help the province and the country overall progress based on collective interests.

“We fully appreciate that land issues are complex matters that cannot be resolved during one summit. However, I hope it will help trigger a chain of action towards solutions.”

–UNDP PRESS

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