By EDDIE OSIFELO
THE Fotana tribe from Ward 14 on East Fataleka, Malaita province has praised the government for acquiring 600 hectares of their customary land in the past.
The land acquisition was part of the process to acquire 10,250 hectares of customary land on both East Kwara’ae and East Fataleka earmarked for the “failed” Auluta Palm Oil project.
The landowners of both regions have received their Perpetual Estate Titles from Ministry of Lands in 2012 after the completion of land recording, surveying and registration on 6,875 hectares were registered to them.
Co-chair of Fotana voluntarily team, Allan Siau said they are offering their registered land to the government to develop the third International Airport and Agro Tourism Investment.
Siau said despite people viewing the Auluta Palm oil as a “failed” project, he said it is a blessing to them because they will use the registered land for another national development to help their people.
He said despite Malaita Province not willing to work with the National Government due to its stance against Peoples Republic of China (PRC) on religion and ideology grounds, his people are willing to offer their land for development to address pressing economic issues.
His team had already handed their concept plan to Deputy Prime Minister Manasseh Maelanga recently.
This is to allow responsible ministries like the Ministry of Communication and Aviation and Ministry of Infrastructure Development and Ministry of Tourism to carry out a feasibility study on the land.
Maelanga was happy to see the initiative offered by the Fotana Tribe.
He assured the team to take up the concept plan in Cabinet for discussions, so that relevant ministries can pursue the feasibility study on the land.
According to Solomon Times, the Auluta Basin concept was first drawn up in 1977 by the local area council and then endorsed by the Malaita Provincial Government in 1989.
Following the ethnic conflict from 1998-2003, the project was endorsed in the Townsville Peace Agreement as vital for rehabilitation and as a means of promoting economic development on Malaita.
The majority of migrant workers in the palm oil plantations on Guadalcanal at the time of the conflict, were from Malaita and had been displaced.
In 2007, the Auluta Basin Oil Palm Project was formally launched and in 2009 a ground breaking ceremony was staged along with the first landowners congress.
However, the project failed to get off the ground due to continuous blame on land disputes and government failure to build needed infrastructures and secure investors.