Ministry of Lands under attack

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The land in the centre of controversy, the strip between the Rove Children’s Park and the RSIPF Memorial garden
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BY GEORGINA KEKEA

THE Ministry of Lands, Housing and Survey (MLHS) is under attack by a prominent citizen for negligence of duty. Mr Leslie Teama has lashed out at the lands ministry for forfeiture of his land title. The land in question is at Rove next to Children’s Park.

In a phone interview with Island Sun, Teama said he didn’t know about the forfeiture of his land title. He said he was quite shocked to hear that he no longer has the title to the said land.

He said he only heard about it through the grapevine and though he’d written twice to the commissioner of lands last month, there was no mention of the forfeiture to him.

However a staff from MLHS claims that issuance of notice was already done after the Land Board agreed to forfeit the land in 2016.

The Ministry staff told Island Sun that notice was sent to the postal address provided by Teama and whether he received it or not, that is of no concern to them. The staff said it is a person’s responsibility to make sure any changes of this sort be made known to them.

“Should Mr Teama has his postal address changed, he should have informed the Ministry of the said change so that future correspondences will be delivered to the correct address. The point for the Lands Ministry is that notice of forfeiture was done accordingly. Mr Teama should have provided us with his new postal address when he left NPF.”

But, Teama said what MLHS should have done was to see him in person or after sending the notice through post, should have followed through with other means to make sure that he received the notice.

“Their system is old. They should have delivered the letter to me and make sure I sign off. This is to make sure that I receive it.”

The postal address which the lands ministry know was one he provided years ago when he was with the National Provident Fund (NPF).

Teama said though he no longer works with NPF, they usually make sure he receive his mails from their postage.

“I’ve spent the whole day to find the notification but there is no trace of a letter from the Ministry of Lands. I am not happy. There is no record and I am still searching for the said notification,” Teama said.

Island Sun understands that it was on November 17, 2016, that the Land Board met and agreed to forfeit the land with Parcel number 191-01 1-0058. The reason for forfeiture was because it had been left idle and not developed for a long time.

But, Teama said he has his reasons as to why the land was left idle.

“In actual fact, it wasn’t left idle as they have claimed. They should at least have the courtesy to call me and ask me what I have planned for my land. They shouldn’t force me to give up what is my constitutional right,” he fumed.

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“I have my building plan for small commercial activities which I am taking up to the Town and Country planning board before all these came out,” he said.

Teama said that it was only after he had started undergoing development activities at the site that he heard he no longer has title to the land. Instead he was advised by a senior staff at the Ministry of Lands to stop work since he no longer owns the land.

Teama said upon receiving that information, he went further to question senior staff from the lands ministry the reason for forfeiture. He said the reason they gave was different to what was stated by the Land Board.

He said they told him that the reason of forfeiture was in response to an application lodged by one powerful Minister of the Crown because he has a personal interest in the land.

Island Sun understands that the Land Board in their meeting in November 2016 had agreed for the forfeiture because they said it is a prime spot or good area for public purposes and the government can do something better about it. The children’s park is adjacent to the eastside, and the Police Memorial Park is adjacent to the west site’ It could be converted into a park joining the children’s park and the police memorial.

Teama however said, that is ‘horse story’.

“The Minister of the Crown has vested interest in the land and the forfeiture was not done because of public interest, it was done purely because of the Minister’s personal interest in the land.”

When asked if he had considered the interest of the public to develop the area for recreational activities for families and children, Teama said that he was there first.

“Whoever is interested, should have had the courtesy to only ask me instead of applying to the Lands Ministry for a land that was already in somebody’s name.”

Teama said according to standard procedure, assessment on any land said to be under-developed should have been done first before a forfeiture can be warrantied.

“I am thinking strongly to file a legal case mainly for a judicial review to go through this process which I feel is unfair.”

“The notice process is unfair and I wasn’t given the chance to make an appeal.”

Teama was recently progressing with development activities on the land when he was advised to stop.

Island Sun understands that the land in question was before the Land Board meeting on November 17, 2016 following a request for private allocation.

It was from that meeting that board approved the forfeiture of Parcel number 191-01 1-0058 and also refused the allocation on public interest to reserve the land for public use.

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