New patrol boat outpost land owners not happy with Gov’t
BY JARED KOLI
With ground-breaking to be held soon, a customary landowning group of the soon-to-be built patrol boat base at Lofung in Shortland Islands have expressed their disappointment on why they were left out on ongoing consultations and negotiations over the national project.
Spokesperson, Alisae Laore said they were part of the first and second consultations where a resolution was reached September last year, but now the national government only deals with the FAMOA Trust Board (FTB), leaving them out.
Mr Laore said since then, FAMOA has never consulted them on what is going on, and they are totally left out. Laore adds, FAMOA working group and the national government recently signed another resolution this year but they were left out.
“We are not happy with the government because it only deals with FAMOA. FAMOA is just an association, and those trustees are trustees for us, but they have never consulted us on what is going on,” Laore said.
He said at the start they (landowners) passed three resolutions in Shortland Islands and submitted it to the Cabinet which paved a way for the negotiation of the project to start.
Laore emphasised that the government must now include them in current negotiations with FAMOA because they are the rightful customary land owners.
“A chief’s decision of Famoa Council of Chiefs was reached in 1988 which decides that we have the ownership right over that land. Although the High Court does not recognise this decision, customarily we still claim ownership right over the land,” said Laore.
He said the Lands and Title Act also states that all customary lands must go back to the original land owners.
Laore said although FAMOA is a legal entity, why did it include landowners in the selling of World War II relics at Balalae and left them out on this project.
FAMOA signed with Dominic Bakele as land owner in the case of Balalae where they have sold World War II relics, everything was written in the agreement.
“Why Famoa and government not do the same to us because they have set a precedence on the case of Balalae. It must also include us on this project,” he reiterated.
He said FAMOA is trying to take away their land ownership right.
Laore also wants landowners to benefit from spill over effects of the project such as involvement in ground work and construction of the patrol boat outpost.
“Currently, there are people from other provinces that are involve in the current work, and we the land owners feel that we were totally left out,” he said.
In response to this, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Police and Correctional Services, Karen Galokale said 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.
She said work is yet to commence on the ground. Tender and bidding process is yet to be done.
Queries sent to the FAMOA working group went unanswered before this paper went to print last night. However, Island Sun is seeking comments from FAMOA working group in Honiara.
FAMOA is an acronym for three regions within the Shortland Islands group.