PATROL BOAT BASE SETBACK

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The Lofung Border and Patrol Boat Outpost site plan in the Shortland Islands
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BY JARED KOLI

With a few days to go for Ground-breaking ceremony, the proposed multi-million dollar border patrol boat base project is staring up a brick wall.

Accusations, court threats and warnings are mounting against FAMOA Trust Board over Lofung land (on which sits the site earmarked for the new patrol boat base).

FAMOA trust board is the body which the national government is liaising with over the project. FAMOA is supposedly the representative of all the landowners.

But, some landowning tribes are saying this is not so, and are warning government against dealing and making arrangements with FAMOA and its working committee.

The Saraba Clan/Group, which claims land rights on Lofung land, said the government’s arrangement with FAMOA “will be a disgrace, irresponsible and loss on part of the Government if the case that will be filed in the High Court be ruled not in favour of FAMOA Trust Board”.

“As with the Kome Clan/Group, we will also be filing a case in the High Court soon or amidst the period of the ground-breaking and when the work starts at the site,” Mr Brenden Maena says in a statement on behalf of Saraba Clan.

Mr Maena claims that the FAMOA Trust Board’s registration as a charitable trustee and the transfer of the registered land at Lofung in 2003 obtained by FAMOA Trust Board were done by unscrupulous means. 

“Further we will be filing a case to the court claiming that land or site below the high-water mark at Lofung, Shortland Islands as customary land and owned by Saraba and Kome Clans.

“Lastly, the Australian Government is cautioned of releasing the fund and for spending their taxpayers’ money on the project at Lofung where the land or site is still in dispute and that would cause disharmony of peace among the people of Shortland Islands,” he warns.

Earlier this week, Alisae Laore of another landowning group also threatened to challenge the FAMOA Trust Board in court for selling the 20 hectares at Lofung.

Laore said FAMOA Trust constitution states it has no right to sell or lease land to the government.

He said even the constitution of FAMOA Council of Chiefs allows provision in Part 4 and Part 6 to identify true landowners and return the land back to them.

“Why did the FAMOA Trust Board ignore its own constitution?” he asked.

As such, Laore said he will challenge the Board in court for allegation of fraud.

Furthermore, Laore said the Board’s move to sell the land to the government defies its policy to return all alienated land to the original landowners.

Laore provided a deed of sale agreement signed by his grandfather in 1900s that they are the true owners of the land.

He said a chief’s decision of FAMOA Council of Chiefs was reached in 1988 which decided that they have the ownership right over that land.

Local businessman and surviving founding father of FAMOA Trust George Taylor has also called on the Commissioner of Lands to revoke the Perpetual Estate (PE) title held by FAMOA Trust Board.

Taylor said the PE title held by FAMOA for the past 20 years for whatever reason was illegal.  

“If FAMOA has fixed term estate (FTE) then it is 100 correct they own the land. The PE title was held illegally by FAMOA. The government must revoke the PE title.

“We are very happy with the project, it is a national project, but we are not happy with what the Government is doing with FAMOA Trust Board and its working committee.

“Government knows very well that this is wrong, but why entertained FAMOA,” he said. 

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Police and Correctional Services, Karen Galokale earlier told Island Sun the current subject land is registered under FAMOA as legal Perpetual Estate holder and not a customary land.

But Taylor said the comments made by the PS were wrong and totally ignorant of this matter.

“You cannot talk from that chair to say FAMOA holds the PE title, you cannot process anything that is wrong, because the PE title with FAMOA is wrong.

“The Government have all the right with the project,” he said.  

Meanwhile, Chairman of the FAMOA Working Committee, Pellion Buare earlier said FAMOA still stands by its commitment to meet with the concerned parties after finalising all the arrangements with the national government. 

He maintained that FAMOA is the registered owner of Lofung land, which is the site for the project.

Meanwhile, Ground-breaking for the new outpost at Lofung has been set for June 23, 3021.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and Australia High Commissioner are expected to attend the historic groundbreaking ceremony.

The Australian Government is funding the multimillion-dollar Border and Patrol Boat Outpost project, which Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare jointly announced in Honiara on October 7, 2019.


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