BY LYNTON AARON FILIA
THE Nende/Santa Cruz indigenous landowners of Nea/Noole ward 10 have refuted the MOU allowing access to customary land for bauxite prospecting on Nende which was signed on April 27, 2018.
The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by representatives of the prospecting objecting party (POP), prospecting consenting party (PCP), representative of Eight South Investment Limited (ESIL), and Premier for Temotu province.
It was witnessed by MPA Nevenema ward seven, MPA Lata/Luova ward eight, MPA Graciosa Bay ward nine and MPA for Temotu Neo ward 17.
However, the landowners who claim indigenous landownership over the tenement say they do not recognise the MOU.
“We treat it as their own piece of paper with no value to us, and it has no mandate and is not binding and important to us indigenous landowners for ward 10 where bauxite are,” the indigenous landowners said.
“The title of the MOU is Access to customary land for bauxite prospecting Memorandum of Understanding who gave them the right to sign a MOU to access to our customary land. We are questioning, why do we have to have understanding on this access to our land?
“Understanding means compromising but we do not want prospecting and mining on Nende.
“Our position is plain clear for our customary lands and our understanding is no prospecting and no mining – no more, no less.”
Section 4 of the MOU says ‘the purpose of the MOU is to allow equal participation of landowning groups and ensure equal distribution of benefits derived from the customary prospecting activities and ensure peace, unity and harmony amongst all parties is maintained’.
The disgruntled landowners question this: “Any equal distribution of benefits amongst members of our tribe can be agreed among us not the TPG or pro-miners and mining company.
“When did we give away our tribal customary land for prospecting? Who does the POP represent and when did we appoint them to sign as MOU on our behalf?
“We also question why curbing of security situation turned an MOU into access of customary land for bauxite prospecting? Why resort to any MOU when full Nende landowners are not aware of the MOU’s purposes?”
LOs said the parties who signed never held any awareness or public consultation to get views from landowners on accessing their land.
“There has never been any public awareness given to us to resort or given that MOU prior to study it and understand its contents. It belongs to those who signed only, not us the indigenous landowners.
“This was in breach of our constitutional rights and indigenous rights to have a say on what affects our lands and properties.”
The LOs said what POP and PCP did is likened to stealing their (LOs) birthrights, and they have given away tribal customary land for prospecting without first consulting tribes and clans.
“The so-called MOU is vague and has a lot of loopholes for manipulation and corruption especially on section 5.2 and 5.3 (a b and c),” the LOs said.