Unlawful payment

Former senior government officer gives perspective on Hell’s Point $50 million court of appeal award

By Alfred Sasako

A former senior public servant has given perspective on the $50 million pay-out being demanded for the Hell’s Point waste land in east Honiara, saying there is no shred of evidence in law to support the payment.

“Based on the 1977 Land and Titles Act, businessman Patrick Wong and Levers Solomon Ltd are not entitled to receive a single cent for Hell’s Point. It is not their land,” Alfred Aihunu, who once worked in the Office of the Prime Minister, told Island Sun over the weekend.

“All alienated land were returned to landowners based on the traditional blood system. The Court of Appeal was too rushed in making the award, which in my view is inconsistent with the spirit of the 1977 Land and Titles Act.

“In my view, the CoA erred in its judgement because it did not understand the background to the land tenure system, which prompted the British Government to enact the 1977 Land and Titles Act to address what is happening today,” Mr Aihunu said.

“That Act reflects the fact that customary land and alienated land are one and the same when it comes to ownership. Ownership is based the blood system,” he said.

Aihunu said Solomon Islands was to have had its independence a year early but because the land tenure system was a major issue at the time, independence was delayed by a year to July 7, 1978.

“It was a report by Sir David Kausimae (1975-76) which brought the issue rather poignantly. The report pointed out that while the British Government talked about post-independence development Solomon Islands no longer has land for this development because all the prime land which were largely alienated land were in the hands of foreigners.

“The Government under Sir Peter Kenilorea took up the concern with the British Government, which promptly enacted the 1977 Land and Titles Act based on the British ownership of land which is based on the blood system,” Aihunu said.

He said when the 1977 Land and Titles Act was enacted, all alienated land were automatically returned to the traditional landowners.

“This is why land is not saleable in Solomon Islands unless you are an indigenous Solomon Islander. But even then, land sale transaction is only allowed between two indigenous Solomon Islanders,” he said.

“To give away $50 million for people who never owned Hell’s Point in the first place makes no sense. No, the government must never pay the $50 million. It is not supported by law.”

[Tomorrow (Friday) Island Sun will publish the Management Agreement which shows businessman Patrick Wong was never an investor. He was merely an employee of CEMA according to the Agreement he signed on February 27, 2003]

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