‘Land isn’t the problem, leadership is’ – grievances poured out in Malaita land summit
By Alfred Sasako
AS the Land Summit on Malaita draws to a close, young people representing youths from the five regions of Malaita have issued a warning to political leaders to take their concerns onboard or else.
The three-day summit with the theme: Sustainable Peace and Stability through equitable distribution of benefits from customary land and sea resources” is being held at Hotel Malaita
In a show of force yesterday, about 300 women and youth representatives captured the attention of participants in a special session for women and youth, airing their grievances and warning of severe consequences if their concerns were not taken onboard.
Their view is the same: they must be part of decision-making when it comes to matters to do with development on land, suggesting new and responsive leadership.
“Land is not a problem. Leadership is,” one youth told the gathering.
“It is a national thing. Every problem that has happened is the result of leadership,” the youth representing the Northern Region said.
As they took their position in front of the gathering, the Northern Region youth said, “These are the pearls of Malaita,” pointing to mothers and youths participating in the UNDP-sponsored Summit.
Another youth, Philip Subu, said youths and women are concerned about being left out of decision-making concerning land resources.
“We have been left out of the process for far too long. Leaders must know that youths are agents of violence. We turn to violence because we felt we had been left out of the decision-making concerning our resources,” Subu jnr said.
He suggested women and youth be represented on the board of trustees, particularly in logging operations.
A fair representation, he said, would be for women and youths to make up 30 per cent each on the board of trustees while men take up 40 per cent.
Women too spoke of feeling being left out from decision-making when it comes to sharing from proceeds from logging operations.
One shared an experience which she said should never have happened.
It concerned the distribution of proceeds from logging operations. “My mother and I were never given anything when my Uncle shared the money from logging operations on our land.
“We felt that we were never part of the family but we are. And the sad thing is that we were never allowed to be part of the decision-making. Why?,” she asked.
Still another, representing the Eastern Region, said decision-making must involve everyone.
“We don’t own land. Land owns us. It feeds us until we die. So everyone – men, women and youths must be involved in the decision-making on land,” she said.
The Land Summit ends later today.