Govt denies responsibility for recovering rental payments lost due to illegal land deals

Another reported issue concerning the land reforms which has not so far been mentioned in the Vanuatu Daily Digest concerns a question relating to previously ‘sold’ land and the rightful custom owner whose claim might be established through the new procedures obtaining fees paid as purchase or rental over the years. Minister Regenvanu conceded that wrongful land sales had continued for a long time. If there had been a determination of ownership by the courts, the correct owner could be shown as the lessor, but for the owner to obtain the rental payments is not an obligation on the part of government. Prime Minister Carcasses added that such illegal dealings should have necessitated police intervention by the true custom owner. Radio Vanuatu and TBV have been covering Parliament which has also been available on line.

As explained already, all the land reform bills have passed all stages in Parliament. However, the Minister also touched upon the role of the National Lands Coordinator and six land officers who will work on land issues. People knowledgeable of the custom of the areas concerned along with chiefs should be on the Island Land Court tribunals. People with conflicts of interest should not be included.

Land legislation academic, USP Professor Sue Farran in the United Kingdom, commented to this blog on reading of the passage of the land reform laws: “It will be interesting to see how these land reform proposals play out in practice. Certainly it is a move in the right direction to reduce the powers of the Minister of lands to be able to deal with land where title is in dispute. Whether leaving it to nakamals to resolve disputes [that] customary land will be the solution remains to be seen (looking across the Solomon Islands this has not been the solution). I am particularly surprised that there has not been more response from women on this matter, as the land reforms strengthen an already male dominated system. I suspect that an increasing number of women who have the means will seek to secure their own and their children’s land rights through leases, as will those ni-Vanuatu who want to do non-customary things with their land, or who feel that their tenure in custom is insecure for some reason.”

VBTC News has reported Lands Minister Regenvanu announcing in Parliament that the prospecting license issued to a Chinese company, Harvest, in 2010 is valid for everywhere in the Torba Province. There was never any consultation by former minister Telukluk with the electorate, the present minister stated. Oil and minerals are included and Regenvanu seemed particularly concerned with marine resources. Telukluk pointed out that he was not the first to issue such a license. Ministers have apparently done so since long ago.

The Leader of the Opposition, MP Ham Lini, withdrew the motion of no confidence in PM Carcasses yesterday, which move was seconded by the deputy leader, Sato Kilman. They conceded not having the number to be able to carry the vote. Carcasses is said to have the support of 36 MPs.

Daily Post has been covering a first person account of Santo resident John Fordham over the last two days concerning an attempt to shoot him which missed by inches (yesterday) and which he has since discovered also missed his daughter by inches. A Vt 2 million reward is being offered for evidence which will lead to the arrest of the gunman. The alleged murder attempt was caught on film by Fordham’s surveillance camera.

The Ifira Community is resolving changes to the shareholding of Ifira Trustees Limited. The matter reached the Appeals Court in its recent sitting.

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One Comment on “Govt denies responsibility for recovering rental payments lost due to illegal land deals”

  1. Dr. Kick says:

    Bob,

    A question. And one which the media is in the best position to provide a generic answer:

    Are the nefarious acts alleged to have been committed by previous Ministers illegal? (“Illegal” under the laws then in effect.)

    If such acts are illegal, are they also a crime? If they are crimes, why haven’t the police investigated them? If they are not crimes–i.e., merely ‘civil’ offences–why has the theft of land rights, given the Constitutional attention to land rights, been treated more gently than the many forms of theft which are criminal offences?

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