TOOTHLESS PNG AGENCY SITS ON 799 LAND DISPUTES

By Sinclaire Solomon

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Dec. 31) - A total of 799 land disputes nationwide, some dating back 20 years, are still before the two State organs responsible for resolving land matters.

No rulings have been made simply because these offices have been without powers for the past three years.

Among the disputes is the Ramu Nickel/Cobalt land, S4LDSA, in Madang province, which now needs special attention by way of State intervention because of its national interest. This case has been outstanding since 2001.

This and the other 798 disputes cannot be dealt with because no appointments, or reappointments, have been made for officers to be in charge of the offices of the National Lands Commission, and the Land Titles Commission.

The National Lands Commission normally deals with cases were the State's interest is in conflict with the people's interest. The Land Titles Commission deals with tenure conversion of customary land to freehold, a process that would normally take six months.

As at the end of October this year, the National Lands Commission had to make decisions on 66 land areas involving 435 claims. The Land Titles Commission on the other hand had 364 claims to settle.

The National Lands Commission was headed by Natanaias Marum who, as commissioner, had powers to make land compensation awards until he was suspended and then sacked by Attorney General Francis Damem in 2000. 

The Land Titles Commission was headed by Josepha Kanawi until her term expired, also in 2000, in which case she has been a caretaker commissioner but with no powers to make decisions.

Questions on why land disputes, compensations and land titles have not been dealt with were raised on the floor of Parliament in recent sessions but Justice Minister Mark Maipakai said he was still awaiting a shortlist for these vacant positions from the Attorney General to take to Cabinet for approval.

Under normal procedures, the Attorney General recommends a name to the Judicial and Legal Services Commission for approval.

The good news though, for the 799 land claimants, is that in the past week the Justice Department, which is responsible for these two offices, have advertised for these positions. However, the screening process is such that no appointment is likely until at least February next year.

The more serious of the land claims before the Land Titles Commission is the S4LDSA Ramu Nickel/Cobalt land dispute of 2001. 

Caretaker commissioner Mrs Kanawi says the Kainantu gold project land in Eastern Highlands could also be subject to ownership dispute.

They could end up being similar to the Gobe/Hides oil and gas land dispute whereby the State, through the Governor-General and a National Gazette notice, declares a special case because of national interest, security, and no likelihood of an early settlement.

In the case of the National Lands Commission outstanding cases for compensation date back 20 years. For example, Era Nese (DA2522), parts of Port Moresby city (DA 1047, DA 229 and 550), Mount Hagen Technical College (portion 803) and Mount Hagen township land are now up for judicial review.

In the case of Goroka township, there are 150 claims for this land that has gone to court for judicial review.

For the Land Titles Commission, Western Highlands, East New Britain and Morobe provinces have most disputes pending.

Western Highlands has 62 claims, East New Britain 59, and Morobe 57.

December 31, 2003

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

 

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