SOLOMONS LANDOWNERS WANT COMPENSATION

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (SIBC, June 30) – Landowners of Tandai, in northwest Guadalcanal have criticised a recent agreement signed by the Solomon Islands government allowing Kitano Construction company to extract gravel from the Lunga River bed.

Secretary to the Tandai House of Chiefs and former Member of Parliament for North West Guadalcanal Francis Orodani says the agreement that allows the company to extract gravel for upgrading work on Honiara Airport as a slap on the face to tribal landowners.

He says it is a negligence of the customary rights of the landowners.

Mr Orodani says the agreement signed by the Commissioner of Lands left out the customary resource owners of Tandai.

He says since the gravel is on land outside of the Honiara boundary, the resource belongs to the indigenous land owning tribes of Tandai.

Mr Orodani reminded the Government that such mistakes in the past had been one of the major causes of the recent uprising and the unrest in the country. He says the Government should reconsider the inclusion of customary resource owners in the Gravel Extraction Agreement.

But Commissioner of Lands Alfred Soaki dismissed the landowners’ concerns, saying he was satisfied that proper consultation was held with landowning groups laying claims to the gravel deposit.

He says discussions were held with two customary landowning groups in April this year.

Mr Soaki says following the discussions the various parties agreed that work on the national project in upgrading Honiara International Airport must proceed with the extraction of the gravel by Kitano Construction Company while the parties await a legal clarification on the river gravel and bed.

He says depending on the outcome of the legal advice, government may enter into an agreement with the relevant customary landowning groups.

Mr Soaki however says that a survey carried out by Government surveyors had confirmed the western portion of Henderson airport is owned perpetuity by the Commissioner of Lands on behave of the Solomon Islands Government. .

July 1, 2005

Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corp.: http://www.sibconline.com.sb/

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