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By Esther Tinning

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, July 27) – The government of Vanuatu, through the Ministry of Lands is appealing to landowners to make it a priority that disputed lands undergoing any major developments be sorted out immediately so that landowners can enjoy their benefits as landowners.

This was message from the Minister for Lands Maxime Carlot Korman as he received a check for VUV$318,000 [US$3,000] on behalf of the landowners of the Fanafo hydro area to be kept in a trust account until the rightful owners of the area are identified.

The money was part of the government payment for an industrial lease of 9.5 hectare at the hydro area which had been transferred from the Plantations Reunis du Vanuatu Company to the government. The event also saw the government handing over a check of well over 2 million vatu [US$18,500] to the Plantations Reunis du Vanuatu Manager for the transfer of land which the company had been leasing to the landowners for agricultural use.

[PIR editor’s note: The Plantations Reunis du Vanuatu is currently the largest plantation in Vanuatu, and grows various cash crops such as coconuts and cocoa.]

Korman called on landowners of the Fanafo hydro area to take the lead and work closely with the Lands Tribunal Unit so that they could identify the owners of the land where the government currently leases for the use of hydro project so that they could benefit from the money for their land.

The hydro area in Fanafo has been in dispute since the establishment of hydro power in early 1990’s which means any fund towards the compensation of land or land rental fee is being deposited on a trust account under the Vanuatu government. The funds will be released to the rightful landowners when they have been identified.

Meanwhile, landowners to the disputed area where the hydro is located had the assurance of the Lands Tribunal representative who said they should be able to identify the rightful landowners as early as next month. The handover was witnessed by the Minster for Agriculture and Member of Parliament for Santo rural Marcellino Pipete, Member of Parliament Paul Telukluk as well as other respective dignitaries from the department of lands and Energy unit.

July 28, 2006

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