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Community members says they were not consulted

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Jan. 19, 2010) - A South Pentecost man has reveal alarming facts in the wake of a recent signing of a lease agreement in Pentecost that would allow a drilling exercise to determine whether there is Gold on a particular part of that island.

Anderson Tor said he was speaking not just for his family but other families around the area to confirm that there has never been a consultation as claimed by the Commissioner of Mines Toney Tevi in a letter to the editor last week.

"I am sorry to say but these are not all true. We, the people who are going to be directly affected by this exercise have never been consulted and Mr. Tevi himself has come to admit that consultation will only be done now that the agreement has been signed," Mr. Tor told Daily Post.

He said they are not happy over how this was being handled.

Tor claimed that the so-called signing agreement was just a "show" to locals.

He claimed the real agreement was already agreed by a meeting that he claimed surprisingly was held in Central Pentecost instead of South Pentecost.

Mr Tor said the Chief who signed the agreement did not consult other parties who are also landowners of the land where the exercise is going to take place.

As of this week Tor said he hand-delivered to Tevi’s office and the Minister of Lands Paul Telukluk a letter to inform them of a stay order now being sought in Court by members of the communities who are concerned with the development in their backyard.

"If the exercise, according to Tevi, was unsuccessful in Santo and Malekula, why bring it to South Pentecost?" he said.

He said more than 3,000 people living around the areas of Pangi, Palitor, Panas, Wali, Walap, Palimsi, Reslaus, Salap, Bay Omo and Ranputor will be affected by this exercise.

He said the communities are not against such development projects but must be informed of the effects of such an exercise before any agreements are reached.

"Our families live on the land cited by the Commissioner of Mines. We need assurance that this will not affect our daily lives," Tor said.

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