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‘People are caught between cultural way of life, cash economy’

By Daniel Namosuaia HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Jan. 4, 2012) – In the Solomons, land has become the number one issue likely to spark conflict within our society according to the Governor General.

In his New Year’s address to the nation, Sir Frank Kabui said there are a number of aspects to the land issue in the country.

"The first is our customary land tenure system where land is communally owned by the tribe and has to be registered by agreement to be marketable.

"The second issue is how much benefit the land owner can derive from his/her land. This is a very complicated issue because our social system plays a major role.

"And that is when benefits in terms of royalty or rental are received by landowners, it has to be distributed amongst the tribe. Sometimes the trustees’ abuse their positions of trust resulting in investments not fully realized," he explained.

He said even if distribution is fair, when it reached the hand of each member, it hardly makes any economical impact to their lives.

"The end result is that landowners’ station in life remains unchanged like the case with logging where the investor is often seen benefiting over and above landowners.

"But the fault lies with landowners who failed to invest their share of benefit for the future," Sir Frank stressed.

The Governor General said "we are caught between our cultural way of life and the cash economy".

He further warned that "we need to increase our sources of income".

"Relying on royalty and wealth alone is not enough to increase our wealth. So complaining or blaming others will not help us move forward in life.

"We have to adjust our mind-set to take into account this change or else we will continue to miss out on the benefits of investment on our land and country."

The Governor General reiterated that illegally occupying customary land belonging to others is another issue which is very common in Honiara.

He said this problem will never go away so long as Honiara remains on Guadalcanal.

"Squatter settlements in Honiara are a part of the Honiara problem. Other contributing issues are return of alienated lands and resettlement of people affected by climate change," he said.

Sir Frank suggested that the solution to some of these issues is the Draft Federal Constitution.

"However there will have to be compromises based on understanding so that we can all live together as on people and one nation. To achieve that depends upon you and me from now onwards.

"I wish you all a Happy New Year 2012,"Sir Kabui concluded.

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