Solomons Landowners Shut Off Water Supply In Munda

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Groups say government hasn’t settled longstanding grievances

By Charley Piringi

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Dec. 24, 2013) – In Solomon Islands, Munda tribal landowners have resorted to shutting down the Ziata water source at 2pm yesterday and threatened to close down the newly-opened Munda International airport by today.

The action by Gumi, Gemu, Veo, and Miabule tribes was taken following claims the national government have failed to settle their long outstanding grievances which was raised nearly 30 years ago.

The water source supplies water to Noro township.

Speaking to this paper from Munda yesterday, tribal representative and spokesperson Rex Biku said that they have gone through and have won the case in the high court since 1984, but after that all the governments terribly failed to live up to its promises.

"The long standing issues are crystal clear case where the only thing is for the government to live up to its promises, but it terribly failed to address our 29 years old grievances.

"For the past decades, our people have been crying for the government to recognize us because our resources have been freely used but our cries have fallen into deaf ears. And we felt we have been neglected and felt out of place."

Mr Biku said on 11th November they sent a petition listing all their grievances and possible actions to be taken to the Prime Minster Gordon Darcy Lilo’s office, Solomon Waters (SIWA), the ministries of lands and aviation, but no action and response was received.

"On 11th November this year, we presented our petition to relevant authorities and have given them 14 days notice which had once again fallen into deaf ears. We followed up with our petition on the 25th November, but again there was no response from the Prime Ministers Office.

"Now its Christmas, and whether it was acceptable for the government or not, today (yesterday) we resorted to do what we can do to show our grievances by closing the water source that supplies water to Noro township."

The spokesperson said that their next move is to shut down the Munda International airport.

"Possibly we would shut down the Munda international airport by Monday (today).

He said they respect the people who will be directly affected by the closure but they have to do it to show the government their grievances.

"We respect them but are deeply sorry about our actions, but we have to resort to such action to wake this sleeping government up because they neglected us."

The Prime Ministers office could not be reached yesterday for comments on the issue.

With the closure of the water supply, residents and businesses at Noro are likely to be affected.

Meanwhile the Joint Civil Society Groups & Concerned Citizens (JCSG & CC) condemns government for disregarding the grievances and concerns of indigenous tribal groups in Munda that has resulted in the closure of the Ziata water source.

Reports claimed that tribal representatives have ordered SIWA to shut-down the Ziata water pump installation, and have barred SIWA access to the installation.

The interim chairman of JCSG and Acting CEO of ANSI Barnabas Henson in light of the situation said: "This is a classic example of Prime Minister Lilo’s failure to protect indigenous peoples’ rights and interests.

"It has only produced negative consequences on business, economy, social order, and development of indigenous Solomon Islanders. Apparently PM Lilo’s interests seem to be foreign and abstract while failing the nation on a grand scale."

This nation therefore is in dire need of change and redirection or be prepared for the worst, Mr Henson said.

"The JCSG & CC urges PM Lilo to act immediately to address the Ziata issue before the situation spirals out of control."

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