Kongulai Landowners In Solomons Urged To Solve Issues

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Official says court order halted negotiations for compensation

By Daniel Namosuaia

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Jan. 7, 2014) – Solomon Islands permanent secretary (PS) of lands and housing Stanley Wale has called on tribal land owners of Kovi/Kongulai to solve their internal issue and reopen the water source.

Wale said the issue raised by land owners of Kovi had come at the right time when the lease agreement was due for a review end of last year.

"But we cannot proceed with the review and make any payments since a court order has been in force to stop any payments. And that disturbs the review process despite one meeting with the trustees and another with the Attorney General.

"However a court order was issued and that forced us to stop any negotiation process to review the lease agreement," Wale said.

He said the government is ready to raise payments due last year but the court order halts any payments.

Asked about a SBD$9 million [US$1.2 million] that was supposed to be paid last month to the Kongulai land trustees, Wale said a SBD$9.6 million [US$1.3 million] claim from the Kongulai land trustees was submitted for outstanding calculations.

"But we are yet to agree on any payment since this was part of our negotiation with all parties concerned to justify their claims before any payments is made," Wale said.

Adding, the land owners need to solve their internal issue because the government is willing to discuss with all parties concerned and review the lease agreement and make the payments due course.

He the closure of the Kovi water sources is an unfortunate situation and that he calls on the tribal land owners to re-open and come forward to discuss their issues of concern.

Wale stressed that the government is willing to negotiate with all the parties to address outstanding issues.

"But on the other hand they must solve their own issues so that we can negotiate and come out with a review that considers all the parties’ concerns.

"Because we can’t do much when there are outstanding issues between the tribal landowners. Moreover we cannot do much since the land is customary owned. But it is part of this negotiation process that we seek to secure the land for public use," Wale said.

However the PS said if it is difficult to make an outright purchase of such land, the government is willing and committed to make payments for the use of those lands at present values.

He stressed that tribal land owners need to cooperate to ensure agreements are done accordingly to satisfy all parties concerned.

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