Vanuatu Council Of Chiefs Refuse Request From Opposition To Repeal Customary Land Act

Malvatumauri says they are satisfied with amendments to land act

By Jonas Cullwick

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, June 8, 2017) – The National Council of Chiefs, Malvatumauri, has refused a request from the Opposition to repeal the Customary Land Management Act (CLMA).

The Council made the decision at an urgent meeting of Malvatumauri last week, which was convened to consider plans by the Government to make a number of amendments to land related laws at this week’s Parliament session.

Under the law, the national council of chiefs must look at and make its determination on all bills to do with land matters before they go to Parliament.

The President of Malvatumauri, Chief Seni Mao Tirsupe, has written to the Leader of the Opposition, Ishmael Kalsakau, informing the Office of the Opposition that the Malvaumauri Council of Chiefs (MCC) has decided against any repeal of the CLMA.

The reasons given for the decision were made in a number of resolutions that: A process for an amendment to the Act is already in progress and the purpose of the Customary Land Management Act is purely for dispute resolution and there will be no replacement if the law is repealed.

“For this reason MCC notes the importance of maintaining the CLMA because it is a formal dispute resolution process for custom land recognized by the Constitution,” Chief Tirsupe says in his letter.

The Leader of the Opposition wrote to the council on October 13, 2016 requesting the MCC to consider the Opposition’s Private Members Bill seeking to repeal the CLMA, a copy of which was attached with his letter.

At last week’s meeting both the Leader of the Opposition and the Minister for Lands, Ralph Regenvanu, appeared before the chiefs and provided more explanations for their submissions to the council. And the national council of chiefs acknowledged their presence.

The application by the Minister of Lands was for the council to consider a Bill to amend the Strata and Community Titles Act, a Bill for Land Reform (Amendment) Act, a Bill for Land Leases (Amendment) Act and a Bill for Land Acquisition (Amendment) Act.

In his separate letter to the Minister of Lands, Chief Tirsupe outlined the resolutions of the MCC on the Bills.

On the Bill for the Strata and Community Titles (Amendment) Act the MCC approved the planned amendment to the Act with a recommendation to increase the percentage figure from the 10% quoted in section 11 (1A) of the Act.

“MCC justifies the reason for this increase due to the increase in the value of land,” the chairman of MCC says in his letter to Minister Regenvanu.

On the Bill for the Land Reform (Amendment) Act the MCC approved the amendment and resolved that the chairman of each Island Council of Chiefs be included in the Land Management Planning Committee when the committee goes to work in each of the islands.

“The justification for this decision is that a chief’s representative is needed to ensure the application of the law does not contradict customary and traditional values such as sacred sites.”

On the Bill for Land Leases (Amendment) Act the MCC recommended that: 1) there must be consultation with the Lessor to inform the Lessor of the issues faced by the Lessee before cancellation of lease by the Director; 2) Within 90 days prior a company being deregistered, the Lessor must be made aware of the status of the lease due to Lessor’s interest in the Lease (land rent, premium) in danger of not being settled: and 3) the percentage figure quoted in section 5 (2b) be increased due to the always high value to custom land.

Finally, after its deliberation on the Bill for Compulsory Land Acquisition (Amendment) Act, the national council of chiefs resolved that it was “mindful that Item 5 as it is contravened Article 30 (1) of the Constitution”.

Vanuatu Daily Post
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