BREAKING NEWS

THEY ARE NOT BILLS: MANEPORA

Land Reform Unit clarifies leaked bills

The purported leaked Bills are working sample the Land Reform Unit (LRU) wants to use in their presentation to show how the Constitution can be ammended and have customary laws incorporated in the Constitution to recognise indigenous ownership of land and resources.

This is according to LRU Consultant Andrew Manepora.

Mr Andrew Manepora. Photo courtesy of Pacific Urban Platform.

Mr Manepora made the clarification following concerns that the bills would undermine the rights of Guadalcanal people.
These are the leaked Guadalcanal Affairs Bill 2021, the Guadalcanal Customary Land Commission Bill 2021, the Guadalcanal Customary Land Bill 2021 and the Guadalcanal Customary Land Trust Board Bill 2021.
But, Mr Manepora says, the proposed bills are part of the government’s working concepts in implementing its land reform program.
He explains, the bills are not even drafted at this stage but they can be incorporated into the constitution to recognise people’s rights to land and resource ownership.
“I would like to put it straight here, Land reform is a fundamental policy of the Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DCGA) is basically trying to protect people’s land and resources.
“We did a lot of reviews on our laws, even the Constitution and Land and Titles Act, Land Recording Act, and we find out that all these laws still fall short to recognise how we own land and resources, culturally.
“So the Land Reform Policy intention of the national government tries to revisit and see how we can address this problem, so that our laws must recognise customary land resources with people,” Mr Manepora said.
He said the Constitution talks more about individual rights, but culturally, land and resources are collectively owned by tribes.
Because of this, LRU is looking at making laws that recognise collective ownership of our land and resources. That’s the basis of the Land Reform Policy in which the Government is now implementing.
“It is still not a Bill. It is just a working sample document we would like to use in our presentation to show how if we want to amend the Constitution and have our customary laws fit in the Constitution to recognise ownership of our land and resources,” he clarified in an interview with SIBC News.

LRU Consultant Andrew Manepora speaking to SIBC News
He adds, these bills can come about after they amend the Constitution so that it gives that recognition to people, and their land and resources.
“I hear that a lot of people have the misunderstanding that this is geared towards taking over land from the people of Guadalcanal. They say it deprived the people of Guadalcanal because no consultation had taken place.
“It’s true there was no consultation because it is still not a Bill. The process of consultation is still to come. The document is just a sample for presentation purposes to show what concept of land reform we try to achieve,” Mr Manepora reiterated.
He said another purpose of the Bill is to anchor people to their land, resources and Customs so that it is recognised in the Constitution.
“All these issues were never negotiated to be protected in the Constitution when it was adopted during our Independence. That is the missing link where it give problems in our country when it comes to development on customary land,” Manepora furthers.
He said this has become a stumbling block for the Government to create development and make enough revenue to run the country because of frequent land disputes.
“Major projects of the government failed to happen because of this as well. Therefore, this land reform encourages development to go into customary land so we build the economic base of this country.”

Manepora pointed out that the process under the Lands and Title Act requires the acquisition process which in itself is land alienation.
“We alienate people’s land from them before development happens whereas the Land Reform Policy wants to do the opposite, it anchors or ties up peoples’ land with them.
“Tribal land titles remain, their boundaries recognised and before they decide development to happen in their land, the majority in the tribes must sign before the land is available for development.”
The leaked sample documents are for our presentation purposes that if we want to have this new system, these sorts of bills must be tabled in parliament and passed so that it can be incorporated in the Constitution before it can protect us and recognise our customs, said Manepora.
The Land Reform Consultant assures the people that they will be consulted once the proposed bills are drafted.
“We are still in the process of coming up with bills to anchor these land reform concepts. Consultation will be carried out nationwide when it is ready so that people will have their views on what this new system or concept the government wants to achieve in this land reform program.
“People should not jump to conclusions on petty issues,” he said.

by Jared Koli

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