The obstacle to developing Malaita - Solomon Star News

The obstacle to developing Malaita

26 February 2015

MALAITA provincial executive met the new government for the second time this week.

The first meeting was between premier Peter Ramohia and Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.

The second was between Mr Ramohia and his executive and deputy prime minister Douglas Ete.

Both meetings discussed proposed development projects for Malaita.

Premier Ramohia, who assumed power for the first time last December, wanted to see the implementation of major development projects in his province.

These include the Suava Bay Fish Processing Facility, Bina Harbour Seaport, Auluta Basin Palm Oil, tar sealing of the existing road network and the Fiu River Hydro Project.

Mr Ete has assured Mr Ramohia the national government has placed high priority in developing Malaita Province.

 “It is the desire of the Government that Malaita is developed so that justice is done to the people of Malaita, who have seen very little development on their island for many years,” Mr Ete said.

Government intention to develop Malaita is not new.

Previous governments have expressed similar intentions during their tenure.

Several national projects earmarked for the province have been in the pipeline for many years.

But the single major obstacle to these projects is landowners themselves.

Malaitan landowners can be very hard to deal with. This is why these projects are not gaining ground.

Bina Harbour Seaport is an example.

This project has been in the pipeline for over 10 years.

The national government had spent thousands of dollars to facilitate this project, but up until now nothing has moved forward.

Why? Because of land dispute!

This was also the case for many of the proposed development sites on Malaita.

Landowners loved to talk about development. When the government expressed its intention to develop a particular site, landowning groups would all of a sudden stake their claims.

Dispute would follow and in the end, no development takes place.

The problem with many Malaitan landowners is they have a narrow view of development.

They never sit down and think of the long term benefits economic development can bring to their community and children.

Some landowners would not even allow cargo or passenger ships to berth on their shores unless the vessel owners pay them a certain fee.

This is the kind attitude that is killing many of the development projects earmarked for Malaita.

If Malaitans want to see their province develop, they have to first sort themselves out.

Landowners also have to change their attitudes.

They have to willingly and freely open their land for the government and investors to come in and develop them.

Of course there have to be negotiations and agreements to be made before developments can take place.

But the onus is on landowners to be flexible and think seriously about the future of their children and province.

The Sogavare-led government has expressed its desire to prioritise the development of Malaita.

This is an opportunity for Malaitans to take on board.

They must be upfront and forthcoming by opening up their land and avoiding petty disputes.

Unless landowners change their attitude, Malaita will remain as it is – an under-developed province with vast resources.