The Attorney General, James Apaniai has clarified the situation over the grant of the title over the land on West Rennell given to mining company, Asia Pacific Investment Development (APID) and Bintan Company Ltd.
In a statement yesterday, the Attorney General said, any deregistration of the title over the land will only be made through a legal challenge.
The advice was tendered after the Government referred the matter to the Attorney General’s Chambers. Earlier, a delegation comprising the Renbell Premier and his executive, Chairman of the West Rennell Council of Chiefs and landowners met with Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare to express their concerns about the validity of the land registration process through which APID and Bintan Company Limited obtained the title over the land.
In the meeting with Prime Minister Sogavare, the Renbell Premier Hon Collin Tesuatai said, his government will be challenging the whole land registration process in court as it believes it was ‘not properly done.’
He said, the land title accorded to APID and Bintan Company Limited brings into question the relevance of the Land and Titles Act especially as the reregistered plots had already been allocated including the provincial headquarters site.
The Premier said the continued operation of these companies on West Rennell will impact the province’s budget estimate as most other existing investors will be closing down their operations.
Mr Sogavare acknowledged the concerns raised by the delegation.
The Prime Minister said the matter was referred to the Attorney General’s Chambers after a meeting he had with the relevant Cabinet Ministers about the situation last Sunday.
The Attorney General said, “Everything that unfolded made the situation complicated as it does not only involve land issues but logging and mining operations as well.”
He said records in the land acquisition file had shown the land was legally registered hence if the Renbell Provincial Government, West Rennell Council of Chiefs and landowners want the land title deregistered from the current holder then they have to challenge the legality of the land acquisition process in court.
The Attorney General said as litigants they must provide evidence to prove either the land was registered by mistake or fraud.
“There is nothing we (government) can do administratively to remove the land title from the current holder,” he added.
Mr Apaniai said the land title holder at this stage has the right to carry out logging on the land and only an interim injunction by the court can stop it.
As for mining, the Attorney General said the Minister for Mines had issued a show cause notice to the company and the company turned around and filed a case against the Minister.
He said due to this impending court case, the Minister has yet to cancel the company’s mining license.
– PM’s Press Secretariat