Sikuni Land owners oppose Barakoma airport reopening
RESOURCE owners of the Sikuni Tribe has opposed the reopening of Barakoma Airstrip in Southeast Vella , Western Province unless a proper consultation is done with the government.
That’s according to one of the resource owners in Barakoma Esther Lelapitu.
Speaking to this paper in an interview with the Solomon Star Gizo on Tuesday, Ms Lelapitu from Sikuni Tribe that at the moment there are two things left unsolved here.
She recalled that in 1923 there was a signing between traders, the Church and the Sikuni Tribe for that piece of land that would become the Barakoma airport.
“Sikuni tribe consists of two groups called Bosira and Vaevo of Sikuni tribe.
“However, since the World War II occurred , a US Captain named Melford have met up with the two chiefs of Sikuni tribe, they were David Vaevo, the signatory and Ngalpitu my grandfather who resided in Vonunu.
Ms Lelapitu who is also a retired Magistrate explained the purpose of the US Captain Melford visit is to ask the Sikuni tribe whether they will allow the Barakoma for them build an airstrip.
“So after they meet, both chiefs allowed Barakoma although they never sign any document but verbally they agreed due to the escalating of the battle between US and Japan in South Vella Islands.
“And so since that time, the Government did not own any land of the at the Barakoma airstrip,” Ms Lelapitu said.
Lelapitu said, it is a native land now called customary land. She said that land stay still remain as it is since the WW11 and up to this date.
In 1974 Mr. Hughes gave 51% for Liapari and 49% around whole Vella both South and North Vella Island.
“With ongoing arguments between the tribes and chiefs in claiming who is the rightful owner of the land, it also stirs up the arguments.
“The arguments focused on the trusteeship; as a result, the issue has been brought it over to the High Court in some years ago.
“However, the High Court advised both parties themselves to sort out who to identify and find out who are the rightful owner and people of the Sikuni tribe.
“Until today the court case never solved, it was then the matter was again brought up to the Local Court last week for the first time,” she said.
She said, instead of working together to solve the issue yet, the argument is still heating up.
Lelapitu added the Barakoma Airport all alone is a native land; however they said that Government owns the land.
“If they think they own the land, then the Government needs to do a proper acquisition to know who is the rightful owner but that was never done.
“We will not allow any development at the Barakoma airport unless the Government held a consultation with the tribe.
“They didn’t consult with the resource owners and the tribe.
“We did not stop development, everybody likes development but always do the right thing, right process, consult with land owners, people should not be neglected because they are the resource owners,” she said.
She added they want to open Barakoma Airstrip but unless somebody approaches to hold a round table discussion on the issue having the dialogue both the Government and the land owners.
Since after the WW11 in the 1940s, it is the Government that benefit from it and not even the land owners,” she added.
This paper understood that groundwork at Barakoma was halted due to disagreement among few resource owners.
The Government eyes four sites to rebuild airstrips. Barakoma is one of the fours in the Government’s list.
The other three are; Avuavu, Babankira and Yandina.
Upgrading domestic airports is one of the Governments intentions to expand domestic airport within the country.
By ULUTAH GINA
Solomon Star, Gizo