THE Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resource (MFMR) has been warned at the way it handles the proposed Bina Harbour Fisheries Project in Malaita.
Bina Harbour Fisheries is one of the national projects earmarked for Malaita more than a decade ago, but is yet to get off the ground.
Fisheries officials appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) this week and were cautioned on the way they handled the project.
The officials told PAC the land determination has been done in 2016, after which they took the lead to do consultations and come up with a fitting model.
But PAC chair and MP for Aoke-Langalanga Mathew Wale said one of the obstacles to the process now is that the Ministry is trying to work on the land settlement.
Mr Wale said the core issue here is the approach taken by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources in terms of land issue.
“The court has already decided and determined the issue but the ministry is again trying to do the settlement process,” Mr Wale said.
“We must realise the court decision is the highest settlement and the ministry is actually in contempt of court when you decide not to recognise the courts’ decision,” he told the fisheries officials.
“We don’t know how long the winning parties can continue to be conciliatory to that particular process.”
He further added that the ministry concern is creating problems and it will probably come out in a year’s time and that is a real concern that was raised by PEC.
But officials said the approach is based on the courts’ decision in 2016 which settled the two tribal groups.
However, the officials explained that when “we talk about customary land there is a connection between these two tribes and that defines the beneficiaries, so the ministry is on the side that they do not want to leave out the tribal connections”.
“The approach here now is inclusive so that their connections can be realised by both parties and taken into account so that the beneficiaries’ record is attached to the Trust Deed which defines the settlement of land,” the officials explained.
But Mr Wale said that the fear is this settlement process is again giving recognition to the members of the losing parties as far as the court decision is concern
“The government and the ministry responsible must understand whether this approach is practicable because if the winning parties/tribes suddenly decide to step back from this project due to the fact that this process will dilute their rights then the whole project will be back to square one.
“We want everybody to be included or benefit from this important project but they must be included in their right places,” Mr Wale said.
By ANDREW FANASIA