West Rennell landowners labelled the Attorney General’s (AG) media statement as merely a legal opinion, which raised more questions that needs clarification.
Spilling-off disappointment yesterday Richard Pautangata Hakatingisa’a questioned the statement from the AG conveyed through the Prime Minister’s Press Secretariat yesterday, claiming AG’s legal opinion does not consider pending court cases over those registered land by APID on West Rennell.
Mr Hakatingisa’a asserted that AG must explain the validity of the pending land cases in the Customary Land Appeal Court (CLAC), High Court, Council of Chiefs and the local court.
“What is the status of our pending land cases, are they illegal now?” he asked. “APID have registered the entire land on the island without my consent and the others so it means they can unearth our cemeteries, villages, taboo sites and houses?” Hakatingisa’a further questioned.
He added if AG’s opinion is valid then he must clarify the status of their land cases before the court and ownership rights of people who have been surviving on Rennell soil for decades without consenting their land to APID.
“Are these cases illegal because APID register the land” he asked. “Our cases have been thrown in the bush because APID owns the island and we have to seek their permission for gardening and building houses on Rennell?” he added on to his question.
He further stated that registering whole land of the island under one parcel number does not make any sense and puts Rennell in a very dangerous position.
“It must be understood that landowners does not have money to compete in court with APID, who have hired expensive lawyers overseas to deal with their cases,” he said. “We must not use court as an excuse to shut out rights of people, because court is money and we can’t relax in our office and say go to court,” Hakatingisa’a added.
“Court is not free for us to easily say in our comfortable position ‘go to court’, as if you going to give the money to hire the lawyers overseas.”
By AATAI JOHN