THE long-running battle over ownership of the land where Su’u National Secondary School is located in West Kwaio on Malaita has come to a head.
Angry landowners are blaming the South Sea Evangelical Church [SSEC] for the impasse, saying the Church knew about the problem since 2008.
This year, the future of some 400-plus students who consist of continuing and new intake hangs in the balance.
A spokesman for the Landowners, Matthew Togi, said if there’s anyone to blame, it is the SSEC, which has ignored the need for dialogue.
“We have now blocked the entrance to the school in our right as the original landowners. The Ministry of Lands, Housing and Survey has in fact encouraged us to set up the roadblocks (pictured).
“That’s exactly what we have done,” Mr Togi who lives at Kwarie’ka Village on the foot of the hill where Su’u Secondary School is located. Su’u is one of six national secondary schools in Solomon Islands.
Mr. Togi said the SSEC authority is fully aware of the lease arrangement of the land. The Government leased the land to the SSEC until 2008 when it expired. We believe the land should be returned to us as original landowners, but there was little movement on the part of the SEEC.
He said the landowning group is ready to discuss the way forward.
“We are prepared to consider allowing the school to open for classes this year. This however must be preceded by dialogue and an agreement. The SSEC has made money from the use of the land even though they knew the lease had expired,” Mr. Togi said.
Meanwhile School officials have confirmed that landowners have blocked access to the school.
“They are demanding $50, 000 from the School before the blockade is removed,” one official said.
The action by the landowners has threatened the future of some 400-plus students enrolled at Su’u this year, the official said.
But the landowners’ spokesman Togi said it is now up to the Church to sort out the matter in an amicable manner with landowners.
By Alfred Sasako