TANDAI indigenous landowners in north west Guadalcanal say they wanted the government to immediately push forward with the long overdue issue of the Honiara Town boundary expansion.
Trust spokesman and Provincial Assembly Member for Tandai ward John Batista Nano said the issue is of great concern and priority to Tandai people.
Mr Nano, who is also deputy premier of Guadalcanal Province, said Tandai people, and more especially chiefs and landowners, are ready to commence dialogue with government, however no actual request is yet to be received.
He said the issue been raised by previous governments right up until the reign of this current coalition under Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo.
Mr Nano said a month ago during the occasion of the country’s 36th Independence celebrations, Mr Lilo spoke out loud of his government’s proposed plans to address the issue.
“The prime minister referred to this as a priority issue for his government which puts more curiosity in the minds of the people of Tandai,” Mr Nano said.
“According to the prime minister, his Government is working closely with Land Owners of Guadalcanal to assist them complete the identification of tribal lands and their boundaries,” he said.
Mr Nano quoted the prime minister as saying: “As sensitive as it is, my Government has begun consultations to accommodate concerns of all parties before Cabinet endorses the work to physically mark the boundaries.
“I am hopeful this task will be completed by the end of the year.”
Mr Nano said Mr Lilo also pointed out that the government through Parliament has amended the Land and Titles Act to create a Land Board representing key stakeholders.
“The board, as the Prime Minister explained, will be responsible for allocating crown land in the urban centres.
“Mr Lilo understood the fact that for years, citizens, particularly in Honiara, have complained about the unfair allocation of land to a small number of wealthy and influential people,” he said.
Mr Nano stressed Tandai people would like to know what the Prime Minister and his office staff are actually doing about the issue and whether or not his government may be able to resolve this issue in terms of dialogue arrangements before parliament dissolution next month.
“We want to know who and when the government consulted with on this issue and at which level the issue has reached so far as we feel that government is not doing enough to prove to us landowners that our issue is being dealt with accordingly,” Mr Nano said.
He questioned whether this government is truly serious about solving the issue.
The deputy premier said Tandai landowners are not against development on their land, however they feel neglected and deprived of their rights to benefit from exclusive development on their land as sole custodians.
Mr Nano explained that the fact of the matter which they have relevant documentation to prove is that Honiara town boundary had been expanded four times over the past decade from the original crown land without any formal consultation or consent from landowners.
He claimed most of the acquisitions were done illegally through compulsory acquisition and other processes, which has long been termed by landowners as “daylight robbery”.
“My fellow people and land owners are critical of how this issue is being dealt with by government. We understand that trying to retain the land may not be possible however, we may not be at the mercy of government if they continue to look down on us and deny us recognition to quickly resolve this issue.
“We do not deny the prospect of development, it is what is best for our people and for this nation and so we support it.
“However, it is when we become left out in very critical decisions of this process that we feel we are being deprived of our rights as landowners,” Mr Nano said.
He said Tandai people will not back down on this issue but will continue to pressure government to take serious consideration into resolving it.