THE Solomon Star asked the Office of the Registrar of Titles (RoT) to comment on forgery allegations by the Commissioner of Lands.
Below is the response by the Registrar of Titles (RoT) to our three questions:
1. Question. Would RoT accept the Directions by the Commissioner of Lands? Are the directions LEGALLY binding on RoT and its officers? If not, why not?
ANSWER: The Registrar of Titles Office would accept the Directions by the Commissioner of Lands in matters relating to Land Policy, not Land Registration. For the Commissioner of Lands to give general directions to the Registrar of Titles Office staff under section 5 of the Land and Titles Act is administratively not procedural and unacceptable.
The Registrar of Titles Office is an Agency of the Ministry of Justice & Legal Affairs, not the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Survey. So for the Commissioner of Lands to give any directions as he wish is seen as interfering with the roles and duties of the Registrar Generals Office.
The Land Registries are administered by the Registrar of Titles, (section 6 & 7 of the Land and Titles Act). So any matters relating to land registration is for the Registrar of Titles Office to administer and deal with.
The Registrar of Titles Office maintains that the Commissioner of Lands can give directions on land policy matters.
2. “Resisting” the directions suggests the RoT Office does not believe underhand dealings on land matters (long suspected by members of the public) is going on. Is it, or is it not?
ANSWER: The Registrar of Titles Office does not resist the Commissioner’s directions. In fact, we have distinct administrative boundaries. The Commissioner of Lands must work within his boundaries and so too the Registrar of Tiles Office must work within its boundaries.
Land conveyancing (documentation) is a matter for the Commissioner and his officers. Land Registration (dealings) is a matter for the Registrar of Titles Office. The Registrar of Titles office cannot perceive any underhand dealings on land matters because we don’t know what is going on in the field.
We are responsible for the end product – land registration. So if something is not right in the land conveyancing (documentation), then the Commissioner of Lands and his officers must be answerable.
3. The claim of forgery by the Commissioner, is it or is it not true? Please explain your position.
ANSWER: The Registrar of Titles Office cannot confirm or deny the claim of forgery by the Commissioner. The allegation of forgery was made by the Commissioner himself so the only way to prove it is to report to police, allow the police to investigate quickly and person (s) involved in this forgery saga must be charged and taken to court.
The Registrar of Titles Office will fully cooperate with the police if the investigation is carried out. And the Registrar Generals Office wants police investigation as quickly as possible.
This forgery case relates to a Grant of Fixed-Term Estate by the Commissioner of Lands to AJ General Hardware Limited. It is for parcel number: 191-032-144, located in the Bahai area, near Saru beach.
The grant instrument was signed by the Commissioner of Lands and AJ General Hardware Limited. The Grant premium is $40,101.00.
Stamp Duty of $1,394.00 was paid on 02 October 2020 and lodgement fee of $200.00 was paid on 05/10/2020.
The grant instrument was lodged at the Registrar of Titles Office on 5th October 2020 and entered in the Presentation Book.
The Fixed-Term Estate was registered to AJ General Hardware Limited on 5th October 2020.
Soon after the registration of FTE to AJ General Hardware Limited, the Commissioner of Lands is alleging that he did not sign the grant instrument and that his signature was forged.
The truth is that the said Grant Instrument was witnessed by a Lands Officer. The Grant Instrument/document was lodged in the Registrar of Titles Office by a Senior Lands Officer. And a person by the name of Rocky, who is well-known to Commissioner of Lands Alan McNeil, is the Agent for this land dealing.
So, all in all, these Lands Officers should know all about the forging of Alan McNeil’s signature and official stamp. They should never lodge the instrument in the Registrar of Titles Office if they know that the Commissioner’s signature and stamp were forged.
It is surprising that even though forgery is a serious criminal case, the Commissioner of Lands only run after AJ General Hardware Limited to get the said FTE surrendered instead of going to court.
The Registrar of Titles Office view is that the Commissioner of Lands should go to court in order to prove his allegation of forgery. The way he acted is suspicious because he may have a clear knowledge of who is involved but because the FTE had already been surrendered, the case might just be buried under the carpet in order to protect someone.
This is unacceptable because it will be seen as aiding and abetting forgery.
If the Commissioner of Lands is serious about wiping out corruption, he should ensure that the person who forged his signature be arrested by police and charged. Also, the stamp/seal used in this forgery saga be recovered by police and tendered in court as proof before being destroyed so that the only official stamp is with Alan McNeil in his office.
If nothing happens in this forgery case then the Commissioner of Lands Alan McNeil cannot be trusted.