PERHAPS, the easiest place to own land is Honiara.
This is not because one is allowed to settle as he/she chooses rather, can be easily swindled if one has a few bucks to spare.
Sale of land is never far and free of corruption in Honiara. Kickbacks (commission as it known locally) are the determining factors to landownership.
A piece of land can be sold time and time again to a string of owners by officers in the Ministry of Lands for kickbacks.
Because money matters in most land dealings, foreigners with extra cash to by-pass proper land laws and processes are certain to have the upper hand.
Locals with little or no competitive edge are either pushed to the informal settlements or in one of the Temporary Occupancy Land (TOL) settlements that are sprawling around the town’s peripheries.
Whilst this practice continues to happen under the watch of the Commissioner of Lands and other senior officials of the Ministry, lands’ officers also continue to serve themselves to some of the prime lands in town.
Even gardeners and cleaners in the Ministry of Lands own several parcels of land whilst hardworking Solomon Islanders’ applications are shelved or even squashed and thrown in the bins.
It is worth noting that the Commissioner of Lands is vested with the powers to allocate all lands within Honiara.
However, since the 1st of December, 2014, a Land Board takes over this responsibility as part of the amendment to the Land and Titles Act.
There are different land titles in Honiara and the City Council does not have the powers to allocate nor issue land titles.
The different land titles are Temporary Occupancy Land (TOL), Fixed Term Estate (FTE) which is offered for 50 years and Perpetual Estate (PE) which can be bought from the Land Board.
People residing in the informal settlements (illegal developments without a land title) have no title to the land.
Unfortunately however, these informal settlements are where most Solomon Islanders are found. Their problem for being deprived of a proper title is affording the kickback bills that have become the norm of practice amongst certain Ministry officials.
Besides such practices, a few locals have been lavishly engaged by foreigners to pursue their interests in land.
These people collaborate with the staff of the Ministry of Lands and can strike deals worth thousands of dollars in kickbacks.
Their most popular customers that are desperately willing to take full advantage of such malpractices are Asians.
This is because their desperation to own land is backed with huge cash to sway decisions in their favour.
I have come to realise that some officers have resold titles previously held in their names at higher prices – making huge monies in return.
No wonder even some low paid officers in the Ministry of Lands could afford to own fleets of vehicles, strings of rental homes and other properties.
This is a slap on the face of struggling and law-abiding Solomon Islanders whom have complied with the legal land application process to the letter, only to be denied by a few whose consciences are filled with greed for personal advancement.
Unfortunately, much of the prime town land is in the hands of foreigners.
The greater number of Asians has increased the occupation of town lands – in so doing, dispossessed indigenous Solomon Islanders and reducing them to second-class citizens in their very own land and country.
Locals are pushed to the outskirts to cluster in informal settlements usually with little or no proper public amenities such as water, sanitation and electricity.
These settlements are breeding grounds for diseases and crimes. Population in these settlements are high with rampant unemployment rates – mostly amongst the youth population.
Sadly, the prevailing status quo is precariously a recipe for disaster should national leaders continue to ignore the tale tell signs that simmer amongst the local population.
Whilst there is still time, our leaders need to act to rectify the growing resentment and strike a balanced society where people of different orientations and race could live in relative peace and harmony.
Land is a very contentious issue and stitching it in time saves nine.
By SAMSON SADE