THE four tribes who own the land where the proposed Tina Hydro will be located have rubbished media statements made by their former Member of Parliament Walton Naezon.
A representative of the Kochiabolo tribe, one of the four tribes owning land in the core of the Tina Project, George Vari, said customary land is owned by tribes not the community of Bahomea or Malango.
He went on to point out that land is not owned by created bodies such as Houses of Chiefs or Landowner Councils.
“We have the right to do what we want with our land, not anybody else,” he stressed.
He also emphasized that the core tribes were rightly identified by a comprehensive Bahomea land identification (BLIC) process which took more than 50 meetings over a 14 month period, and involved all the recognised elders and storytellers holding traditional land knowledge.
Mr Vari pointed out that this process came about because the former so-called “Landowners Council” which was set up by the Government and which Walton Naezon was part of, failed to identify ownership of the land on which the project was to take place.
The Landowner Council operated from 2010 to 2012 and had a monthly budget of more than $60,000, but despite this, was unable to identify any land at all.
“In fact it was his council that delayed the land identification process for three years until BLIC stepped in at the end of 2012 to save this project. So what does he mean by no proper land identification process?”
Mr Vari also said the four tribes fully support the benefit sharing arrangement proposed by the hydro project.
“50-50 per cent shares in a joint venture with the government is a win-win arrangement never seen before in Solomon Islands.
“This is unprecedented. The Perpetual Title of the core land too will be held by us through this joint venture.
“This means we will be with the government to decide on what can be done in the core land.
“Now, this is very different from the arrangements in the Gold Ridge lands which Naezon was very much a part of,” he said.
Vari also said Naezon shouldn’t be calling on the government to sack the Project Manager who has more than 30 years working in hydro projects.
“Who is Naezon to question such a highly qualified person?
“This is the same guy who’s made local landowners in his country to be better off through similar benefit sharing arrangements in hydro and geothermal power projects.
“Hydro power is a highly technical field and we need highly experienced people like this manager to be helping us with this first one,” he said.