Lengthy processes surprise landowner

By Luana Paniu

A landowner was surprised to learn about certain procedures and processes in the Special Purpose Agriculture and Business Leases (SPABL) after attending the Commission of Inquiry which began three weeks ago.

David Kura, a landowner from Rikau village and a rep-resentative of the Rigula Oil Palm Estate which covers his village and two others, Gule and Levege. His village shares a common border with these villages.

Mr Kura said what confused him was that there had to be several letters of confirmation from both ward members and clans and chiefs before the application of the land title which plays an important part in the SPABL process.

“This is the first time that I have ever heard of this and I also found during the preliminary’s that there were so many processes and procedures to go through certain divisions within the Department of Lands which I found out during the Commission of Inquiry,” he said. 
These divisions include the office of the Secretary, the customary leases division, land information services division, the office of the surveyor general and the office of the registrar of titles.

The office of the Registrar of Incorporated Land Groups is not always required in the SABL process because it was not compulsory for landowners to have ILGs before being issued an SABL.

Mr Kura said that it was not right for mediations to take place between a developer and landowners, because that should be a government requirement since there would be bias on both sides about terms and conditions.

He is now calling on the Department of Lands and Physical Planning to come out clearly and make known the current process of lease-lease back because there was greater confusion and this is a cause of dispute among developers and landowners.

“If I have just been made aware about the full procedures to follow, then I believe that a lot of people living back in the remote villages do not know about this, it is very long and quite confusing for all of us and the illiteracy rate is also another contributing factor,” he said.

Meanwhile, Acting Lands Secretary Rommlly Kila Pat said during his appearance at the Commission of Inquiry that since he took office on the July 18 this year, he has set up a policy and review legislative committee that is doing an entire review of the Land Act 1996.

“I do agree that the current legislation that we are ministering to process SABLs is in urgent need of review,” he said.