By Jimmy Kalebe
Landowners in the four Special Agriculture Business Lease (SABL) in East Sepik yesterday called on the provincial and National Government to revoke all SABL in the province, report the Post Courier.
In a petition drafted over the weekend by landowners from Turubu and Sausso Local Level Government and Nungwaia/Bongos, the people demanded that their land under SABL be returned to them.
The landowners said they were not happy that through this SABL, much of their customary land was alienated from them and the title given to some foreigners and nationals who had no customary rights over it.
In a media conference conducted yesterday the landowners said they were in favour of the project, but the project should suit the best interest of all landowners and not the minority elites who wanted to capitalise on local people’s land and resources.
The landowners’ representatives said they were confused as to how their land was taken from them and who the title holders were, and how the benefits would reach them.
The landowners of Turubu LLG said since the oil palm project started under the SABL agreement, millions of kina damages done to their land had not been compensated which showed that this type of agreement should be revoked permanently in the province.
Jimmy Huringu, a landowner in Sausso LLG, said the portion 144c which covered Turubu and Sausso LLG was now under the hands of foreigners and a few nationals.
Mr Huringu said the title to portion 144c was under the Sepik Oil Palm Limited and not the immediate landowners of the said LLGs
Representatives of Nungwaia/Bongos said their landowners had no idea of the project even though talks had been there long before. They said there had never had any awareness of any projects to happen until just recently when they found out that their land was now under portion 55c.
Meanwhile, in expressing the same sentiments, Otto Yanikanzi a landowner in Nungwaia/Bongos area, said many landowners there did not know fully what type of project would be on their land and who were the beneficiaries of that project. He said local landowners were still waiting for proper explanations and negotiations between the developer, its associates and the landowners.
He commented that all such impact project should involve every stakeholder for smooth operations. Also, he said there should be a well co-ordinated communication between the local landowners and the developers.