Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Landowners decry ‘theft’ of customary land


Emotional landowners tonight described the controversial special purpose agriculture and business leases (SPABL) as “structural theft of our land”.
The landowners gathered at the Holiday Inn at a special gathering organised by the Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights (CELCOR) to spell out their grievances.
“We fear that our children are being dished out the same fate as those in Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Congo Delta and many other countries in Africa, whose governments have induced poverty rather than protect its people against foreign interventions who came into those countries just to rip the riches and leave,” they said.
“This is a war declared on us by foreigners with the full support of our politicians, bureaucrats and local front men, and while we fight to protect our women and children, Papua New Guineans bestowed with power to look after us have abandoned us to count the gains for themselves brought on by these interventions.”
They demanded:

• That relevant government ministers cause the immediate cancellation of the titles to all customary land that was recently converted into SABLs and all permits and approvals revoked;

• That the agriculture minister direct the national agriculture council to review its approach towards the implementation of the National Agriculture Development Plan (NADP) and focus on ways in which landowners the,selves can be involved in scales within their own capacity without jeopardising their future;

• Those officers responsible for the conversion of customary land into state leases at the department of lands and physical planning are dealt with accordingly; and

• Police commissioner withdraws all police uniforms from security personnel who use police uniforms at logging camps to intimidate and abuse the rights of legitimate landowners

“We object in the strongest possible terms this act by the government, and regardless of our financial capability, we will fight it till these titles are cancelled as we believe that our land has been acquired by the government through fraudulent means,” they said.
“It is becoming a serious concern that the government, through its agencies, is granting licenses and leases without properly consulting us before converting titles to our customary land into state leases.
“To date, the government has gazetted more than 5.7 million hectares of our customary land that was converted into state leases over 99 years.
“Our message is simple: we want trespassers out of our land with immediate effect!”

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