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Wednesday 1 July 2009

On Friday 26 June 2009, Parliament debated and passed a private member’s motion calling on the government to address land management and administration issues in Honiara. The motion moved by Leader of the Official Independent Group, Hon Isaac Inoke Tosika, Member for West Honiara, sought to direct the government to urgently act to address the crisis in the management and administration of land in Honiara, including:

  1. Ensuring the Ministry of Lands provides an equitable, transparent, effective and corruption resistant system of land management that addresses;
    • the shortage of available land;
    • the inappropriate allocation of land;
    • the ineffective systems of registration, management and revenue collection;
    • the issues causing conflict and disharmony in communities in Honiara and throughout Guadalcanal province.
  2. Ensuring that the systems in place respect the rights and needs of Solomon Islanders;
  3. Providing resources and technical assistance to the Ministry of Lands to address land management issues such as:
    • the need to acquire and subdivide undeveloped Fixed Term Estates such as those in Tandai, West Honiara, and where appropriate make them available to citizens who have had long term residency on those lands;
    • the need to expeditiously process all outstanding applications by current Temporary Occupation License holders for Fixed Term Estates within Solomon Islands;
    • the lack of appropriate town planning resulting in the unlawful development and use of easements and water and electricity utilities;
    • the introduction of independent and impartial tender processes within the Ministry.

At the outset Hon. Tosika praised the CNURA government for establishing sets of principles that directed the action plans of the government in addressing loopholes within the current land management and administrative system. In addressing the motion, Hon. Tosika stressed that improper land management and administration had long existed and is still an outstanding issue in the capital. According to Hon. Tosika, flaws in the land tender allocation process has led to improper distribution of land in the Solomon Islands. He said "it is obvious that this was the era which shows the allocation mass piece of land to individual companies’ even foreigners…we now see mass piece of undeveloped land in various areas in Honiara and the process of registration has become more of a process of securing land rather than a prerequisite for development" . Hon. Tosika pointed out that significant pieces of land were left undeveloped, whilst many locals struggle to find land to live on.

In a more representative capacity, as the voice of the "grassroots", Hon. Tosika said that the motion was also to address squatter settlements in the Tandai area (within the West Honiara constituency) where people who had settled on government land under temporary occupancy leases were evicted after the land was then allocated to foreign companies. He expressed concern over the unfair allocation of prime sites to people who have many other properties, while those who have settled on these lands have very little options.

"There are a lot of people using Solomon Islands as their harvesting cornfield" he said. His recommendation was for the government to consider reacquisition of undeveloped land and to subdivide and tender to locals for residential development purposes.

In response to the motion, the Minister of Lands & Survey, Hon. Samuel Manetoali, MP thanked the mover of the motion. The Minister said "the enormity of this chronic problem its breadth and depth will require a total overhaul of the legislation, the processes and systems that are currently inexistence, a task that will take time, commitment and political will … the government and administration through the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Survey, whilst it may not have the time to complete this work to a level where it can be sustainable, I can assure this House that it has the commitment and the political will to tackle the problem head on and has began the work".

The Minister indicated that the government was working on a parallel program to re-professionalize and re-establish the integrity and reputation of the administration and management in the Ministry that would enable sustainable service delivery and implement priority programs.

Members of Parliament both in government and the Opposition applauded the motion and praised the initiative by Hon. Tosika, supporting its recommendations. Land issues in the Solomon Islands, particularly in Honiara, Guadalcanal has been an ongoing problem that has been identified to be a primary cause of the ethnic conflict between 1998 and 2003.

[Full response of the Minister of Lands]

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