SABL situation messy: O’Neill

National

PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill admitted yesterday that special agriculture business leases (SABLs) have been a “messy situation” over the years which the Government has to get tough on.
He said by Lands and Physical Planning Minister Benny Allen’s statement to Parliament on the status of SABLs was “very balanced, covering a very difficult subject”.
The statement reflected the issues and the challenges that the Government must confront and mitigate to manage the difficult issue of land, ownership of land and the benefits that the people were demanding from this land.
“We inherited a very messy situation,” he said during the debate on the minister’s statement.
“Although the (SABL) intentions may have been noble, the fact is that the implementation of it was quite messy.
“As a result, many of our people were displaced on large hectares of land. All of a sudden, they were up one morning and were not in control of it.
“The public outcry was large that we had to do something.”
O’Neill said the K15 million SABL inquiry did not complete its task but recommendations were now being implemented, resulting in the cancellation of all SABLs.
He said exceptions were in areas such as Pomio in East New Britain,where the developers were working very closely with the landowners in a very-successful manner.
“In many other cases, some of our own leaders and landowners were involved in displacing our own people.
“It is not the foreigners alone who are doing it.
“Papua New Guineans are displacing Papua New Guineans, especially their own people, in their own areas.”
O’Neill said there were some genuine developers and he urged them to work with the landowners.
“I’m pleased to say that in Pomio, the ILG process is reverting to where land ownership lies with our people,” he said.
“Developments can go ahead, ownership remains with the people, but benefits must be also shared.”
O’Neill stressed that “land was life in this country”.
“That is why our forefathers ensured that land remained with our people,” he said.
“Nobody’s going to change that.
“We have to protect the land so that future generations continue to benefit.
“I think the Government is on the right path.
“Of course, there’s more that needs to be done.
“But we cannot stop development, people need services, people want to improve their standard of living.”

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