The National- Monday, January 10, 2011
By GABRIEL FITO
THE government’s plan to set up a military boom gate at Sowom village on the coastal border of East and West Sepik may hit a snag following a tussle of land ownership between the Sowom landowners and the State.
PNG Defence Force officers visited the site last November but were advised by the landowners of a pending court decision on the ownership as they claimed the land was not properly acquired from their forefathers by the colonial administration in 1962.
Principal landowner James Japele said the landowners only recognise the ex-servicemen resettlement scheme comprising 15 portions of 293.17 ha land area but did not know how additional land 2,850ha was acquired.
He said the 2,850ha of land was surveyed in 1958 but when the sub-divisional survey for the 15 portions was made, its results were not made available.
Japele said the colonial administration cheated the vendors by transferring the 1958 survey onto the legal purchase documents making it now official that the it acquired 2,850ha of land.
He said the second sub division survey of the 15 blocks for the ex-servicemen was only 293.17ha.
Japele said his father was illiterate and was tricked into accepting payment of 1,425 Australian pounds for 2,850 ha when that money was only for 293.17ha.
He said therefore the other alienated land which was captured in the second sub-divisional survey had no purchase records and must be returned.
The landowners were disappointed that parts of this land area with no records had been leased by the Department of Lands and Physical Planning to the other settlers who were now causing problems with the landowners.
They said work on border post on part of the land would not start until the dispute is cleared by the Department of Lands.
The landowners wanted the government to:
* Conduct investigation into the allocation process of other remaining blocks from the original 15 that were the basis to the purchase of land;
* Arrange to release the remaining land outside the sub-division or second survey back to the Bulluem landowners;
* Assess the damages done to the land outside the sub-divisional survey and compensate them accordingl; and
* Look at ways of transferring all land that had been allocated back to the landowners who would then review the terms and conditions of the lease with the intention of applying stricter control to promote peace and harmony so that the landowners could benefit meaningfully.