Dekena: Media must get facts about special land leases

National, Normal

The National, Thursday, April 28, 2011

THE recent government policy on Special Agriculture Business Leases (SABL) is a state initiative that aims to free up 20% of the customary land, Lands and Physical Planning Minister Lucas Dekena said.
He told the farewell gathering for former lands secretary Pepi Kimas at the Holiday Inn in Port Moresby last week that there had been too much criticism of the initiative.
Dekena said the state had no choice if it wanted to free up land for development because more than 95% of the land was owned by the customary landowners.
“In order to allow customary landowners to free up the land, the government had to come with policies that created an opportunity for development on customary land.
“The policy is vital for the progress and development and for greater landowner participation and benefit,” he said.
He said, under the programme more than 20% of customary land, which is about 9.4 million hectares, would be freed.
“We are only empowering the landowners to free up the land and participate in developments.
“Through SABL, the rural people will be served as customary landowners make deals in the process.
“The state and the department will not take 5.2 million hectares of land away or sell the land as portrayed in the media.
“Where did the media get the facts about SABL from?
“You have totally misled the public,” Dekena said to the media.
He said people, including non-governmental organisations, should understand the idea “is to allow development through the freeing up of customary land and not take away and give away land to foreign-owned investors as claimed”.
“We citizens must be mindful of how we translate information as we want to attract investors.”