MPs heat up discussion about land issues

Main Stories, National

The National,Monday 11th of February, 2013

LAND-grabbing and land ownership issues were a hot topic in parliament last Friday.
Among those who contri­buted to the debate on land issues were Northern Governor Gary Juffa, Ijivitari MP David Arore, West New Britain Governor Sasindran Muthuvel, Rabaul MP Dr Allan Marat, Anglimp-South Waghi MP Joe Koim, Justice Minister Kerenga Kua, Goroka MP Bire Kimisopa and Milne Bay Governor Titus Philemon.
Juffa said land grabbing in the country was a great concern as foreigners and multi-international companies continued to grab land “with the help of lea­ders and bureaucrats”.
He said it was like a time bomb that would explode one day if it was not addressed.
“It is a serious issue as land is the security of the people and source of life for all.
“If it (land grabbing) is allowed to continue, then the consequences will be severe.
“I left my job as a Commissioner for Customs to go back home and stand for election to protect my land and my resources after seeing the massive land grabbing in the country.
“My grandfather showed me my land when I was a small boy and I will die for my land,” he said.
Arore said non-citizens receiving land titles need to be investigated while the department also needed to take stock of all public utilities situated on all customary land.
Muthuvel said he was concerned that 99% of state land in Kimbe had gone to foreigners who are also expanding into customary land by obtaining titles and ownership using money.
“There is nothing left for the citizens as all commercial and reserved land have been given away to foreigners.
“Within the next five years, what will be left for the future generations?” he asked.
Marat said leaders had to be mindful of the legitimacy of landownership in the country as a growing population was putting more pressure on land availability.
Koim added that many dubious deals had resulted in citizens being intimidated as those “new landowners” came with heavy police escorts to take ownership.
Kua said the government needed to create a register of all rural land for further development and introduce resettlement programmes with the provinces to free up land to address land shortage.
Kimisopa said the government should look at acquiring more land for development purposes because it would be difficult to obtain land in the future for the expansion of towns and cities.