The National, Tuesday 15th November 2011
WOMEN from villages in West Pomio affected by the SABL project have called on East New Britain Governor Leo Dion to help them get their land back.
The women presented a petition to Dion on Saturday, seeking his help to take their land back.
Women’s representative Bailo Enakia said their land was their mother, providing for their needs.
But, she said since 2007 when their blocks of land were signed away by men from their clans and given away under the SABL project for 60 years, they had been struggling to fight this case until the national government established the Commission of Inquiry into SABLs.
“There have been a lot of defects on the lands investigation report and leases signed over what is our major life line to ensure we have food gardens and to cater for our future generation,” she told Dion and his delegation.
She said the women persevered despite being threatened and marginalised as their concerns were continuously ignored.
Responding to the women’s petition, Dion conveyed his apologies to the women of West Pomio for their struggle over landownership issues under the SABL projects in their area.
He met with the women and clan members in the affected four SABL blocks on Saturday evening in Kokopo. He told the landowners that he was sorry if the project was seen to have been done intentionally by the provincial government to hurt the people.
He said the provincial government and administration did not mean anything sinister at the back of these SABLs.
He said the provincial government had a different approach with the SABL concept to help open up land for development into the
more remote areas with greater participation by the people.
He said customs like the matrilineal system in East New Britain were eroding because of money. And men had been organising their clans and land without the consent of elderly women who were the rightful leaders and decision makers over customary land.
“People paid within the system of government, must commit themselves in providing advice to the provincial government on such projects.
“So far, this SABL project is a shame, given land acquisition was done improperly as it awaits recommendations by the COI to put right irregularities identified,” Dion said.