Wewak villagers call on dept to probe land deals

National, Normal

The National, Wednesday 27th March, 2013

A LOWLAND area covering more than 2,000ha at Sowom village, west coast of Wewak has been allegedly acquired by settlers from the lands department, according to landowner James Japele.
Japele, a police officer at the Wewak police station, said there were no documents to prove that the 18 settlers had been settled there by the government through the department.
“We have checked with the provincial lands office in Wewak but they also do not have records of these settlers.
“I only have purchase documents for 15 blocks purchased by the colonial administration in 1958 to resettle war veterans,” Japele said.
“But we do not know how others acquired huge blocks of customary land.”
The increase in settlers has resulted in escalating land issues and uncontrollable law and order problems between the landowners and settlers there.
He said the landowners wanted the department to revisit the area and identify genuine settlers and evict others who were squatting on customary land.
Japele said they had three different settlers occupying a huge piece of land while the landowners were only aware of 15 blocks of land for ex-servicemen.
“Beside these ex-servicemen whom we have no problem with, we have settlers who claim are genuine lease holders and the third group who are people who moved in to occupy our land without any knowledge from the government or the landowners.
“We see the two latter groups as illegal settlers and want the department to investigation into how these people acquired land, and evict them from our customary land,” Japele said.
He said the landowners conducted a private survey at their own expense in 2010 and petitioned the East Sepik government to revisit the agreements and the areas occupied by the settlers but nothing positive transpired in the last two years.