The National, Thursday July 11th, 2013
MAX Kep specifically addresses a particular section of the city of Port Moresby called the Taurama Valley which is customary land owned by the Madi Geita Land Group (ILG).
A significant part of this land has now been leased to private individuals and companies who are seen to be developing the place.
Kep is a senior public servant who has been playing key roles in the public service for many years and more significantly as head of both the organisation and the committee since they were created in 2000.
It was 13 or 14 years in the making before he decided to develop the stated customary land, and perhaps others in the city and elsewhere.
The views of the organisation and committee he heads basically reflect plans created under his guidance and leadership.
I can see four key issues raised in his article.
These are the government’s plans for the development of this area, the customary landowners’ rights and freedom to the use of their customary land, the developments taking place there mostly by private citizens and companies, and concerns over increasing undue pressure on public utilities.
Important governing authorities such as the OOU, NCCU and the NCD Physical Planning Board must be at the forefront of governing all developments taking place in the cities throughout PNG.
Kep is correct in stating that it is the interest of the government and the general public to see cities developing into places that everyone will enjoy and live in.
But what we are seeing now is a senior public servant ringing the bell after the summer has ended in the valley.
What has he been doing over the last 13 or 14 years as OOU director and chairman of NCCU? How effective and fruitful has he and his management been with the development of that customary land? What has been his motive for withholding the whole process until now?
Taurama Valley is ancestral customary land.
The people who own the land are the Motu Koitabuans. These people did not respect the office of Urbanisation and NCCU over this land issue, although they were told the development benefits would be lifelong and sustainable over time.
Why then did they reject the OOU’s promising plans?
Is it not because that Kep and his administration have miserably failed these native people by simply dragging their feet on the whole process?
These are questions that must thrown back at Kep and his top management because it is responsible for all the mess created for these customary landowners who had been waiting patiently for you over 10 years.
Secondly, it seems that our Melanesian approach of resolving disputes seems to be fading in the face of urbanisation and development.
Taurama Valley customary land or Claim 68, is owned by the dominant clan known as the Madi Geita.
This clan is no different from other clans owning their customary lands throughout PNG.
The bulk of those now living and building properties in this area have come to realise their existence and accord them respect.
We live as part of them because in our Melanesian culture, the invited must always get to know and respect the existing norms and values of the host inhabitants.
I reckon their plea to exercise their freedom and right to conduct business, live, or even sell their land and whatever else they want to do with their land, has to be respected.
It is unjust and inhuman for these people to be continually marginalised by government authorities claiming their customary land under the pretext of urbanisation and development and continue to acquire customary land through compulsory acquisitions.
It is shameful to take things forcefully without having to acknowledge the customary landowners.
This is not the Melanesian way of doing the right thing.
What guarantee do these people have that they will benefit from any transaction done with state authorities?
Thirdly, considerable development is taking place in this part of the city, especially housing projects spearheaded by some of the country’s elites.
Many public servants, company employees, top bureaucrats and business leaders have managed to obtain blocks in the valley and are slowly developing them.
The government does not provide accommodation for most of its workforce.
Many of them have enjoyed the kindness of the Motu Koitabuan people and every bit of toea they earn is spent on developing their housing needs for themselves and their families.
The bulk of the developments taking place are genuine investments by Papua New Guineans.
Many of the properties being developed are well-designed and attractive.
Of course, in some places, one will notice makeshift houses, which I believe are temporary shelters put up by the owners still gathering resources to build proper houses.
However, squatter activity needs to be reduced to zero so that is where the government needs to intervene and assist with better development plans.
On the legality issue, the State is the third party to intervene in the arrangements already being undertaken by the customary landowners and the new leaseholders.
If the OOU insists on pursuing the course its director has pointed to, it is best the management or the relevant authorities first sue
the Madi Geita landowners who have sold their parcels of customary land.
Put simply, revoke their right to the use of their land as you stated in your article and establish the grounds as to why all parcels of land sold and acquired starting or even before 2005 had been done illegally. After the customary landowners, the leaseholders can be the target.
It is interesting to see the OOU director being so concerned over the increasing pressure on the use of public utilities such as electricity, water, sewerage (i.e. nonexistent at the moment), traffic congestion and other urban problems and labelling this particular area as the prime spot.
I think these are the real reasons why we keep people like Kep in the top positions so that they develop better plans for the city.
If he has not achieved enough, it is high time he steps down in favour of someone else who has the drive for the job.