Woe is the land | Land Portal

After years of blood, sweat and tears Badiri Vamaga, the largest clan group in Kirakira, NCD, is enjoying unprecedented optimism now that they are registered with the Department of Lands and Physical Planning as an Integrated Land Group (ILG).

They received their ILG certicate recently from the State clearing the way for business dealings involving their native customary land.

In 1975 when the National Capital District was created, several indigenous villagers got swallowed up by its political boundary and Kirakira is one of them. Prior to it Port Moresby and the indigenous people were in Central Province.

The recognition of the Badiri Vamaga also means the group can register its customary lands. This action could include all lands that the Independent State of Papua New Guinea inherited from Colonial Administration which have long been held under what is known as Deed of Attestation (DA) but never properly settled.

DA was supposed to lead to titles after due process was completed. But that had not happened and most DAs may not be worth the paper they are written on with their 99-year leases having expired. Some have been subjected to compulsory acquisition which will be improper if due process was not followed, compounding an already volatile situation.

Whilst new parcels of land are in the clear for future negotiations, the State may nd some dealings very cumbersome when it comes to high- end value locations that are sitting on customary land, including schools. Some parks in the city have no record of purchase which can only mean they are still customary lands. But approaches to NCD in the past fell on deaf ears while the Minister took compulsory action on one of them in Boroko area. The Minister was on the board of NCD Physical Planning.

Blessing or curse

The immediate task of the group is to make a stock take of all its lands within the NCD boundary and followed by the business end of things.

But although the Badiri Vamaga clan has the law behind it, the State won’t pay up easily. This is where the ILG certicate granted to Badiri Vamaga can be a blessing or a curse. Their records are intact, showing all land with their coordinates, size, and date obtained and the price paid.

The Papua Native Landowners Association sent a nine-page letter signed by eight Papuan paramount chiefs dated September 30, 2019, to Prime Minister James Marape.

Substantial in content, the letter was distributed to The Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty in Council, the G-G, the Attorney- General and Minister for Justice, the Chief Justice and the UNHRC Special Rapporteur in Geneva, Switzerland.

The subject of the letter was styled: Crown Possession of Papua and the Marape Manifesto. A similar letter, dated September 23, 2019, was sent to the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison.

The subject was: UN Human Rights Business and Human Rights Forum of 2018, Human Rights Privy Council Meeting of November 2018 and UN Indigenous Peoples’ Forum of July 2019 Outcomes and Resolutions on Territory of Papua.

A letter from UNHRC has been sighted by the Post-Courier but the contents are classied. What the UNHRC asked the Papuan chiefs to do is being carried out but details of that cannot be disclosed because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Some of these lands are Badili, Kirakira Aerodrome, Port Moresby General Hospital, Medical Faculty, Boroko residential and schools, Boroko sporting grounds and much more; all sitting on customary land.

When the government ‘bought’ the land, the documents did not specify purchase but “native land transferred to the Crown”. Chief Geita said this meant all lands owned by Badiri Vamaga were under the trust and protection of the Crown.

High Court ruling

ignored for 80 years

This fact had caught the attention of UNHRC. If Australia allowed customary land to be returned to Mabo, that was the precedence used to put forward the case of the Kirakira aerodrome. The Australian Government will be taken to task over this because Mabo used the High Court decision in Melbourne of November 21, 1941, after Kirakira villagers took court action over the Kirakira aerodrome.

Despite that ruling of the High Court, the Kirakira aerodrome land has not been returned to customary owners.

It is now 80 years since the landmark High Court ruling which backdated the settlement to January 1, 1939. If Mabo won his landmark case using the Kirakira people’s case as precedence, Canberra has a surprise coming its way.

Land-grabbing “Now that I am registered, I have the law behind me to ask for what I want. But the State is refusing to pay up. I expect all who are sitting on my clan’s customary land to make business deals with us. If the UNHRC determines in my favour, all customary land will revert back to my clan and there’s nothing anybody can do about that,” said chief Geita.

“One good thing about the Motu Koita people is our levelheadedness and patience, which is why everyone is here. I proved it in 2014 when the Lands Minister then, the MP for Moresby-South, sought my clan’s support to stage the 2015 Pacic Games on customary land (Boroko sporting grounds).

“I gave my word not to disrupt the Games. But see what the government has done about the goodwill. It not only forgot me but it compulsorily acquired the land without consultation or compensation and registered it under PNG Sports Foundation. That’s daylight robbery!”

There are 151 claims covering all of NCD that are still outstanding. Known as Central Claims because Port Moresby was in Central Province before NCD came into being, the claims were the result of a land demarcation exercise conducted in 1956. The biggest question is: Where are the 151 Central Claims now?

The curse of Independence has reared its ugly head again in the land-grabbing asco aecting the indigenous Motu-Koita people of NCD; this time invading their shoreline. There seems to be a concerted frontal attack to displace the native villages inhabiting the lucrative shoreline between Hanuabada and the Tatana causeway that hug the northern inner curves of the picturesque Fairfax Harbour.

Many of the mountains around the harbour, especially in areas where the so-called silver tails have come to occupy, were deemed by the colonial government as waste and vacant land. If the relentless land-grabbing on Motu Koita homeland continues, those aected will wake up one day to nd that the cliché – the end justies the beginning- will be true for them. The Motu Koita think they own those untouched hills. But they are inside the NCD political boundary. In the same way they may claim the waters in the harbour as their traditional shing grounds as they have for generations.

There is no indication that the State is in any hurry to compensate the native people for their land being compulsorily acquired and distributed through the State’s land allocation system.

Because of the political, social and economic ramications the situation borders on cultural genocide. If social work agencies care to investigate how the people of Hanuabada, for example, are living, they will nd that every day is a big question mark. The people are slowly being swallowed up by the greed and self-interest permeating around them. This, is the curse of Independence. This is what they’ve earned for allowing their homeland to become PNG’s capital city.

The Motu Koita Assembly which is their local government lacks teeth to bite. A power-sharing arrangement with the NCDC seems to have dissolved like soot at the bottom of a tattoo ink pot.

Mr Sereva has called on the Minister for Lands and Physical Planning to halt these processes that are going on. He wants all titles that have been issued to waterfront and underwater leases in the Gabi and Kanudi areas to be recalled and an investigation with the Prime Minister’s blessing to look into the circumstance under which the grant was made. The opportunities belong rightfully to us but no, outsiders will grab everything until we are no more,” said Mr Sereva. – To be continued tomorrow with Part 5

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