Government ‘committed’ to addressing temporary land settlement issues

THE Solomon Islands Government says as part of its land reform agenda it is closely monitoring the eviction issues both at White River and Henderson.

In a Joint Statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Survey, the government stated that it is treating these issues as a matter of priority and as part of that the government’s initiative to address this issue, a Land Taskforce has been established to closely monitor the situation and provide the Government with technical support.

Hundreds of people have been displaced as a result of forced eviction by the Hatanga group of companies at Tasahe, West Honiara and Samlingsan logging company at Henderson in East Honiara.

The Chairman of the Land Taskforce, Leonard Rotu, stated that currently the Land Taskforce is embarking on a data collection phase.

“This data collection stage is necessary to provide the Government with the necessary information to support decisions on how to proceed in addressing the current issue,” he said.

“The government understands that discussions between the Member of Parliament for West Honiara, Namson Tran and representatives of Hatanga Limited, have progressed well and commends both parties in their attempts to reach an amicable solution. It is understood that as a result of their discussions Surveyors have already carried out initial surveying work with support from Officials of the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Survey.”

He said a committee established by the displaced persons has also met with senior government officials to voice their concerns and raise pertinent issues. The government has provided the assurance that, although progress is still in its infant stages, the government through the Land Taskforce will be addressing these issues as a matter of priority.

A home destroyed during the eviction exercise by Hatanga Ltd.
A home destroyed during the eviction exercise by Hatanga Ltd.

Two weeks ago, the social network group, the Forum Solomon Islands International [FSII] called on the government to intervene in the forced eviction exercises at Henderson and Tasahe before it got out of hand.

The group said the forced evictions had caused trauma and pain to families, including women and children.

Civil Society group the Family Support Centre (FSC) also condemned such actions of threat to the lives of innocent women and children.

Henrick Barai of FSC said it is inhumane to approach women and children with arms to harass them and burn down houses.

FSII also deplored the inhumane act, saying although it may be legal, morally the actions were very disturbing.

“What we are seeing is a demonstration of inhuman act against humankind. Whilst we understand the evictions are done in accordance with court orders, sensitivity and care must be taken into consideration.

“Now children are being affected. Homes destroyed, families displaced, children missed school and retaliatory action is gradually brewing,” the FSII statement said.

The groups said displaced families were being housed at the White River School but the school had issued a statement calling on authorities to find somewhere else because victims of the evictions would cause disturbances and burden to the school’s daily operations.

“We understand that land is now scarce in Honiara because certain individuals have been allowed to own more land, living many without land. This has forced many working class people to settle illegally and in most cases unavoidable,” said FSII.

“Our fear now is that those evicted have nowhere to go now, thus they might end up in another man’s land. Therefore the government must step in quickly to find lasting solutions.”