Customary Land Reform from Solomon Islands

Customary Land Reform must recognize and respect Indigenous Peoples Rights

 

THE CUSTOMARY Land Reform must accord equal, effective and full recognition and respect to the rights of the Indigenous Peoples who are rights holders and owners of customary lands.

 

The Network of the Indigenous Peoples-Solomons (NIPS) says it is vital, respectful relationships between the Indigenous customary landowners and the government’s Customary Land Reform, is established so that deliberations and considerations are on merits of recognition and respect naturally due to Indigenous Peoples Rights as rights holders and not be considered as mere stakaeholders.

 

The local NGO welcomes government asserting that the reform will not alienate traditional owners.

 

However, NIPS cautions, opening up customary lands for economic development, without the Indigenous Peoples recognition and respect, will advance more land, resource and territories grabbing on the part of the state in the name of national economic development interests.

 

It further adds that the NCRA government must now seriously consider signing on to the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous peoples (UNDRIP) because the interests of Indigenous peoples regarding their customary lands, resources and territories are enshrined therein.

 

Also, NIPS says that any reform without constitutional recognition of the rights of the Indigenous owners of customary land is meaningless and only reflects compliance to foreigners, be they investors or inter governmental organizations.

 

It emphasizes the reform must be objective to whilst creating a welcoming investment environment, be subjective to the indigenous peoples to be recognized to allow them maintain their land claims to prosper and flourish alongside investment and national economic development.

 

The NGO highlights the Mines and Minerals Act as an example where in the interest of national interest, mineral resources in customary land are legalized to be in ownership and tenure of the Government and the Indigenous landowners are left to be negotiators only with access and not with benefits as the latter falls within the powers of the Government.

 

“This is an example that the Government must avoid with its land reform for it takes away what belongs to the Indigenous peoples since time immemorial – well before the arrivals of the colonizers and law makers, and awards ownership to the state, “says NIPS.

 

Such is the example that Indigenous owners of resources, territories and lands must be accorded full, effective and equal recognition and respect for their rights in this reform exercise.

 

The Indigenous Peoples Organization sees the land reform is heading towards customary lands being exposed to be used as collaterals for mortgage, securities and as a conditionality to change land tenure system as required by foreign interests.

 

It concludes that the requirement with our laws being long overdue and outdated are that in promoting recognition and rights of Indigenous peoples to a level where the indigenous peoples as owners and holders of customary lands, resources and territories are pivotal.

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